Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Neither/nor, or how getting a job improved my life

Since I began teaching freshman composition this fall, I no longer fit into any tidy label. I'm a stay-at-home mother (mostly). I'm a working mother (partly). I'm neither fully one nor the other. And you know what--I love it!

I feel so lucky to be able to spend the bulk of my days raising my little children. I also love teaching and keeping current with my academic endeavors. Teaching one class per semester has created the perfect balance for me. Three mornings a week, I slip away to teach my 8 am class. Immediately after class, I exercise at the college gym. Eric meets me on campus at 10 am with all three children. He goes to his office; I go to the locker room with the kids and shower. (Our university athletic facility has a free laundry service, so I never have to tote exercise clothes back and forth from home. Amazing.) Then we're off for our morning activities.

You know what the best part about teaching is for me? 3 days a week I don't have to get the kids up, dressed, fed, brushed, or out the door. It's positively brilliant. Getting my children ready in the mornings is one of my least favorite things, and working lets me skip out of that responsibility. It's a win-win situation for both Eric and me. I get a break from the kids, while he gets more time with them 3 days a week. We're both really happy with our situation.

I''d also argue that this job has improve my marriage. Since Eric and I finished graduate school, our interests and activities have drifted farther apart. My world was increasingly dominated by babies, breastfeeding, toddlers, and preschoolers. My being involved in academia again--albeit as a teacher rather than a student--has given us more common ground. I like being able to ask Eric about what teaching strategy he'd suggest or which books he likes best for a given course. We can discuss grading strategies, groan over grammar errors, and celebrate when we see excellent writing or have a lively class discussion.

I like being in the nebulous area between a stay-at-home mother and a working mother. I recognize how fortunate I am: I get to do something I love and get paid well for it, without sacrificing time with my children. It's a dream situation for me right now.

I have had to give up some things: most evenings, internet time and blogging have been replaced by grading papers and prepping for class. It's a trade-off I'm happy to make, though.


  1. It sounds like it's working out really well for you, Rixa. I love working part-time, too. I teach violin lessons on Tuesday afternoons and group classes Saturday mornings, all at my home. It helps motivate me to keep the house cleaner, even if it's just the public parts. More importantly, I get to do something that is and was completely me before my family came along.

  2. I did that too, and loved it! I taught one high school class every morning, and got to bring my son. Of course there was no way I could do it a second year, with him too big and energetic to stay in a wrap the whole time, but when he was a baby, it was the best.

  3. I work one or two days a week at a local Bistro and coffee shop and I love it. It's nice to be able to be home with my babies most of the time but be able to dress up somewhat cute and make coffee and work with other adults. I like the change of pace and it is super healthy for me and my husband gets to spend some time with the kids.

  4. That balance is what I hope to achieve someday. Working part time really seems like the best of both worlds.

  5. This made me feel much better about my choice to work part time once I'm a Certified Athletic Trainer. It would help me keep current on my athletic training knowledge and give my husband more time with the kids. Win-win all around!

  6. Sounds like a great balance! I forget I am sahm and a working mom. Because I love teaching Hypnobabies once a week and occasionally being a doula. It doesn't even feel like work. It is just fun and DH gets time with the boys. So it is a win/win.

  7. I've been working part-time as a librarian again for a couple of months now after a year and a half of SAHMing and have discovered exactly what you're saying. It's definitely a balance, but having a foot ever so slightly in the career door makes me a more sane person and a better wife and mama. Great post!

  8. It's funny you posted this on a day when I am feeling that working part-time is VERY necessary for my sanity and my family's sanity! I just need to figure out what it is I exactly want to do.... :)

  9. I'm glad things are working well for you and that you are happy. I hope other mothers who must work outside of the home for money will feel uplifted and more hopeful as a result of reading your post.

    I'm a little sad, though, because it doesn't seem that it is financially necessary for you to work, yet you are and then sharing how wonderful it is for you. I'm glad you feel that way, in a way... but on the other hand, it bothers me a bit because in my understanding of what the Lord would have us know and do, being Mom full-time, to the exclusion of other worthy distractions, is THE most important and noble role we have. I believe I've understood that our Lord would have us do our best in every way to ensure that we are not distracted from our duties as Mother; the most important work a woman can do.

    It is difficult to feel at Peace with being "just" the Mom. I know this from experience. There is a raging battle internally because I hear the world and the Lord and desire to follow the Lord, yet have a difficult time un-doing the learning of my life. I have felt the battle is especially difficult when I feel like my brains are going to mush and I'm "losing" what I once knew. But when I look more closer and think harder, I realize I've gained SO much more than I've lost. Not only in experience, but also knowledge and understanding.

    I just really think Father God desires that we, in all our intelligence and desire to progress, submit to Him and progress in His way. I just think working, if not absolutely necessary because of finances or because of husband's requirement of it, is something we should steer away from. And, instead, learn to love the little things and mundane aspects of being a SAHM full-time. I'm in this battle to love the mundane work of Mothering. I already love the wonderful parts (which is really a lot of it!).

    I am reluctantly an Area Rep for a Foreign Exchange organization. My children go to work with me, though, so I would still say I'm a full-time Mom. I just do some professional-ish work with children in tow. I do have a degree and love to learn, but am trying to learn to be more of a Mom and less of the woman I grew up thinking I should be (because I was told it was what I should strive for in the world).

    Sorry so long... just have felt strongly about this every time I read one of your posts about your paid work.

