Monday, August 4, 2014

Working Girl

       Kiley's mom is a teacher, which means she gets the summer off. She usually finds other work for the summer but this year she is staying home with Kiley. That's great if you can do it. She gets the best of both worlds. She gets to be a working mother for nine months and then a stay at home mom for the rest of the year. ( Let's get one thing straight right from the beginning. When I say working mother I of course mean working outside the home and by that I am certainly not suggesting that being a stay at home mom is not work. Stay at homes; I am one of you, okay? So you can put your claws back in.)  Having the best of both of these worlds is an enviable position to be in because there are pros and cons to both situations.  I imagine it must be nice to be able to sample the positives of being both a stay at home mom and a working mom and to be able to lay down the negatives of both, even if just temporarily. Not every woman is so lucky.

       In today's world many of us (probably most of us) don't have the option to stay home with the kids. For many, working outside the home is an economic imperative. This is especially true for single mothers but even for two parent households the necessity of both parents working is common. I don't know how this situation came about. Is the cost of living that much higher than in generations past that we need two incomes to make ends meet? Or is it that the standard of living is that much higher? Have we become so accustomed to what in generations past would be considered luxuries that those former luxuries are now necessities? I think so. When I was a kid we didn't have more than one car, more than one TV, more than one phone, air conditioning, a dishwasher, a garbage disposal, a garage, GPS, cable, and a hundred other things that are standard today.  But then, that can be said of every generation. When my grandmother was a kid they didn't have any car or any phone. Air conditioning? Dishwasher? I don't think they had even been invented yet. Regardless, the bottom line is it doesn't matter if we actually need two incomes or merely perceive that we do. In the final analysis perception is reality. If we believe we need two incomes then for all practical purposes we do and debating theories about socio-economic evolution isn't going to change that. Many mothers absolutely must work outside the home but more and more mothers are finding that they do not. They are finding that they have an option, a choice, and it seems to me that more and more are choosing to be stay at home mothers and even stay at home fathers though that is still a rarity. It is great if you have choices. Not every woman is so lucky.

       As we all know, deciding whether to work outside the home or stay home with the kids can be a difficult and complex decision. There are so many factors to consider and weigh one against another, most of them economic. But in the end we have to decide what we think is best for the children. Do the benefits of having the security and influence of an ever-present parent outweigh the loss of economic advantage it necessitates? Well, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. Every situation is different depending on the degree of economic disadvantage created and even the relative parenting skills of the individual. I'm sure we all know parents whose children would be better off if they were out making money, the kind that are absent parents (or worse) even when they are home. If we do what we truly believe is best for the kids then we've done the best that we can and we should have the confidence in our decisions and in ourselves to proceed without guilt or self doubt. Easier said than done, I know. There are those who are able to do this easily. They are confident by nature. Not every woman is so lucky.

       When I was a young mother my husband and I decided that it was important for me to stay home with the kids at least until they were all in school. That was a good long time. The time between when my first daughter was born and my last one started school was fifteen years. That's how long I stayed home with the kids. This presented an economic difficulty but I think it was worth it. I supplemented our income during this time by providing daycare for the children of some of my relatives including Kiley's mother and her sisters. This meant that I had a house full of kids most of the time, my children's cousins, and, yes, this subtracted from the amount of time I could devote strictly to my own but it was still well worth it. The time I could devote to my own children was still far more than I would have if I were working outside the home and the bonds created between my daughters and their cousins are strong and precious ones that have lasted into adulthood. The bonds between those cousins, my nieces, and myself are strong and precious as well and have remained so to this day. I have a whole younger generation of relatives who cherish me. Not every woman is so lucky.

       Once my youngest started school I went out into the workforce. That wasn't easy. I was thirty-three by then and starting at the bottom. I bounced around a bit in low paying jobs until I landed a position in a bank – one of those big commercial banks. In ten years I worked my way up from customer service rep. to manager of the security department (by security I don't mean an old man in a uniform standing in the lobby – think fraud investigation). By the time my kids had grown I had had enough of the working world and retired. I had never thought of it as a career but simply a way to make money. Since my husband makes more than enough money to support the two of us comfortably there is no reason for me to work. I admit that I initially felt a little guilty that my husband was still working while I was not but he says that he prefers that I be at home and that the things I do to make a life for us are more important than money. When I told him of my guilty feelings he said, "I go out and work for only one reason. To supply you with the support you need to do all of the things you do that make you the heart and foundation of our family. And it is an honor to do so." Not every woman is so lucky.


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