SAHM vs. Career Woman

I’m staring down the barrel of a gun regarding my job. We’ve reached the end of the road, the end of the line. I have to give notice no later than next week because my company can’t afford to pay me more, and we can’t afford for them not to; I am no longer a single girl who can survive on an entry-level salary. While I understand the economy sucks and we all have to tighten our belts, I’m still angry.

We went out last Saturday with a few friends and as anti-me as this is, I sulked most of the night. I know it sounds childish, but I was angry at the fact that I may have to leave the workforce because the cost of living is too high in DC. E and I don’t make enough money to buy food, rent a (small) decent home, AND pay for childcare. We can’t save a penny, which just proved to be a bigger problem than we thought: while doing our taxes this year, we realized we somehow moved into a higher tax bracket last year with E’s job change, and it caused us to owe taxes this year. A lot of taxes.

Anyway, while out that night, I was talking to two of E’s closest guy friends about the situation. They told me that their mom chose to stay home and loved it. Notice I said chose, NOT forced. I asked how she felt about wasting a degree and chance at career, they said she didn’t have one. Again, chose to be a housewife. And you know what? She must have done something right, because they’re polite, smart, driven men. But I don’t believe they would be serial killers if she had entered the work force instead.

They made me feel like a terrible mother for wanting to use my degrees. I worked my ass off in school, and though I may not want to do what I dreamed of back then, I still have career goals. The sad thing is that E and one of the guys are both adjunct professors at an art and design university. I can’t see them telling their female students, “You’re doing great work, but just remember that when you have kids you may to have to give it all up to stay home.” It’s absurd.

I look up to my mum for working; she set an amazing example for me. She’s done more in her life than almost any other woman I know and I think showing me that dreams are possible is worth much more than the few years I spent with nannies (who, by the way, were also wonderful women). I never once doubted that my mom loved me, or felt that I was somehow missing out or thought she believe her job was more important than I was. She never let her ‘mom duties’ fall by the wayside due to her career. It’s a delicate balance, but she pulled it off exceptionally well. I don’t see why I can’t do the same.

E is somewhat supportive. He doesn’t think I’m duty bound to stay home… but also that I need to for the sake of our finances. He also thinks that I didn’t try hard enough to get a job in my field right out of school. We decided before graduation that whoever got a job first would dictate where we moved (I was aiming for NYC, he wanted DC or Denver). But as I continuously point out, he got his job because of previous connections – I had none in this city. On top of that, E’s jobs were contract positions, meaning I took a decent job, albeit not one in a field I was remotely interested in, that offering benefits, and then stayed with the company for two years while he bounced around working his way up the ladder in his chosen field. Now he has a great job with a decent salary, but because we got married and had the boys, I may never be able to do the same. I can’t work my way up in the industry I want, because I can’t afford to work for peanuts like we did out of college. My current job gave me two solid years of experience, which could help me transition to another ground level job in a company I’d actually like to work for, but I’m also pigeonholed in this sector. I don’t mind starting at the bottom and working my way up – anything to not feel like I’m giving up entirely.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our boys more than I ever thought possible. I didn’t understand until they arrived how much your heart expands when you have kids. How fiercely you want to protect them and how much you would do for them. They bring me joy every single day and I have so much fun with them when I am home. However, there are times when I want to pull my hair out, stomp my feet, and generally throw what should be classified as a tantrum. I can’t imagine doing my current job for 24 hours a day, so how do I know I can do the ‘mom’ job 24 hours a day without reaching a breaking point?

Talking to my mum this weekend helped a lot with my frustration at our current situation. She reminded me that while you have constant 10-12 hour days (at a minimum) without breaks as a mom, there are huge perks to staying home. I’ll be with my boys all the time – the one to teach them all they need to know, the one watching them grow up a little bit every day. Sure, it may never be easy, but every smile, every milestone is a reward. As they grow and get less dependent on me (feed themselves, play with each other, etc), I’ll be able to do things for myself on the side. Like dedicating more time to writing, photography, editing, blogging, DIY-ing, etc.

Right now, the options are for me to leave my job and become what one of my mum’s co-workers calls a “domestic engineer”, a.k.a stay at home mum, OR land a better paying job that I actually like, OR we move to a new city we might actually love, where the cost of living is lower. I’m aiming for Chicago or Portland, E wants Orlando (never going to happen).

Guess we’ll see what happens. One way or another, there will be a big change very, very soon and as terrified as I am of it, I just have to believe it’ll be for the best. This is definitely a hard decision, but who knows, it may also be the best I’ll ever make.

Penny for your thoughts?