January 9, 2012

On Working

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.


jodifur said...

I hate studies like that. Am I happier because I work part time? I have no idea. I've never not worked part time. Different things work for different people.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

I have to say that the week I worked part-time was actually pretty good. I did 25 hours, went in really early and was home by 1pm. Just enough to get things done at home and not feel resentful.

M&Co. said...

I have always worked but I know what you are talking about. I think I've been inside my son's school twice since school started in August.

Olivia said...

Oof, the studies...Even before I had a kid, I dreamed of working part time. Forty plus hours a week is just too much time to spend away from home, family and friends. But, I don't exactly desire to give up working entirely for much of the same reasons you mention.

I had thought I could look for part time work when our next baby is born, but finding part time child care is almost harder than finding good full time care. So, this summer I will embark on my first foray into the world of a SAHM. I'm excited to see more of my children and not feel so rushed thru dinner times and household chores. But, wow, I am so nervous about living on one income* not having that all adult place to go to.

*We have lived on one income before, but it was my income. For some reason that did not make me nervous.

Melanie said...

I have roughly 18 more months before I will know how I react, 18mths before Allie starts kindergarten (which in MO is all day).... I know I want to do something to bring home an income because its hard watching two income families actually do stuff (you know like VACATIONS) when we just cannot swing it while I am staying home.... I know I am not going back into accounting. I HATED, HATED how everyone always treated me as the bad guy, like I made up the rules I was expected to follow. *sigh* will not be going that route again. I am hoping to somehow work with the school district so I can have summers off while the kids are little. I may end up being a lunch lady for all I know, but at least I will contribute SOME sort of income.

Olivia said...

Melanie, FWIW my mother was a lunch lady while I was growing up. Pay is piss-poor and the work is hard, but she was off by the time school ended everyday and had all the same vacation time. It was really awesome that she was able to attend all the school events I participated in and there was no need for after-school care. That kind of schedule is what I dream of.

SleeplessinSummerville said...

I like your analysis of this. I can positively assure you that I am happier working half-time than I would be working full-time. Of course I think I would be happier still staying home, if only because of the health problems my child has. When I see studies like that one, I always wonder if the investigators took into account the fact that abusive husbands typically try to keep their wives from working, so the group of SAHM's is likely to experience a higher level of domestic violence than the working moms. DV is positively correlated with depression and negatively correlated with just about every measure of good parenting. It strikes me as a large variable to just overlook... Just my opinion :)