Dear World: I’m not going back to work. Ever. Get over it.

March 27, 2006 | Motherhood | 11 comments

I was so tired when I put together that post last night that I don’t think I even remembered how much that whole subject touches a nerve with me. But Jennifer and Steve’s comments refreshed my memory.

When I tell people that this next baby is a girl one of the more common comments I get is, “How great, you guys are all done then!” Ahem. No. But a more annoying offshoot of that comment is the thinking-aloud calculations of when I can go back to work. People know I’m “doing the stay-at-home-mommy thing” while my kids are little but, hey, in a couple of years this next little one will be ready for pre-school and — hallelujah! — I can finally get back to that cubicle and resume my life! Whew!

When I explain that I have no plans to get back to work I’m usually met with confused looks and furrowed brows. Oh…because I’m going to have more kids? Err, maybe I just don’t have any offers right now. Or, uhh, is it because…? For some reason it is totally inconceivable to most people that I just don’t want to go back to work. Even if for some reason I could not have more children, I’m still not going to polish up the old resume and jump back into the corporate world. I’m married and I want to be a housewife.

I’ve actually had to work quite a bit over the past year, something I just put a stop to a few weeks ago. My husband and I were still getting our business off the ground and I had to help pick up slack if it was going to work, so I worked from home as the webmaster, online marketing specialist, bookkeeper, HR manager and general jack-of-all-trades. As work goes, it was actually pretty fulfilling and fun. I hired a close friend of the family to act as a nanny for my son, then about a year old.

Most of my friends expressed envy that I had such an “ideal” situation — I could WORK, mostly from my house, and have flexible hours to boot. What more could a woman want in life? I was living the dream, I had it all!

Wrong.

I remember one day in January I was particularly swamped with work and knew I had a long week ahead of me. I’d just gotten off of a contentious phone call with a vendor and hit “Send/Receive” to find four new emails from our employees, all containing requests for me to do something “urgent.” I was tired. I walked into the kitchen to see our nanny, Maria, grilling up some lemon-herb chicken and veggies for her and my son to eat for lunch. They’d just gotten back from the park and looked refreshed and energized. After lunch they were going to read one of his new books about dinosaurs and then go explore the little greenbelt that runs through our neighborhood. I didn’t have time to eat with them, I had to get back to work.

As I shuffled back to my office I thought, “I’m outsourcing living!” I was working while paying someone else to live my life for me. What’s next?, I half-joked to myself, I’m going to pay Maria to go get a massage for me since I’m too busy? Maybe she could read that Groeschel book I’ve been meaning to get to and tell me if it’s as life-changing as everyone says it is.

I’d always thought that I didn’t want to work after I was a wife and a mother, and this experience proved that it sucked as much as I’d thought it would. When my husband came home that night we had a long talk and both agreed that it was time to change. No matter how financially painful, we had to hire someone to do the work that I had been doing.

And when I tell people of this new development they often assure me that this is just a temporary thing that we have to do while we have small children, that I will be able to safely return to the workforce and put that ‘ol education to good use again in no time at all. You’d think that I was telling people I was going to prison or something.

Sometimes I feel like I need to get a t-shirt, or maybe a forehead tattoo, that says “Dear World: Short of unforeseen financial tragedy, I am not going back to work. Ever. Get over it.” For the first time in my life I have the freedom to explore whatever interests me, read whatever books I want, try out little projects I’ve always been curious about, see the world in a whole new light through my children, and arrange my schedule however I’d like. For me, that’s priceless. No title or paycheck could ever replace that.

[I have actually written about this before. Here is an article I published elsewhere in 2003 on this issue (it’s aimed at a socially conservative audience). At the time I wasn’t even married but, now that I am, my opinions haven’t changed a bit.]

11 Comments

  1. Ersza

    I’m another highly educated stay-at-home Mom. I work part-time from home, but never plan on going back into the work force full time. My son is in elementary school, now, and he needs me at home more than ever. Think about it–when you are in school for seven hours a day, that extra two hours in after care is a lot. My son loves coming home after school, and I love being able to pop into school and help out during the day, go along on field trips, bake cookies for parties, run all the errands my family needs, cook dinner, and basically keep us all happy and healthy. No gray cubicle for me! I’ll take the sunshine, fresh air, and four loads of laundry a day. 🙂

  2. SteveG

    As I look around my prison cell, er…I..uh..mean cubicle (yes it has gray walls), listening to the soul crushing whitenoise, I am now, utterly. totally. depressed.

    Thanks ladies!

    😉

  3. Jennifer F.

    No, Steve, you are LUCKY. Remember that you GET to have a job while your wife forgoes a career to endure life outside of an office and spend time with your children.

    Those gray walls are evidently what life is all about. Doesn’t it feel awesome?

