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Ramblings on Motherhood vs. Career

>> Monday, February 27, 2012

I've been absent from blogging for several weeks now.  It is amazing to me how quickly time passes when you are preoccupied with normal life.  Besides the normal taking care of kids, volunteering in classrooms, making meals, housework, and trying to keep in touch with family and friends (although usually failing miserably with that one), I have had 2 major "projects" in the past couple of months.  One is building our home, which should be done by May.  Not actually building it of course, but choosing all the elements and making decisions -- floors, cabinets, countertops, tile, trim and paint colors, light fixtures, stone for fireplaces,.... the list goes on and on.  I really doubt anyone is too interested in that, but I am going to do a post later this week with pictures since Beth requested it and I have picked up one or two ideas that may be helpful to anyone thinking of building or remodeling in the future.

My second "project" has been starting to work a little (and I do mean little!).  I've never really gone into detail on my career history here, although most of my friends who read this probably know about it as we've all talked about what we did before being moms.  I graduated from veterinary school almost 10 years ago at age 24.  (I always get this question, so a veterinary degree requires 3-4 years of undergraduate work and then 4 years of veterinary school.  There are a limited number of veterinary schools in the country; 28 when I graduated.  I did my undergrad work at WVU in 3 years and then received my doctorate of veterinary medicine from The Ohio State University in May 2002.)

After I graduated, I worked full-time in a tiny little town north of Dayton, Ohio for a little less than 2 years.  It was a great place to start and I had a great boss.  I will forever be indebted to that man for his kindness and patience and I miss him still.  While I liked my job, I just wanted to be a mom.  My mother took a long break from her career as a math teacher to raise us, and I knew I wanted that for my kids as well.  Although, at this point I think I still thought it was possible to do it all so I probably thought I'd work and raise kids and all would be wonderful!  My son was born in 2004 and I left my job to stay home full-time with him.  At that time we lived about 5 hours from my parents and 2 hours from my husband's parents.  My son was a colicky, cranky baby who absolutely rocked our world!!  I remember days that he cried for 5 hours straight.  We quickly decided that we needed to be close to family and we moved to Lebanon, which was about 30 minutes away from my in-laws.  My mother-in-law helped me maintain my sanity during that time (she may disagree about the sanity part though).  When my son was about a year old, I was antsy to go back to work and I started doing relief work 2 afternoons a week in the Cincy area.  Relief work is basically like temping for vets.  You work at clinics that need a vet because someone is going on vacation or on maternity leave, etc.  I liked that, but I really wanted to work at one clinic.  I eventually ended up finding a clinic and started working there 2 days one week and 3 days the next.  It was a good job, great clinic, but really too many hours.  After working there about a year and a half, I was pregnant again and left that practice too.  Part of my reason for leaving was time.  2 days sounds good, but when you start at 8 and stay until you're done, that can easily turn into 8 or 9 pm.  And it did.  Although we usually transferred hospitalized patients to a local ER clinic, there was still a ton of charting and other work to do once we finished appointments.  And my 3rd day every other week was a Saturday, 9-5, which was horrible.  Everyone waited until Sat to bring their sick-for-4- days animals in, so we were there all day.  So on a good 2 day week, I may have been lucky to only work 20 hours, but on long 3 days weeks, I could easily put in 35 hours.  That was more than the the part-time I had in mind.  My other issue was childcare.  My mother-in-law was happy to watch one grandson twice a week, but I think by that point she needed a break too and 2 kids was too much.

Fast forward to present, and I have been home full-time for 4 years.  In the past few months, I have started to investigate some work options that would allow me to dabble a little, but still be home for the kids most of the time.  I have started doing some spays and neuters at a shelter a couple days a month, and I am also starting to do just a little relief work.  I've kept up my continuing education and license every year, but I definitely forget alot so I've been doing extra reading and brushing up on my knowledge too.

As a side note, last week I went to Las Vegas for my continuing education conference, and I got to catch up with some classmates I hadn't seen in 10 years.  It was sooooo fun to see them.  That was such an intense 4 years of my life, and the people in my class and really the only ones who can truly relate.  It was so great to reminisce about our experiences, although most were much more fun to remember than experience!  It was also fun to eat great food and socialize because I don't normally do much socializing.  We ate at a restaurant one night owned by Hubert Keller, a judge from Top Chef and Top Chef Masters competitor.  We got to meet him, and my classmate (who was a huge fan of his) told him she named her dog after him.  He thought that was super funny and he sent us complimentary desserts -- the best creme brulee I have ever had.

