Monday, April 20, 2009


This weekend I took a class that has lead me to think about a new career path. People keep asking me what work I would do for free; professorship was it. So, I've been feeling quite pessamistic and just plain sad about the very real possibility that I have so little control over my work life. Training myself and practicing another skill will, perhaps, give me some sense of that.

I heard Laura Schlessinger again this morning talking about her new book about stay-at-home moms, which I find to be so off the mark. First, most of the sahm I know have at least one degree, so railing against the stereotype that they are stupid seems weird to me. Second, I like(d) my work. It was meaningful and was a significant part of my individual identity. I'm sure many women don't need that, but I do. Now that I'm at home with my son, the sudden change is not easy or entirely welcome. We're having a good time, but it's not what I planned.

One of the reasons that I so enjoyed my job (even though it wasn't tenure-track or ideal in other ways) was that the schedule was so flexible. I could go on a field trip or a doctor's appointment whenever I needed to. Most semesters, I had two days a week that I could keep my children at home or pick them up early for an afternoon of hanging out. I had time to read. And in the summers, I was practically a sahm anyway, if I chose to be. I had the best of both worlds. I'm mourning the possible/probably loss of that. That brings me to this article from Inside Higher Ed that is calling my name. It succinctly expresses just what I feel about being pushed out of academia. Even if one of the opportunities I'm waiting to hear from works out, I still feel shocked into the reality that this whole thing isn't exactly what I had in mind. I think that now I'll always feel that academia is a bad marriage, with the divorce papers drawn up and hidden in the drawer, especially since even tenured professors were kicked to the curb in this case; "Never forget" I'll hear the administration saying, "You are expendable!" And yet, can I do anything else? Do I want to?

What Schlessinger doesn't seem to care about is the fact that working wasn't just about money--although for lots of women it's about exactly that--or about societal expectations--although somewhere in this conversation someone should point out the need for workspaces that support working parents instead of making their lives so much more difficult. For me, working was about making my own individual contributions and identity. Where do I put those needs if stay-at-home motherhood is 100% of my life?


Schoolboy Thug said...

I think it takes a brave woman to admit that she needs/wants an identity outside of motherhood. Why shouldn't you have it both ways? Our parent(s) did it and millions of African American women do it completely by themselves without help from even a spouse. I say life is too short to live anyone's life but your own. Parenthood is the most important job you will ever have but it doesn't have to be the only one.

The Steel Magnolia said...

Thanks, Schoolboy Thug! That was spoken like a man (because men are almost never subject to such crazy judgments about work and parenthood). Well put. I'm so needy for validation these days . . . I appreciate it!

ck said...

I really relate to this. I LOVED my job before I decided to stay home. It could have been a career job, but it wasn't my dream. Either way, I was really surprised at how hard it was to leave.

Staying at home is great...good...sometimes. I love my kids, and my struggle has little to do with them (enter the guilt). I just never would have imagined how the day-to-day would feel. Or what it would look when everyone else I went to school with continued on the career path without me.

Again, and it drives me crazy that I feel the need to justify how I feel, I know it's not about my kids. It's about finding a balance between dreams and reality. (For me, anyway.) And nothing makes you face reality faster than a kid...

The Steel Magnolia said...

ck, so glad it's not just me. anytime i express these feelings to anyone i have to fight the urge to explain that i do, in fact, love my children. that i enjoy spending time with them . . . just not every single second of my time. and you're so right--this need for balance is not about the children. well, maybe it's about the whining and crying. but mostly, it's not about them.

and let's not feel guilty! i keep reminding myself that men don't just go to work in order to "provide"; they like getting away and being an individual, etc. too. it's just that nobody makes them feel bad about it.