For various reasons, I am at a career crossroads. Do you remember what happened to Oedipus at one of the oldest crossroads of world literature? Yeah, that’s right. Road rage and patricide. I’d like to learn from his – and especially my own – mistakes and avoid as much Greek tragedy as I can. But sometimes, it’s hard to know which is the right road to Thebes.
See, I’ve had this great gig for a few years teaching right down the road from where we live and where my children attend school. My principal’s been flexible with my morning arrival time so on the days I teach (mostly creative writing, no less – my professional passion), I still get to wake my kids up, get them ready, talk to them. And I only work every other day, so on mornings like this one, I’m with my kids the entire time AND I get to take them to school, watch their little heads recede into a colorful sea of backpacks and jackets.
On special occasions and holidays, it’s easy to dart across the street on days I teach to say, attend the Thanksgiving luncheon. On days I don’t teach, I can make a lunch date with my twins or 10 year old. Of course, most of the time they’re at school and I’m home, I try to adhere to my writing schedule because I’m one of those artists who gets grumpy when she can’t express herself, and the challenge of doing so with a full time job and four children is one of the main reasons I went part time.
I remember when I carried a full load of classes in 2009 and I sequestered myself in the quiet room of the Chinn Public Library in Woodbridge, tapping away on the laptop writing the first draft of my novel while our oldest son practiced gymnastics. Some days I didn’t see my youngest children at all because I’d leave when it was dark out (sound familiar, parents who work out of the home?) stealing glances at their still sleeping forms, wanting to say goodbye but not wanting to wake them before they needed to get up.
When I came home from teaching, they’d be napping, and within 30 minutes, I’d be out the door again driving to Woodbridge with our oldest son. Gymnastics practices lasted three-four hours, and to make use of the time – as well as to save gasoline money – either my husband or I would regularly stay down there and wait instead of making the 20 mile trip back home just to drive another 40 miles round trip later in the evening. Those evenings, I worked hard on my book – and one could even argue I was more efficient than I am now that I have entire days to meander – but I was so unhappy that I cried to a colleague at work one day.
She advised me to follow my dreams.
So did Oprah.
I gave up my tenure and went part time.
I was ever so happy for a year or two. But now, in this economy and after three years of teaching without a step increase (my husband is also a teacher), I’ve begun to worry. Am I doing right by my kids?
Yes, I am happier on this part time schedule and I’ve always been a Bohemian at heart, so living without a lot of the newest toys doesn’t usually register as a want ($200 purchase of iPhone with accumulated Christmas money, aside), but our kids are old enough to have their own wants now, and an awful lot of them – especially for our 10 year old – have a pricetag.
Stay-at-home-Moms who live on one income (especially if it’s not six digits), may have had similar ruminations. Especially those who left careers they loved. Or those who hope to resume their careers but who wonder how muddy the professional welcome mat will be.
So, to quote the Kinks, “Do I stay or do I go?” Due to budget cuts and my self-chosen, precarious part time status, I – a 17 year veteran of the county school system – have to pack up and look for another position, and the pickings are slim.
Some people advise me, “Now is the time to spread your wings and fly.” PhD program? Corporate America? Freelance writing? More self discipline with revisions and more persistent agent shopping for an almost finished chick-lit manuscript?
Or do I listen to Suze Orman who says everyone should have at least eight months worth of salary in savings (rather than Oprah, the woman who featured her without need of her financial advice) … stick to what I know and hope that somewhere close enough to home to be easy on my gas tank, I can return to full time teaching? Go back to commenting on five classes of essays, go back to a career that takes up so much space –if you do it right – that it’s hard to fit in my other professional passion … writing?
Go back to leaving at ‘o dark Early before I even see my children open their eyes, before I even feel the warmth of their breath on my neck as we embrace, before I call out to them from the van, “I love you!”
Will they know, when they’re sleeping, that love often takes many shapes, many forms and that their financial security is one?
Like many moms, Kathy drives a mini-van full of booster seats and Disney/Pixar DVD’s. When she’s not chauffeuring her kids, ages 10 and under, to school and activities, she teaches for Prince William County Public Schools, writes fiction and poetry, and blogs about the challenges and rewards of being a mom to young children.
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Category: Busy in Bristow