Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Job Application

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?

I jest.

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.

"You never know what one you're gonna get . . . "

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.

23 comments:

Kami's Khlopchyk said...

Tough decision Shannon, I don't envy you. What I can tell you is that these things have an uncanny way of working out just like they are supposed to...if you follow your heart. Because more often than not, your heart has both yours and your family's best interests at heart.

Good luck, my friend and may the force be with you!

Beth said...

It is totally like a box of chocolates- i love that!

It has been three years at home for me, and I am also struggling with what's next. And this economy is certainly making it harder. Sometimes all you can do is have faith.

Jen said...

I could relate to so much of this post. I just wanted to wish you luck with your decision. It is definitely not an easy one to make.

Amber said...

(As far as I know, this economy is a little crazy) I will be going back to my old job. But I'm getting to that point in my maternity leave where I'm trying to decide what I really want to do. What we can afford. What we want our lives to look like. There are no easy answers. And no one out there looking to hand me scads of money for a cushy job that allows me to spend all day with my kids. I spend a lot of time navel-gazing and weighing my options.

Good luck to you. I will be reading along to see where this journey takes you.

dougnlarry said...

Shan, I'm so sorry you're struggling so much with this. I hope the 'right' answer becomes clear to you soon.

Hugs...

Cin said...

Tough decision yes, but in the end somehow you will do what's best. Everything happens for a reason. I was only working as a substitute when my children were younger and then "BAM", my husband lost his job after 20 years in the same company due to the sale of his company! I ended up going back to work full-time after being hired as a full-time 7th grade teacher so I could have an income and benefits. My husband got another job and in hindsight it was so less stressful for him but the benefits were horrible. I had to carry the health insurance.


Summers and vacations and not having to go to work when it snows are the best perks for a teacher especially when you have children.

Faced with job lost a second time, I didn't have the horrible scary feelings as the first time because I had the benefits and health insurance and income (though miniscule, we would survive).

We are faced again with that possiblity. However, my job is now even more secure so the possibility is even less scary....(notice I said less, it's still stressing for me)

You are a great mom. I can tell from your posts. I bet you are an awesome teacher too!

Remember-things happen for reasons even if we do not know what they are at the time.

Aji said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Kaylee

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Anonymous said...

Shan... first off, the "new school"s loss. You are an awesome woman, and have so many gifts to share with young (although Gr 7-9; challenging) minds.

We both have struggled over the decisions to work outside of the home, and (IMHO) never a cut and dry out come. There are negatives to both scenarios. But the one thing I can tell you about returning to work. You have an appreciation for your children (and the time spent with them) you never realized was fathomable when you are with them 24/7.

My prayers are with you in this time of decision.

I have three friends who have had live ins; so if you want contacts in regards to discussing their experiences just let me know. If you have the space, it is economically the way to go. Because it was the same cost to have a full time live in, as to pay for PT care outside the home. I was amazed.

Although I have no question in my mind how great a teacher you are, what a positive influence you would be in any child's life.... girl you have a creative gift. And of ALL your incredible "crafty talents" your greatest gift is that mind of yours, and your ability to convey your thoughts in the written word. Finish that book, and then write, write, write some more. You have so many talents and they can keep you at if you wish. But I expect free tickets when you end up on Oprah for your best seller.

Amy said...

Ooooh, I like the new look. Very simple and pretty and springtime-y (cause that's a word).

As for your decision, no advice just some hugs from another mom. It's a question most -if not all- moms struggle with.

Donna M said...

Things always have a way of working out for the best. Whatever decision you make, I know it will be the best one for you and your family.

You are lucky to have so many wonderful options! Teacher, writer, SAHM. You are great at them all!!!

the Preppy Princess said...

Goodness gracious Miss Shannon, there's a post to ponder! Yikes those are big, big decisions. And what difficult choices, arrgghhh!

I love that you speak candidly about the shortcomings of doing the SAHM thing, as well as the challenges of not being there all the time. Several friends have done the nanny thing and *loved* it as it provided a more stable environment at home for everyone involved, that's their biggest issue it seems.

You know we wish you only good things and happiness, you are such a treasure with about a gazillion things to offer *any* school.

Please know you are in our thoughts & prayers,
tp

PS: In the midst of all this, can we just point out how much we LOVE the new look?!

