Thursday, October 4, 2012

Identity Crisis

I've always been very career oriented.  Starting with college, then straight to graduate school, I knew I wanted to be a professional woman, with a great job.  I wanted to make my own money, and never let that go.  I watched my mother struggle with money after divorcing my father, and I swore that would never be me.  She relied on my father for everything financial, and when we moved out and she got a job, our lifestyles changed dramatically, even with the alimony and child support.  She made me promise to never rely on a man, to always have my own money.  I promised and crossed my heart…

I just won the lottery of a working mother: I received approval to go part-time (20 hours) effective November 1.  Initially I will work 8-16 hours of this in the office, but when we move to Colorado, I’ll work the 20 hours at home, remotely.  I’m so excited to spend more time with Alex, and especially excited to not have her in daycare all day, every day.  She will still be in daycare for 2 full days per week while we’re in Texas, and then 3 half days when we move to Colorado (the rest of the 20 hours will be done during naps or after bedtime), but that’s so much better than being there from 8-5:30 five days a week like she is now.  Plus if this FET works (tomorrow is the transfer – holy crap!), it will be nice to be a little more relaxed during the pregnancy, especially after the next baby comes along.  I can’t wait until the end of this month when my part-time schedule starts.

BUT…  Occasionally I wonder if I’m doing the right thing.  I’m cutting my salary in half, and so the budget is getting super tight.  I currently make a little more than my husband, so when I go part-time, it’s a huge change in our family income.  I've implemented a new budget effective October 1, and I have to say, it’s tough.  Not that this is a bad thing, but I’m constantly questioning every purchase – do I need this, can I go without?  And I feel bad about restricting my husband’s spending.  Going part-time has not exactly been a family decision.  He didn't say no, but he really doesn't see the value in it, so he wasn't super supportive.  I told him that I really appreciate the opportunity to do this, and I think it will be very good for our family, but he didn't really respond.  I told him that I understand this puts a lot of pressure on him, as he’s searching for a job right now, and having to turn down certain opportunities as he’s the primary breadwinner now, and he needs things out of a job like stability and insurance.  He’s getting phone calls about contract opportunities, and although these could be very exciting, it may be too risky considering I’m not bringing in my full salary and insurance. 

And then there’s the identity thing.  Who am I?  I've always defined myself with my career, with my accomplishments.  Now, I’m stepping down at my company, giving up my management role, and becoming a contributor instead of a manager.  Sure, I’m still contributing in a significant way, but my title will be the same as it was at my former company – five years ago.  It won’t look good on my resume.  I know I shouldn't care about that kind of thing, as I’m doing something really important – taking care of Alex – but it still feels weird.  I’m not moving up, I’m moving down.  And there’s no opportunity for promotion, or anything really.  Just keep on contributing is the most I can hope for.  The hubs seems to think this is a temporary thing, but I can’t imagine wanting to spend less time away from Alex.  Even when she goes to school, I’ll want to be there every day when she gets home from school – I don’t want to send her to an after-school program, which would be necessary if I go back to work full-time.  Is this really a permanent decision?  The thought scares me.

The other thing is I’m nervous about is providing enriching activities for Alex, and a future baby if I’m so lucky.  I’m an accountant, not a teacher.  I don’t know much about early childhood education, and how to best stimulate them.  Currently on the weekends, during Alex’s wake-time, we take walks and she swings in the playground or I take her to the grocery store or we hang out in my living room and play with her toys.  We can’t keep doing just this – I’ll need to figure out some projects or something.  I know she’s just 11 months right now, so there aren't a lot of “projects” that work for her right now, but the time is quickly approaching where we can do stuff, more than just playing on the floor with her toys.  But what exactly????  Do any of you have websites or books or something that will help me with this?  I found out the local library does toddler story time on a day that I’ll have off, so I’ll plan on doing that.  What else?  I really want to look at this like a new job, and do it well!  I need to learn more about how children learn, and figure this stuff out…  And preferably in ways that don’t cost much money (see earlier discussion on tightening the purse strings). 

I know I need to chill out and just go with it.  For the most part, I’m very excited about going part-time.  It’s just that I never in a million years thought I would want to do this.  I always could hear my mother in my head, telling me to not rely on a man, to have a career.  Sure, I always wanted kids, but I always planned on working at the same time.  But when it took so long to have Alex, and we struggled so much, and then when I had her and started spending time with her, and then I took her to daycare and cried, and every night I pick her up and she’s utterly exhausted, and then I spend one hour per night with her, I now want to spend more.  One hour per night, and 20-30 minutes in the morning, is not enough time to spend with this child that I wanted so much.  The other night she woke up at midnight for the first time in months, and she needed attention for about an hour.  It was wonderful.  If I’m desperately cherishing these cries and requests for cuddles in the middle of the night, we have a problem.  But hopefully now I’m fixing it.


