Thursday, September 1, 2011

Stay-at-home mom, working mom, or just Mom?

I've been having a bit of an identity crisis lately. Well, crisis might be a bit dramatic, but I have been thinking, anyway.

In March, I lost my job. The organisation that I worked for basically lost all its funding and had to close down. This makes me all kinds of sad, seeing as the work--which I and many others consider to be very important--is now not being done; plus the people I worked with were pretty much the best colleagues you could ask for.

The thing is, in March, when this all happened, I still hadn't decided whether I was going to return to work at the end of my maternity leave. I love being home with Gus. I am so blessed to be able to spend all this time with him. On the other hand, there is so much out in the world that interests me and that I feel I could really contribute to. I have applied to a couple of jobs this summer, and during the time I was actually working on the application, I felt so excited at the prospect of regularly addressing the sort of issues I am interested in. But as soon as I pressed "save" and went to do something else, panic would rise up in my chest, and I would think that I cannot possibly go back to work. (It doesn't help that I don't like the process of starting a new job--getting to know everyone and the feeling of having to prove myself makes me nervous at the best of times).

I think my ideal job would be where I could either take Gus with me or would only have to be away for him for 3-4 hours at a time.  But where can a person find a job like this? I recently read this post at Talk Birth (via), and oh man did it speak to me. She talks about
the need for something in between staying at home and working full time (basically, that working and mothering simultaneously is the most natural and fulfilling approach, but our society does not make that combination often feasible or comfortable)
Now, I hope I don't get in trouble with any self-appointed mommy police, but being a SAHM--at least, in my limited experience and with a single child of Gus's age and disposition--is not a "full-time job" in that it does not take 100% of my mental and physical energies to do. That's not to say that it isn't tough and tiring at times, but Gus doesn't need my undivided attention 24 hours a day. He spends a lot of his time playing by himself with only occasional input from me, which means I spend a lot of time thinking about being productive, but without a good outlet for it. But if I had work that I was interested in and motivated to do, between independent play time and naps, I think I would have enough time every week to do a part-time job at home while parenting my son.

At the moment, I would say that mother is my primary identity, the aspect of myself that is top of the list, so to speak. But I don't think that being a mother means I have to stop being the person I was a year ago, that the rest of that list is now obsolete. Maybe changed, but not vanished. As long as other pursuits, be they paid work or volunteering or hobbies, add to rather than detract from my vocation as a mother, then they should be embraced. The right kind of work could definitely add to my mothering. But if women, and men, define their primary identity as parent or family member, then why is the workplace set up so that work gets top billing in terms of time and energy? Can't we fit work into family, rather than the other way around?

(I know it's cliche, but I really just feel like chanting "hey hey, ho ho, the patriarchy has got to go!" at the moment)

Maybe I just need to get more creative with my search for work, take some risks in offering my services. Or, you know, if I actually knew what I wanted to be when I grow up, rather than just having general areas of interest, that would help. I'm certain I'll sort something out in time, but it sure does take a lot of energy to get there!

1 comment:

  1. Work, a lot of the time, ends up being just a means to an end (a pay check) and most of the time is not enjoyed or looked forward to. That's the case in my situation anyway. I'm away from my daughter and working "for the weekend" or time with her. If you can find a job that can combine your interests and time spent with your son (at home) then good for you!! It's important to have more than just mommy-hood under your belt, but I understand what you are saying with being conflicted. It's tough being a mom!