Deciding how to decide
by Karla ° Tuesday, April 21, 2009
When I look back at over the past five years of my life, I would have to say they have been some of the most rewarding and challenging years wrapped in a techi-coloured blanket of pride and soul-hardening devastation.

In 2004 I became pregnant, Mark and I bought our first home together and while I grew more, er, rotund, Mark grew in his career and accepted a job that allowed me to quit mine to stay home with our yet to be born daughter. We were both making drastic career decisions and life could not have felt more right.

In 2005, Ava was born and then she died and our entire life turned upside down. I never returned to my career in Toronto because I realized that I was doing that job for the money and there is nothing more profound than watching your very own child take her last breath to realize how fragile and short life truly is to be wasted doing something you don’t love.

In 2006 Nate was born and I spent his first year of life breastfeeding and sleep deprived and happier than I had ever been.

In 2007 Mark advanced in his career yet again and I introduced Nate to daycare one day a week so I could pursue my passion for the written word on a more serious level and possibly gain a few more minutes of “me time.” And then, after starting an on-location photography business in 2008, Nate began daycare two days a week and it felt awesome to be contributing financially to our family while still being able to be home with my son. Our life was changing and evolving and it could not have felt more right.

And here we are, well into 2009, Nate is two and fluently verbose and thriving and I’m approaching 30 and starting to notice fine lines and wrinkles on my face and questioning whether or not I’m truly fulfilled with where I am today. I’m craving more personal fulfillment and remembering fondly a time when I wore tailored jackets instead of hoodies and strappy heels over running shoes. I'm desiring the daily interactions with adults who do not require me to dance for them every time they pee on the potty.

So, yeah, I’m slowly toying with the idea of re-entering the workforce. But, well, I have always had a job that required 3-4 hours a day return trip commute to Toronto - Canada's business and financial capital from suburbia and I just can't possibly fathom how I could manage that anymore now that I have a child.

I’ve looked at jobs locally, here in Ajax, but there is like, nothing that matches my education and I’m cringing at how I would balance working downtown Toronto, being gone 11 to 12 hours a day and fighting through the daily grind of train delays, crowded subways, angry traffic and too-short daycare hours and, god, even just getting dinner ready and then bathing and getting Nate to bed let alone when I’ll find time to do grocery shopping.

I’m just feeling so conflicted trying to balance my desire for personal fulfillment outside the home while maintaining the sense of family balance that we’re used to.

I salute the families with parents who commute, but I can’t help wonder with fascination how you do it. How do you make it work?


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Well, my commute is only about an hour and a half total (sometimes two hours) and it works out well with Kyle's day care, actually. But it's hard and I allow myself a lot of flexibility in the house. Sometimes dinner is fairly simple. Sometimes the dishes wait until the weekend. Sometimes I collapse on the couch when I get home and convince Kyle that cuddling is just as much fun as dancing around the house. I think you have to give yourself a lot of credit and you have to know that when you're juggling enough, some things won't be perfect or even adequate. But I love my job, and I'm glad I came back after my maternity leave. I could not make this set-up work if I was working at a job I hated.

I guess that's just it - it doesn't entirely work but it happens. My priorities in the morning are getting breakfast and a shower, making sure the kids are ready for daycare, and catching my train on time. My commute is an hour and 10 minutes each way. My prorities in the evening are picking up the kids, getting dinner on the table quickly, spending some time with them, and then getting them to bed. The rest (like the dishwasher, the laundry, cleaning - ha ha, personal time) happens if it fits. And yes, it does help that I love my job. Personally, I need to be at work.
Posted by OpenID wherewiller :  April 21, 2009

I always enjoy your posts, however your words here are especially interesting to me. It reminds me a lot of my own path this year. In recent months, have completely changed pace from my high-paying, low satisfaction corporate career path. I've taken a sabbatical for a year to figure out a little bit of everything; fitness, health including managing infertility, spiritual needs, the luxury of more time with friends and family, hobbies, community involvement and generally more BALANCE in my life.

Even though I love being out of the stressful environment of my workplace, I question where I should go next. I'm concerned about letting the education and experience I worked so hard for, slowly slip away.

One of the things that I have found is a couple of volunteer activities. I love them because it allows me to meet new people and keep some of my professional skills relevant. Not to mention that I get a good feeling because I feel like I'm giving back instead of being a bystander all the time. I'm wondering if you have considered any volunteer avenues?

I am feeling the same way just now!
I left my Police career when Daniel was a year old ~ as I just could not juggle 12 hour (sometimes longer) shifts and a small child etc etc!
Now that both my children are older I am starting to think about getting a job out of the home (I currently work from home as a Childminder) BUT ~ like you, there seem to be so many obstacles ~ so many things that are standing in my way ~ I think that in the end ~ I may just have to take a leap of faith and pray that it is the right decision!
Good luck with whatever you decide to do Karla ~ you deserve happiness more than anyone else I know,
Love and big hugs Tabitha XXX
Posted by Blogger Tabitha :  April 21, 2009

I have about a 1 hour round trip commute which is basically nothing in Switzerland because everyone commutes to work on the train. However, I just don't think I could handle more than that. I crave getting home at the end of the day and a long commute would just wipe me out (and it's not like I have that much energy to spare). I do love to work though. But I'm always struggling with that feeling of not feeling like I am really good at either my job or being a parent because I don't have enough time to devote to either.

