According to recent headlines, my levels of happiness should have shot through the roof when I started working again last month. Yes, indeed -- according to one recent study it was boldly declared that "Working Moms Feel Better than Stay-at-Home Moms". After a working hiatus of over 6 years, you would assume that I would have noticed significant elevations in the levels of my life satisfaction, no?
Studies such as the one I have referenced always make me smile. Often, it is difficult to determine if the sample sizes were selected randomly in a true, statistical sense. More importantly, the sample sizes are generally so insignificant in actual numbers that extrapolating results to a larger population is useless and downright misleading. Additionally, the testing methodology seems to simply stem from a series of subjective interviews and observations with 1300 subjects in 10 locations over a 10 year period of time. Don't get me started on how the media conveniently leaves out that the study was focused quite a bit on part-time working mothers.
It would almost make you think that someone has an agenda.
In December, when I trotted out the door with travel mug in hand, in that true, traditional sense of working which involves Going to An Actual Office With Real, Life-Like People While My Children Are in Daycare (as opposed to the past forays into working that involved me, my laptop and my dining room table), I noticed right off the bat that I miss my kids. I really, really miss them -- seeing them for just a few hours a day is simply not enough for me. They are small and their time with me is so very temporary. I feel this acutely - particularly in light of the fact that Arun will be in school full-time this fall. Furthermore, I hate that Anjali has taken this so hard - she has been crying at dropoff and is vocal in that she would rather I stay home. At night, she squeezes in close and whispers "I miss you, Mama."
I miss our laidback mornings. I miss my messy-haired, sleepy-eyed kids with stinky breath coming down the stairs and snuggling in my lap for a few minutes as they wake up.
I miss walking my kids to school -- Manoj is currently doing virtually all of the school/daycare dropoffs and pickups. I love knowing their teachers, I enjoy seeing directly what is happening in their school environments. I miss connecting with other parents and being involved in all of that.
I miss cooking meals from scratch. We have tried the slow cooker thing, but we are still mostly cobbling together meals via picking through the leftovers in the fridge or doing take out. I miss grocery shopping throughout the week. I enjoy meandering through the store with the kids and letting them pick out whatever they want in the produce aisle. I miss picking through fresh ingredients and trying to come up with fun ideas for the week.
I miss my books and I do miss my social media outlets (Facebook drama notwithstanding. I do not particularly miss that). However, I do not miss my TV shows and in fact, have pared them down even further (Once Upon a Time, Terra Nova I hardly knew ye.)
I miss exercising. This week I am reworking my exercise schedule and am hoping this new routine will work. My mental health NEEDS at least three workouts a week (Four is better, but three at least helps keep the Wolves of Insanity at bay)
I sort of like working, too. I discovered that I have missed the adrenaline of deadlines. I have missed using Big Words. I have missed using my past work experiences and my graduate degree and my CPA license. I have missed all of that. Overall, I missed making a difference that someone else sometimes notices. Believe me, no one in my house notices when I mop the floor or carefully fold all of the laundry.
I missed the strict schedule that kept me on task. My house is generally more organized and cleaner now that I have been working (I religiously use the Simple Mom's Pocket Docket!)
I missed the paycheck. Contributing directly to my family's coffers in a significant way shoots straight to the heart of my self-esteem. I cannot lie, I am keenly aware of what financial sacrifice we are making by my Just Staying Home.
So, has working impacted my overall levels of Happiness? Not nearly as much as I thought it would. Surprisingly so. I had thought for sure that I would be absolutely miserable working and that has not been the case, either. Oh sure, I would rather be Just Staying Home, but the aspects of Working that I do enjoy are helping to balance the parts that I do not relish.
Frankly, to surmise that my Happiness relies upon my employment status is sad and fails to take into account that there is far more to life than just working.
I cannot predict what our future holds. I am not sure if this Working Thing will continue or if I will go back to a life of leisure where I Just Stay Home. However, I do know this:
My level of Happiness is not dependent upon it either way.