  10. You and my mom are quite a like. She too likes to work and is working on getting her RN at the moment with her ultimate goal to work as an OB Nurse.

    I feel that the Church has placed a hard double standard on young woman. They're told to obtain an education, yet told that the ultimate goal is to get married and have children. My question is, how does one raise a child with little education themselves? I feel that I would be a much better parent with a higher education under my belt, and be a working mother. I wouldn't want that education to waste away just having baby after baby(I know it's not really like that) but after spending six years in school ( two in community college, two for a BA, and at least two more for my MA) I want to put my degrees to work! I hope that people understand that not every woman can be just a SAHM.

    I'm glad that your able to balance everything out and both you and Eric get equal time with the kiddos Good luck with school! :) (P.S. Inga is a cutie!)

  11. There are definitely a lot of mixed messages about education, work, and family going on in our religious culture. I agree with you there, Claire.

    There's a lot of judgement for women who stray anywhere from the full-time SAHM, starting to have kids in your early 20s model. Often it's given in a passive-aggressive format, to seem "nice" but really at its core it's extremely judgmental and condemning. I had my first baby at the "old" age of 28 (after several years of infertility, but of course not everyone knew that) and that's definitely late by Mormon standards.

    It's not like I took the job because I felt like I was going crazy "just" being a mom, or that my brain was wasting away (I still was involved in my academic endeavors such as writing articles and going to conferences even before this job).

    And honestly--I'm away from my kids for 3 hours a week. If anyone feels that somehow this means I'm shirking my "womanly/Godly" duties of any sort because I'm away for less than 1/2 hour a day on average, I think I will scream! A lot of people have church responsibilities that take them away from their children for much longer than a few hours per week and no one bats an eye. Somehow it's okay to be away from your children as long as you're not getting paid for it?? Anyway I can't see how anyone could possibly see my situation as worrisome or problematic in any way. It's win-win-win for me, for my husband, and for my kids.

  12. I think its the same for this as it is for birth - follow your own calling/instinct.
    I personally loathe my degree because I have NO desire to participate in that field anymore but I have the student loan payments to make each month.
    But I am still the lucky one who gets to stay home despite those payments and am 100% happy being a full time mom.
    BUT I am not judgemental about mothers who work any combination of hours in or out of the home. I applaud the education and careers of LDS women everywhere - mothers or not!

  13. Everyone's path is different, with the same end goal in mind. That's what I've decided. It doesn't matter your financial situation.

    I graduated from college the day before I got married. My plan was to get a job so I could help my husband finish his schooling, since it was the good Mormon wife thing to do after all. God had other plans. Other than the three months I had an actual job (I got laid off from it, by the way), I've been at home. There have been many lessons I have been learning from it, like not judging others' situations ;)

    My mom has never actually worked since she got married and had children, but starting when I was a teenager, she started singing with the symphony chorus in our city. She didn't do this until we were much older, since it would have disrupted family life when we were little.

    So, I say if you feel like you're doing the right thing, then you have nothing to be ashamed of. I too get annoyed with Mormon culture's double standards.

  14. I just want to point out that obtaining an education does not always equate with formal colleges and universities. The best educating I've been a part of has been absolutely free from the local libraries and the Internet. I have learned way more from books and web articles and sites like this one, than I ever have in a classroom. There's a place for both, but a woman does not *need* to go to college or university to "get educated."

    If a woman feels that attending university would *compel* her to seek employment after such specialized (and EXPENSIVE) training, then maybe she should reconsider the method of education she receives. Or perhaps study something that is more conducive to family rearing, so you don't feel like you wasted all that time, energy, and money on your formal education if you choose to not seek employment afterwards.

    Rixa, I'm happy for your family, that you are doing what you feel is right for YOU. That's all we can do - our very best. We cannot be judgmental of others. We have to respect each others ability to receive personal revelation through study and prayer and honor each family's comfort level and revelation.

    It makes me mad when other people judge me harshly for choosing to birth freely, with assistance or in a hospital with an induction. (I've done all three.) As long as I've done *my own* research and feel led to the educated choice I've made, then that's all that matters. Rixa is a very smart woman with a testimony all her own. If she has received confirmation from the Lord that she is on the right path, let's rejoice with her discovery. It doesn't mean we have to do it, or even agree with it - it doesn't matter what we think because it's not our life. :)

  15. I just want to add that I do not feel my education (college degree) is wasted even though I do not work outside of the home. There have been many opportunities for me to use the skills I gained (inside and outside my home).

    I have to admit that the skills I gained as a missionary and mother serving others have been more valuable than any diploma I have received.

    Even a full-time SAHM can make herself too busy to be emotionally available to her kids.

    With that said, I agree we should not judge others for these choices. It is truly between husband, wife and the Lord. As long as the family has sought out the Lord's direction, that is what matters.

  16. I would also add that my time (or education) is never wasted when I spend ot on children and family. They are the future!

  17. Hi Rixa, I think you are demonstrating to your children how to balance life - that is an invaluable life skill - so many adults do not know how to balance their emotional needs, their relationships, their physical needs (rest, exercise, nutritious foods that taste good), their spiritual needs and their mental and intellectual needs. But you model that for your children well! I am not familiar with your religion but I do think that most religious doctrine tends to preach what is best for the religion rather than having people follow their own inner guide and light -that is so important! I think if you are happy and thriving and balanced, that will resonate with your children for you are modelling that for them and they too will become balanced and healthy beings as they grow.

  18. Fantastic!!!!!! Balance is everything!!!!


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