    🙂

  4. SteveG

    If by awesome you mean…hanging from a building, by my eyelid, from the edge of a rusty nail….well then, yes! It’s quite awesome!!

  5. Colleen

    Oh Jen, you are singing my song! What a world we created for you young women that the most precious people in our lives are expected to be outsourced to (usually) lower-class, less educated women (for whom child-rearing is, presumably, a career). It is incredible and shows, really, how elitist the entrenched feminist movement is and always was. I suppose if you are a high-powered lawyer, work might be the source of all joy, but we will be hardpressed to find a grocery cashier or UPS carrier or waitress who feels that way.

    However, since I feel a tirade coming on, I think I will stop.
    What is the name of the Groeschl book to which you alluded?

  6. Jennifer F.

    Hey Colleen –

    I’d love to hear your tirade on the subject…although it’d probably just start one of my own. Few things can get me going like the subject of what “feminism” has done to women.

    ANYWAY, I’m actually dying to read all of Groeschel’s books (a list here), though I think I’ll start with Arise from Darkness: What to Do When Life Doesn’t Make Sense. Evidently it’s a masterwork on suffering.

  7. SteveG

    Fr. Groeschell really is amazing. I’ve so far read….

    1. Healing the Original Wound
    This was an excellent book and greatly deepened my understanding of Original Sin and Redemption.

    2. Heaven In Our Hands
    Not his best, but still worth the read.

    3. A Still Small Voice
    For anyone trying to make sense of apparitions and private revelations (i.e. Lourdes, Fatima, etc.) this is an absolute MUST read.

    …But by far, my favorite resource of his is a taped series from a conference he does called…

    Mountains and Valleys of the Spiritual Life

    …It is simply amazing. Though in fairness, it might be more for someone who’s been a believer for at least a couple of years.

    Now, off to buy Arise from the Darkness! Thanks for the recommendation!

  8. Jennifer F.

    It’s interesting that after all this writing about suffering Groeschel was in a horrible car accident in 2004 that should have killed him. An article reporting at the time is here.

    A quote from the article: Sources said the elderly priest had broken both legs and both arms as well as several ribs, has intracranial bleeding, and suffered a heart attack, among other injuries. The priest’s secretary said it will “take a miracle” for him to survive.

    After that he wrote There Are No Accidents: In All Things Trust in God. You know that’s going to be good.

  9. Barb, sfo

    Yes, people look at me like I’m nuts when I tell them I’m on Permanent Maternity Leave. But just because they are getting bigger now doesn’t mean my kids need me any less!

    My husband has that last Groeschel book you mentioned and said it’s wonderful.

  10. Colleen

    Actually, I was “there” so to speak, when Fr.Groeschl had his accident. That is to say, I caught the original news story and then followed his long road to recovery at the website of his order. I consider it profoundly miraculous that anyone could survive such an accident, esp. an older man. I sure enjoyed his Tv show, when I was able to catch it. I am definitely going to have to read some of his books.

  11. Erin K.

    Thanks for this post, and the other ones related to it. I have been struggling with this exact thing for the past year. I really want to stay home with my daughter – hopefully by next fall this will be possible – but I worry that I’ll be wasting my education and my potential.

    All through school I was a very good student. I was always told (or it was at least implied) that I would “go far in life.” Right out of college I landed a dream job that I LOVED, but it was obviously not something I would do forever. It was the kind of thing that’s great when you don’t have any attachments. Anyway, people always told me that after I left the job I would be able to walk into any job I wanted, because my resume was going to be incredible.

    Then I got married and moved back home, and long-story-short, I am now a secretary. A secretary! How did that happen? Sometmes I find myself internally screaming, “If I had so much bleeping potential, how did I end up here???” And it seems like an awful waste.

    Another thing that has muddied the waters on this subject for me, is the idea that I could find a career to have from home. This, of course, would give me the best of both worlds. Right? So I went down a path (or two, or three) searching for a work-from-home career. My attempts at this were not exactly successful and only left me feeling more stressed out. The lack of success also made me feel like a failure. I felt like all my potential had gone to waste.

    I am 100% sure that I want to be home with my daughter (and future children) but the thought always left me feeling like I had to couple it with a career of some sort. Even if it is a career where I make cards (my hobby) and sell them.

    But your thoughts stopped me in my tracks. Why do I think I need to also have a career? Why do I feel like I have to be prepared to return to the workforce once my kids are in school? Your post was a big “DUH!” moment for me.

    When I am able to stay home, if I decide that I want to pursue other goals, then I should feel free to do that. (As long as my home obligations are taken care of.) But if I find that taking care of my home and my children is enough to keep me occupied and satisfied, then that is enough. End of story. What a revelation!!

    I feel like I’ve already written a book here so I’ll refrain from commenting further, but I’m sure I’ll be thinking a lot about this in the days (and weeks) to come. Thanks so much for writing this!!

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