At the beginning of this week, I applied for a job.
I can assure you that it's been a dreadfully long time since I undertook sending my resume somewhere. Or even looked at it. You know, to edit it and make it, uh, current.
I've not kept it secret that I have a difficult time making decisions and that I often ponder and revisit my career/commitment-to-family situation.
Lately my brain has been in overdrive trying to figure out what I want . . . what is best for my family . . . what is best for me . . . what is realistic given the current state of the economy - and it is, honestly, just too overwhelming to deal with sometimes.
Since my last "what am I going to do with my life" post, some significant changes happened in our lives. My husband was unexpectedly laid off. Since I am currently not working, this had a huge impact on our family. For possibly the first time in my life, I was completely and utterly scared. To. Death. We have three children to feed, to clothe, to care for. How does one do this with no income? And for a short time, zero job prospects?
As luck would have it, March was a monumental month for decision-making. As Thing 1 celebrated his fifth birthday a couple weeks ago, I also hit a fairly serious milestone of my own. This month marked FIVE entire years of not working. I was flabbergasted as the realization dawned on me. Where in the world have the past five years gone? Oh wait, yes, I have been pregnant, delivering babies, nursing those babies, and taking full time care of each of them 24x7.
Right. O.K. At least I can confirm that I've been occupied.
With each baby I had a one year maternity leave, followed by an extra leave-of-absence as approved by my school board. In our board, a teacher may take up to five years leave and still maintain his/her full-time teaching position. Clearly, you can see where I'm going with this . . .
So here I am. Five years leave wrapping up and coming to an end, and the school board breathing down my neck to make a decision about the future of my career as a teacher. (Just to clarify, my current leave actually ends in June, so I am scheduled to go back to the classroom in September.)
Thankfully, Paul starts back to work at a new job next week. However, the job is a six month contract with a government department. That means no benefits, and no security that he will be hired on at the end of his contract for more work. Although it is likely, it is not certain.
And, thus, I decided that it may be in our best interest for me to go back to work in September after all. I once again started the onerous task of seeking out childcare for the three Things.
Yes, I am picky. Yes, I would like them all together. Yes, I would like them in a clean, happy, environmentally-friendly home where organic food is served daily. (There are seriously very few childcare providers who will take a baby in cloth diapers, I'm not judgin', I'm just sayin'.) Where they are outside every single day. In my neighbourhood, so Things 1 and 2 can attend the same school and take the bus with no issues or complications or having to cross borders or change school districts.
Oh wait . . . and could it be FREE?
Due to the fact that teaching is my second career (in my previous life I was a PR professional/marketer/writer), I only have three years experience under my belt. This leaves me with a lower-than-average salary and a dollar amount per pay cheque that will leave me with very little (if anything) after paying for three children in day care, nearly full time.
But. I would get benefits. And job security. And summers and holidays off. And my salary will increase quickly each year I continue to teach. And that whole pension thing? Decent.
So a friend suggested I get a nanny. And I thought to myself, "a nanny - no, no, those are for very wealthy families . . . like people who have butlers". But I slowly began to think about people I actually knew who had nannies, and the list went from one to two, and kept ballooning, and I ran out of fingers to count on and I was suddenly struck with the realization that maybe this was a possibility for us. Upon doing some very basic research, it appeared that hiring a nanny would cost us the same or less than full time day care.
To cover all my bases, I requested one more year's leave from the school board. I have not heard back from them, and was told by their HR department that an extra year of leave is granted about fifty per cent of the time.
Ironically, the date of which your request letter for an extended leave is due, is within days of new job postings being listed for a new school being opened this coming September. Not knowing my status, I felt I couldn't not apply for a job.
The school is a junior high school. It is a brand spanking new school in a fantastic area and I could tell from an info session I attended that it would be a fabulous place to work. I checked the listings as they were e-mailed on Monday morning, and faxed in my resume. I worried that I wouldn't be contacted for an interview - for two reasons. Number one, I have no experience teaching grades 7-9 (although I am qualified) and have only taught grades 4-6. And secondly, my resume is EMPTY for the past five years. I've been told repeatedly that mothers who have been on leave are shown the same consideration as other teachers, but I couldn't get past the fact that I had nothing compelling professionally to show for the past five years of my life.
I can multitask like nothing you've ever seen? Finely honed time management skills? I have a fun little blog?
I wasn't contacted for an interview.
It was the first time in my life I was not even called for an interview. I have a lot of experience, in a wide variety of areas. Aside from the chunk of time that is the past five years, my resume is fantastic. I am extremely well-educated. I am passionate. I am creative. I am a team player. And I won't sugar coat it. I was devasted.
Where do I go from here?
I wait and see if my leave is accepted. If it is not, I will apply for the next round of jobs that open up in a few weeks. If I don't land one of these *better* jobs, the board assures me I will be placed somewhere comparable to where I had previously been teaching. Oh joy. I will do some soul searching and penny-pinching to see if going back to work is best for all of us. If I choose not to go back, I lose my position, my job, my seniority, etc.
If my leave is accepted, I will also do some soul searching so that I can be certain that being home for another year is best for all of us. I will go back to school and finish the last few credits I need to complete my Masters. I will commit myself to finishing the book I started writing.
I never in a million years could have foreseen this struggle I would encounter as I try to balance my career with being a mother. How do you balance both? How do I do what is right, and not lose me? How do I not lose them?
At the same time that I love it, it is so incredibly difficult sometimes being home all the time with three kids. As highlighted in Little Princess Chronicles, there are no performance reviews in parenting and no measurement of your success as a mother.
Being a mother is hard, hard stuff some days. It can really suck the life out of you. That's not to say that I don't adore my children and take pleasure in raising them every single day, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that not every day is a bowl of cherries. They are more like a box of chocolates.
I read this poem yesterday at the Noble Savage and was completely struck by its realism, its accuracy, and also by the deep feelings it elicited within me. Some days this SAHM thing just totally burns me out. I yearn for adult conversation, for my intellect to be stimulated once again, to be useful, to be important, to step outside the confines of my front door and WEAR HIGH HEELS AND A SUIT.
For today, I tackle the one job for which my resume is exploding with silent accolades.
WANTED: One passionate, experienced and loving mother to three Things.