BeachMama said...

Tough, tough decisions.

First off you are doing what is right for you and your family. In all of your three choices, staying home, asking for leave and applying. The fact that Paul's job is not in a secure state right now means that you need to put some choices out there for you. When the time comes, the right choice will present itself and you will have your answer.

Until then, do a little research on Nannies (this would be my first choice if I had to go to work) and see what you would be comfortable with.

And... you don't have nothing to show for your last five years. You are a Mom , show some pictures or direct them to your blog. Then they will see you are working very, very hard.

One last thing, will you come and teach J Grade 1 next year? Ok? Thanks.

BeachMama said...

p.s. Love the new look of the site.

Loukia said...

Great post, and you're so right, it is very hard to balance being a good mother and having a career. I went back to work after a year of mat leave with my second baby and it was tough. I am lucky, though, because my mom and mother-in-law babysit my boys when I am at work. But coming home close to 5 p.m. everyday does not allow me enough time to cook dinner, clean the house AND play with the kids, and give them the one on one attention they deserve. So usually I just play with the kids and let my husband cook!
Anyway, I am sorry you didn't get that call for the interview and I hope something does come up for you, if your leave is not accepted. It's so hard, figuring this all out, so I'm sorry I can't offer you any words of wisdom. You clearly have a lot to offer! Have you considered a job in the Federal Government? I know we are doing a lot of hiring here in training/learning... salary is great, along with benefits/pensions. Just a thought, if you want to know more you can email me. Hope you have a great weekend with your family...

Elaine A. said...

First off, your new header is so cute! : )

Second off, I will be thinking of you as you work through making this decision. I understand what you mean about how to balance being a mom and a career "woman." I think all of us Mom's go through something like that at some point. I will probably be in your same position in a few years myself.

Hugs and postive thoughts for you.

Anti-Supermom said...

Oh Shannon, I wish I could just reach out and give you a big hug. I'm in your footsteps for nearly all of this post.

My heart just aches for you.

Those decision seem like ones that will change your life.

I just wanted to say that I'm here, listening, writing to you, saying what feels right one day might not the next, but keep the course.

Supercool Hotmama said...

I'm going through this same struggle: Been home 4 years with my littles, wondering if I should go back to teaching, certainly need the money, don't want to leave my babies. Such a tough decision.

I figure I'll give it a shot, and if I'm hired when the odds are so against them hiring in this economy, then I'll assume it's meant to be.

Good luck with your decisions.

amanda said...

oh friend - this juggling act is way more than we expected isn't it?? some days you think that you will be home forever in your little mommy world and be perfectly happy and satisfied. and then the next day you are having a mini-melt down, what the hell happened to ME day.

the back and forth bites doesn't it?

i really do believe though that things do have a way of working themselves out...i know that doesn't help fix the right now. but i am sure the right answer will soon present itself and you will wonder why you ever stressed about any of this.

wishful thinking right?

until then we are all here, listening, caring and sending hugs and totally understanding :)

Char said...

Hi Shannon - first off I love the new blog design, definitely fits you!

Secondly, I'm sorry things are so up in the air right now. And boy I can definitely relate. When my DH was laid off in January at least I felt good about the fact that I was working - we'd be ok, good even - with Gordon getting to stay home more with Daddy, and then just weeks later, wham, hit with my really unexpected lay off. This is my last week of work, mostly I'm ok with it, I know we'll be ok - but I try not to think too far out into the future - which is REALLY hard for me because I'm a huge planner & budgeting person, so not looking ahead and having at least a slight idea of what the future holds is just very hard. I hope things get more settled for you soon - I hope the right answer is clear for you.

expatswede said...

Oh Wow, Shannon. Those are some major changes in your life.

I can totally relate to the feelings about the SAHM gig. Love my kids to bits, but I am SO ready to get back to work. My maternity leave ends in January and although I have the option of extending it, I won't. I long to get back to work. It helps that daycare costs in Sweden are state subsidized and I won't pay more than $250 for both kids.

My sister has had nannies for the past 6 years or so, and I believe she has been happy with that. You definitely should look into it!

Good luck with the decision making! Oh and the job at that better school? Their loss. Really.

Ciao!
Minna

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