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Location: Northern California

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Thoughts From an Unambitious Mommyblogger, or Don't Cry For Me, Leslie Bennetts

I've been feeling a little underwhelmed by my lack of ambition lately. I purposely turned my schedule down a notch after almost suffering a nervous breakdown at the end of last year, and now I'm wondering if that was the right thing to do. Not because I'm bored or because I long for more, but because I'm *not* bored and because I'm perfectly content with my work life as it is. Have I lost my ambition, my drive?

I am a stay-at-home mom to a preschooler and a toddler. I am the newsletter editor for my local mothers club, a job that requires about 10-15 hours/month. I have two freelance jobs on my plate this year: one for Disney's and the other for a company-that-has-yet-to-be-revealed. Combined, both jobs probably require another 10-15 hours/month of my time. I write two personal blogs: this one and Burning Family, which is a temporary commitment.

In my mind, I work enough. In Leslie Bennetts's mind, I don't and I'm also an absolute fool for leaving behind a 9-to-5 job and trusting a man to take care of me. I have friends who say that being a SAHM is the hardest job they've ever had. I'm not sure if that's true for me. I have worked harder at crappier jobs and for more difficult managers. I have driven long commutes and longed for weekends when I could talk shit about my difficult co-workers while drinking many pints of beer. Right now, I enjoy the fact that I don't have a job. On good days, I consider my life a vacation. Yes, with kids, but still a vacation.

I had a random, drive-by discussion with another mom today after preschool pick-up. We were chatting about the relative merits of swing sets and trampolines; she was in favor of trampolines. She mentioned that she worked from home and I asked her what she did. I said that I sometimes did freelance writing-type gigs but that the pay was lousy, especially after one considers the increased tax rate that applies to freelancers. I told her that I enjoyed what I did, but that I wasn't sure if I would do it when my kids were in school or if I would return to full-time work. I'm busy now with kid-related stuff, but once the kids are in school, what am I going to do all day? She hesitated not a second before telling me that if she had to do it all again, she wouldn't be a work-at-home mom. In fact, she strongly advised me not to work at all, if there was any way I could avoid it.

Not work? What? But what would I do all day? And how does one measure one's self worth if one does not work outside of the home, especially when one no longer has babies?

She explained that a parent's responsibilities to take care of children don't necessarily ease up when the children start school. Instead, they change. With one kid in elementary school and another in middle school, she does a lot of driving to and from schools and classes. And because she works part time, she has no spare time, no time to call her own. She had intended her earnings to be money for life's little extras but instead it just goes toward the usual bills: gas, electric, water, mortgage. She's tired and said she's going to quit her job soon, except that since she's working for a friend, she feels obligated to continue. When she told me this, I felt a familiar pang. As a woman, I understood both of her dilemmas: don't work and feel like a societal leach, or work and have no time to yourself; and don't leave an unhappy situation because it might disappoint another, or leave and consider the fact that you are replaceable.

I thanked her for the conversation. It made me feel good to hear what she had to say, to hear a perspective that didn't seem to have a veiled agenda. I having been making decisions lately that allow me to work less rather than more. Some days I have nothing to do except laundry and going to see Meet the Robinsons with my kids, and those days make me very happy. I can't take every opportunity that comes my way simply because it was offered or because it's what will look best on my resume when my husband divorces me and I am forced to fend for myself in the big, cruel world. I have done nothing my entire adult life prior to being married except take care of myself and I can do it again. Don't cry for me, Leslie Bennetts, and quit trying to ruin my good time.

Please note: I realize that this post is coming from a highly privileged perspective, but I won't appologize for that. I am who I am and this blog is mine. I encourage your comments, but please don't tell me that I am only allowed to have thoughts like these because my husband makes enough money to support our family. That is understood. Also, I have not read Leslie Bennetts's book The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much, and it's possible this post is a knee-jerk reaction to the premise of her book and propelled by my own personal baggage. In addition, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future and in fact, I probably will.