  1. I think it sounds like you are making the right decision for yourself and Alex right now by going part-time. And I think that, by continuing to work part-time, you will have a fall-back if your circumstances change. I could be wrong, since I don't know your industry, but it's my understanding that it's easier to go from part-time to full-time than from nothing to full-time.

    And about stimulating Alex, as a postpartum doula and a former nanny, my experience is that what young children need most is attentive parents and opportunities to explore the world around them. Reading books together, going on walks, playing in the grass or sandbox, drawing with crayons, using fingerprints, etc. along with lots of hugs and one-on-one interaction are the kinds of "stimulation" babies and toddlers need. And just like anyone else, babies and toddlers need down-time, too. It sounds like you are already such an involved parent. I wouldn't worry too much about "teaching" yet. As time goes on, Alex will let you know what her interests are!

  2. Working part-time AND from home is the ideal job for any working mom. I work from home full-time and wish I could go part-time or just quit and stay home with Matthew. I am grateful for the job I have and no way do I want to climb the corporate ladder!

    I think you will enjoy spending more time with Alex (and baby #2)! You can have playdates and do lots more with her. The financial stuff will work out. I'm super excited for you. Good luck with the transfer tomorrow!!

  3. I totally understand not wanting to "rely on a man" for anything. I was raised that way but not because of struggles. It was because I was raised to be independent and I watched my step-mom (a SAHM) struggle with certain things because she had no outside work experience and because I didn't want to be the one in charge of all the household duties "just because I was home". Now, I'm thinking like you...we've waited so long to have a child and unfortunately because of that we now have expenses that require 2 incomes. If I had become a mother 10 years ago I probably would not be working now. It's not like I could see myself just being a stay at home wife all that time, you know? Anyway, I completely understand your struggle with your identity because I know that I will want to stay home with my little girl...but I can't and it breaks my heart. I think you are doing the right thing. Putting yourself on a tight but manageable budget so that you can bond more with Alex (and a new baby, hopefully!) is a great decision, as far as I'm concerned. I say run with it. I wish we could do it, too. My husband also wishes we could do it but I make more than him and I carry our kick ass insurance. Not to mention the 5 year loan I took out of my 401k for the chance to have this baby. I'm stuck. But you are not. And you will do great, I just know it. You have so many ideas already and you don't even realize it. Like Hope said above, just being with her and showing interest in her and then letting her show you what she's interested in will be enough stimulation for now. Hang in will feel more comfortable with the decision once you get those precious hours with your daughter.

    Oh and best of luck tomorrow! I'm so happy that you are moving ahead with transfer! Hoping for some good news from you very soon!

  4. It was a challenging decision for my husband and I when I went back to work after Raegan was born. I was already part time, but making decent money. Dropping my hours would have a pretty significant effect on our income. But we made it work. There is always a chance for me to increase my hours, but I don't want to spend any time away from Raegan if I don't have to. I'm with you. It took so long to get her, I want every waking moment I can get with her...

    As far as what to do? My sister totally thinks libraries and park districts have wonderful cheap or free opportunities for early childhood interactions. Start small...don't make it a chore. Have fun. If she's going to daycare, she's getting the educational stuff there...leave the time at home for fun education and activities.

    Good luck! And it is hard to change your identity. My sister is at the opposite end...her kids are all in school full time and her only identity is mom...she wonders if she should be doing something more. That pendulum swings both ways....

    1. PS good luck with your FET....I hope this one sticks for you and baby #2 is on it's way soon!

  5. When I go back to work I would love for it to be part-time. We have never placed much value on material things, life is more about experiences and relationships, in my opinion.
    Have you ever checked out this blog:
    I love the site for infant activities so this might be good too

  6. No matter how excited you are about a new opportunity, it's always a little terrifying, too! I think what you're feeling is totally normal.

    I really think you're doing the best thing! Your resume won't look as good as if you kept climbing the ladder and became CEO, no. But you're keeping in touch with the work force and keeping your skills sharpened. That's huge.

    As far as how to structure your days, I think you need to get really involved in your new community. Find moms groups, stroller walking groups, mommy and me classes, tumbling for Alex, gyms that have daycare, library activities, a children's museum (cold weather) or zoo, pool (warm weather) that you can get a family membership to. There are a lot of free things to do outside and for the winter weather, there's crafts, reading, sledding, etc. You're going to fill up your time immediately, I just know it!