So all this (thanks if you're still reading!) has led me to what I really wanted to talk about, and that is motherhood vs. career.  Maybe I should say motherhood and careers, to be less polarizing.  That is the first point I want to make -- regardless of whether working full-time, part-time, or staying home full-time with kids is your choice, we really  need to get rid of the judgement.   As mothers, I truly believe we are all doing the best we can.  Only we can know what is best for ourselves and our families, so any comments I make about staying home with kids is from the perspective of what is right for me.  I would never presume to know what is right for someone else.  I get pretty irritated when I hear comments like "I could never stay home with my kids all the time.  I'd be so bored."  If I were a working mom, there would be comments from the other end of the spectrum that irked me.  I have friends who are working moms, and I am in awe of their ability to juggle it all and their mothering skills.  This discussion isn't about mommy wars.  I love my fellow moms and I think you are all pretty amazing.

For me, I know without a doubt that I want to be home with my kids as much as possible.  However, there are times when the "career bug" calls.  I am lucky to have a career that doesn't require climbing a ladder.  All the hardest work was done in the beginning.  Now I can basically work for someone else or own my own clinic.  I don't have to worry about how time off will affect my next promotion.  For that I am so grateful.  I am also thankful that part-time work is even a possibility.  For many careers it is not.  Anytime I hear a teenage or undergrad girl talking about what she wants to major in, I always mention the ability to work part-time for consideration.  At that age, you aren't thinking about motherhood because you think you can do everything, all at once, and do it well.  My own cure for the pesky career bug is the following:  1)  I tell myself "You will never look back at your life and wish you'd worked more."  What I mean by that is that my kids are only this young once.  I can never get it back.  I have the chance to be with them now, and I will never get that chance again.  As long as I remain healthy, I have many working years ahead of me.  2)  I remember what my first boss, a very strong Christian, once said to me "You CAN have it all, but not at the same time".  The reality is that one of the areas of my life is going to have to take a backseat.  I can't be everything to all people.  I am not that good and I don't have that kind of energy.  So for now, the career gets the backseat.  3)  I realize that life is not perfect for anyone and we all have to make choices.  Last week really provided clarity for me on this point.  Two of my classmates that I reunited with are on the other end of the spectrum:  mid to late 30s, not married, no kids, career is the driver.  I think they are both pretty happy, but they were very honest to say that at this point they thought they would be married with kids and neither is sure if that will ever happen.  It made me feel even more thankful for the family I have, because without them I wouldn't be me.  I know that being a wife and mother is more essential to me than being a vet, so I am happy with where I am.  Beth posted a graphic about comparison a few posts back when she talked about not being a perfect mother.  I thought it was great.  There is nothing like comparison to steal your joy.  You can never know what is going on in someone else's life and comparing yourself to them is destructive. 

Lastly, my mother-in-law told me last week that another family member had made a positive comment about me starting to work a little more.  Her comment (the family member) was along the lines of, "Oh good.  What a waste to have that education and not use it.".  My mother-in-law took offense to that, but I've heard it enough by now that I really didn't.  First, if that is how you view my break from a career, you could never understand my choice.  In a way, I think someone who thinks this way may be too selfish to ever put kids ahead of themself.  That sounds harsh, and I really don't mean it to be.  But this isn't really about me.  It's about what is best for my family.  Second, if I needed to support my family today due to an accident or sudden unexpected unemployment of my husband, I could do it.  I could have a job within a week and support a family of 4.  How could that ever be a waste?  When my kids are in school full-time and I decide to work more, I will be able to help them pay for college.  So no, I don't see my time off as a "waste" by any stretch of the imagination.  It's more an investment in my family, and the future of my children.

I hope someone can relate to something here.  If you are a working mom, I really hope I haven't said anything offensive to you.  My purpose here was to share my feelings in the hopes that someone in the same position can say "thank goodness someone else feels the same way."  :)

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