Oh but you never get those years back with Nate. Never. Just my thought.
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  April 21, 2009

This is the exact reason I work only part time. I want to be home with the kids as much as I can because they are only going to be young and small for a few short years but I also want to work outside the home. It's a nice balance for me/us. The cost of having the two kids in daycare full time also made the decision to work only part time an easy one.
Posted by Blogger Cheryl :  April 21, 2009

Oh, stay with your boy! He is young and needs you right now. Just my opinion, formed after more than 25 years working in the child care field.

I left my job last July, one week before giving birth to my son. He is now 9 months old, and I have just resigned officially from my job. I decided that I will only have this time with him once, and it is important to me to stay home with him right now.

He is definitely my greatest accomplishment in life, more so than any job could ever be, and I don't want to miss a single minute of watching him grow. When I picture juggling a full time job and putting my son in day care in just 3 short months from now, it makes me feel sad and overwhelmed. I am so happy being a mom and wife full time, and I feel that life is too short to give that up for a job that was just "OK".

I have met quite a few other moms since I had my son, and I have seen just how differently people view this subject, as it often comes up now that our children are approaching their first birthdays. Some people are just "ready" and others are not (I am not). Although it is great to hear other people's perspectives, I think that this decision will be/or has already been made by you and you alone. You are either the person who is ready or you are not. Either way, just make sure it is what makes you happy.
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  April 21, 2009

I work for the government (shorter hours and more flexible hours and often work arrangements).
I also live in Ajax and only commute to Oshawa - no train, no traffic...really hardly a commute.
Even with those "perks" I still find that often I feel like a rat in a race or, at best, a hamster on a wheel.
It is still not enough balance for me...
I guess the beauty lies in the fact that if you re-enter the workforce and don't like how it changes your lives you can quit... it is not forever...
Posted by Blogger Ms.Carson :  April 21, 2009

I work part-time at the moment, but once my youngest child is at school i may increase my hours.
I would of loved to have not worked at all when my kids were babies but we were not in the financial position to do so at the time.
I hope you can come to a descision about your career that suits both you and your family life.
It's just so hard to get the balance right!

Amanda x
Posted by Blogger Amanda :  April 22, 2009

No idea. I live three minutes from the business I own with my husband. No matter how you cut it, once you become a parent you are always torn. I admire the way you and Mark relish life together and trust you'll find the right answer for your family :)
Posted by Blogger Amanda :  April 22, 2009

I have just relized that I have now been working in Child Care for 10 years and my son is approaching five. When we lived in Toronto I commuted 1hr each way when he was small it was hard at first he was in a home day care close to home sometimes I would get home untill his bedtime so I barely had anytime with him. I swiched his centre close to my work and we commuted together, It was hard to travel with a toddler. But the advantage is we spent the commute together and made it our special time reading, & singing (entertaing my son and fellow commuters. We gave up the Rat race and moved to the mountians and I had the advantage of having my son in my classroom and a five minute walk to work still have my complaints of not having enouf quility time together. I guess what I trying to say is that whatever you feel is right for you you will make the best out of it or make changes these descisions are never final change is part of Life.
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  April 22, 2009

I'm a police officer AND I work in the area that I live, so I get to stop by the house anytime I want. The commute is non-existent and the flexibility is awesome. If it weren't for the relative danger, it would be the perfect job.
Posted by Anonymous Debby :  April 22, 2009

I have worked contract work for the past 4 years, off and on, when it suited me. It was good to keep my foot in the proverbial workdoor, get out of the house and talk to adults about non-kid stuff. Recently, that jumped to 3 days/week which I thought would be great, just great, get out of the house, earn a bit, use my brain, prep for something more permanent down the line. I'm completely surprised with how much I don't like it, wish I was with the kids, wonder what they are doing/learning/experiencing without me and with another adult, a wonderful, caring, loving sitter. I'm jealous! I never ever thought this would happen to me but I can't wait to be finished this contract so I can hang out with my kids full time, take it slow (just went to hear Carl Honore talk tonight) and watch them love life. I think it has been a good learning experience for me and again, I'm more surprised then I can tell you but I'm happy to want to be with them so much. Clara is nearly finished kindergarten and then full-time school. It flies by so quickly, I wish I could slow it down more.
But I needed to do this 3 days/week to realize how much I enjoyed my kids and being around them all day (okay, I'm no saint, they drive me batty many times in a given day, just like everyone else). I think it had become something I was taking for granted and this work contract let me see that; perhaps that's what you need to explore and find out. Good luck on your adventures!
Posted by Anonymous Mama T :  April 23, 2009

A job with a daycare close by is important. I commute 1-1.5hrs in each direction, every day. Recently, I moved my daughter to a daycare that is less than 5 minutes from my workplace and now we get to spend that commuting time together. If we take the train we can read books and cuddle, days we take the car we have a selection of CDs that we sing along too. Yes we are in the car, but to me its still quality time. We talk about our day, we share snacks, etc.

The evenings are short but manageable. We eat leftovers most nights. Bath only every 2nd night. Bedtime can actually be a bit later because daycare has nap time 1-3. Mornings are a bit hectic for sure, we do breakfast either in the car or on the train to save a little bit of time.

My job sometimes requires me to work overtime. My daughter has a double bed in on days where I don't see her at all. I sleep with her. She knows I am there.

I struggle with the working mom thing but as with all of these things, you have to do what works for you. For me, my career is important, and it is manageable with one child.
Posted by Anonymous Anonymous :  April 23, 2009


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