  7. A just turned one, and we have weekly set activities that we do together:
    1. once a week library trip. He picks out 4 books, we take them home, and those books are our "living room" books that we read in that room (his big book stash stays in his bedroom)
    2. Color time: jumbo crayons and paper. We color. probably about 2-3 times a week. Well, right now he mostly tries to chew on the crayons while I make squiggles and write his name. We listen to music and I talk to him during this time. I remember doing this with my siblings and my mother when I was younger. I cherish those memories.
    3. "Nature walks": we walk around the block and talk about what we see--birds, trees, sticks, bugs, cars, doggies. This walk is every day, and although it is only 4 blocks, it takes over an hour to complete. It's my favorite time of the day. He loves it, too. I imagine as he gets older, we'll venture off into more exciting environments that can be a short trip in the car.
    4. Laundry: believe it or not, this kid LOVES to help with the laundry. He pulls the clothes out of the dryer one by one and gives them to me. Yeah, it takes about 20 minutes for me to get them and fold them, but he loves it. I imagine this lesson as something that has to do with responsibilities and chores. We made up a laundry song, too. As he gets older, I can see other household chores being shared with him, too.
    5. Buys a yearly pass to the local zoo/aquarium/art museum. Ask for memberships for Xmas presents from your family. A loves the art museum. He runs around and points at the ones he likes. Heck, it's exposure to Art, although I try to take him during "off" times so that we don't disturb too many people. We also go to the Aquarium and Zoo one or twice a month.

    Do what you like to do, or try to find out what you like to do. Alex will follow what you enjoy.

  8. I agree with the ladies above - I wouldn't stress too much about finding structured activities to do with Alex for a long time. Love and attention/interaction - that's all she needs! Good luck creating and fine tuning this NEW identity - it sure sounds like you'll be getting the best of both worlds!

  9. I definitely think this sounds like the right decision for you right now! Good for you and how awesome that the part time working from home gig is actually happening! We are dealing with the activities right now too, since Chloe isn't in daycare anymore. The library is good and open gym, swimming, or music classes might be other options to get you both out of the house and give her a chance to socialize. Maybe check Pinterest for ideas of things to do at home with her. I hadn't even thought about how I might feel giving up my job. I've always thought that after having a second kid (if we are able) that at that point I may stay home, but I can see how that would be a really hard decision to make when all you know and wanted for so long was a career. I can't wait to hear how everything works out, I bet you'll be surprised how quickly you fall into your new routine and love it more than anything.

  10. I definitely understand, and totally still struggle with this one. As I may have mentioned before, my 2 favorite maternal role models are Kim Clijsters (sp?) who took a few years off of her professional tennis career after having her child, and then came back to win the US Open, and Jane Lubchenco, who is one of the most admired scientists in the country (currently the head of NOAA, among an enormous list of other amazing, stellar achievements), and who, in 1977, quit her job as Harvard Professor to work part time at Oregon State, in order to spend time with her family. These women made it back to the very top after taking YEARS off to be with their children. Proof that it can be done! And if anyone can (assuming you still want to, when little Alex is a bit older), I have complete faith that you can make the transition back to career awesomeness as well.

  11. You are not going a step down, instead a bigger step up!! You get to be with Alex more and you will be enjoying your life rather than always feeling guilty or sad that you don't have enough time with her!! Just go with the flow!! You will be happier in the end and that is all that matter!!

  12. I always knew I'd stay at home if we were lucky enough to become parents, but my job was never my identity, so it was pretty easy for me. Honestly, I don't know how I'd both manage a house and work full time! I do think it kind of sucks that your husband doesn't see the value of you being with Alex more. :-/ Maybe his mom worked though while he was young.

    As far as activities, we attend two library read, music, play classes a week (for free!) and just go to parks, play outside, take bike rides the other days. Between meals and two naps a day (I bet her naps will really improve for you) we don't have a lot to time to be gone. We did do swimming classes for 10 weeks, which was worth the money. I'm not a huge socializer anyway, so it doesn't bother me to be without too much adult interaction.

    Good luck with your FET!

  13. I feel the similar. I am the breadwinner as my husband has been in school foreva, and now a career change so more eva! But we are in the last 2 years and the thought of working less is so appealing for a bout a zillion reasons, except I'm scared to give up the independence that working professionally provides me. Or at least the illusion of independence. It is like a security blanket, so if anything happened I could take care of myself.

  14. Wow, what amazing changes for you. I think working part time from home sounds ideal, especially with Alex in daycare a little bit to facilitate it. I wouldn't worry too much about your resume. Leaving the workforce completely would be a big hit, but once you're a mother, the truth is that employers judge you because you're a mom whether or not your work is affected. Might as well take advantage of the opportunity to actually be with Alex!

    I'm sorry your husband isn't super supportive. Mine wouldn't be either. In fact, I'm working a much lower paying job than I would be otherwise (except in my case it's full time instead of crazy super time), and he is still a little bitter about the income hit even though he acknowledges that it would be terrible if I was never home. :/

  15. I totally get the whole career thing. I went crazy at home during leave I felt like I accomplished nothing. But since she is older there is a difference.

    Good for yu for doing what feels right!!!!

    Hopefully you will be a part sahm to 2!!!! Good luck.

  16. I can't hold back anymore. Your husband sounds like such an asshole. It seems that its all about him all the time. He didn't support you breast-feeding for crying out loud. And now he doesn't support you going to part-time hours so you can spend more time raising your daughter. Seriously? From your writing, it feels as though you contribute so much more to your family than he does. It's hard to read over and over again without commenting. I don't want to be one of those assholes who sits back and judges without knowing you IRL but I just can't do it anymore. You deserve so much more than he is giving you.

  17. Like you I grew up with a Mom who told me to make my own way and never depend on a man. She was divorced with two kids before meeting my Dad and as a school teacher found it a very tough path. I now am a full time working Mom and can relate to your feelings of wanting more time with your little one(s) every day. I hope everything works out just like you want it to =)

  18. Wishing you as much peace with your decision as you can muster! And remember, nothing is forever. If you really don't like it, you can change your situation again. It sounds like your firm has a lot of interest in keeping you around. As for losing your identity, well, it will change is my experience. I quit my full time job before I even got pregnant in order to stay in the country and at home enough to do fertility treatments. I've consulted very part time since and have stayed somewhat engaged with my old colleagues by going to one or two conferences a year. Of course, this last week when I was at home and the semi-annual conference was going on, I actually cried. I missed being there. I missed being someone that everyone wanted to talk to, wanted a piece of, etc. I missed being in the thick of things. I think both working from home/remotely and working less than full-time will be changes for you. But, on the other hand, I am so eternally grateful that I get to do this. That I get to spend most every day (although E's one-day-per-week mother's day out program is a godsend!) with E and that I had time to go through the FET and now through this pregnancy without having to go into the office every day. Good luck!

  19. It will probably take some time, but you will adjust to your new "identity" and income level. Once you get used to it, it's really not that difficult to cut back and I really believe you will never regret the missed income over the time spent with your child. As for activities, don't stress about that. Remember play is the work of childhood- we didn't grow up with all these structured activities and we're fine. I hope your husband comes around and is more supportive- he probably just feels a lot of stress to provide for your family, but I hope he adjusts too.

  20. When you get settled in your new place, find the local community center and see if they have a mommy and me class. I could never afford the fancy Gymboree classes so I attended these more "budget friendly" ones. It's a great way to meet other moms too!

    I've never commented here before and I'm done having kids so probably have no business reading all these infertility blogs but I just have to say, I think you are an amazing mom. I read all your posts and your love for your daughter and devotion to your family always shines through. The world should have more moms like you! Best of luck on your journey to baby #2!

  21. Once again, you've written something that I feel like could have been taken out of my head. I am working part-time now, although I'd love to just quit. I think I'm hanging onto my job out of fear of losing my career "for good." I definitely identify myself by my career and that's something I'm working on. Which is more important to me in the long-run? Being an engineer or being a mom? Sigh, it's a tough thing to work through. Good luck!

  22. I have been MIA - and I apologize!

    Reducing hours, or quitting to stay home, is a hard decision. I didn't struggle with reducing my schedule, but I did struggle with deciding to stay home. It will be an adjustment, but you'll do great and you will love the time that you're home!

    I'm sorry you don't feel 100% supported - it is so important to feel supported in these decisions. With that said, though, I'm happy that you pressed on and made the decision yourself because it was important to you. Trust me - DH will see value in this decision soon enough! I did have full support from B to stay home, and after I started being a SAHM, he became even more supportive because he realized how much got done that wasn't getting done. I think your DH will realize the same thing.

    A word of assvice, though, make sure you leave DH with Alex once in a while so he can see how hard it is to get major tasks done when they're awake. This has been invaluable to me. B used to say, "I don't know why you can't get dinner prepped during the day," and then he tried doing that with Matthew up and running around (and me out and about) and (given that B is a safety nut) realized it's not as easy as it SOUNDS. ;)

    You're going to love it! But I do understand your concerns. I worry how things will look on my resume when I go back to work. :-/