A week and a half ago I received notice that I would be laid off in August. It wasn’t immediate because I’m on maternity leave, so I can’t be officially let go until my return-to-work date. Thanks to my severance package, this means that I am able to extend my maternity leave. Which is great, really, it means I will have more than 18 months off work with my little guy. But it also leaves me at a bit of a loss.
I have my doubts as to whether I would be good at stay at home motherhood, long-term. I’ve also shared my ambivalence about returning to work. I will say now what I couldn’t say then – I didn’t love my job. I certainly liked it. It offered me a great work environment, fabulous colleagues, amazing flexibility, and the chance to solve problems and use my brain in interesting ways. And I was well compensated for that. But I’ve never felt as if it was my calling to work in embedded software. At least not in the same way it’s my calling to be with my husband or to raise these children we created.
I worry this is self-indulgent on my part, the idea that I should have a job that brings me personal fulfillment. Isn’t it enough to find personal fulfillment in my family, my hobbies and volunteer activities, my friends? Isn’t it enough that my work as an engineer has supported me and my family and been positive, overall? Knowing that so many people don’t have the advantages that I do, I feel whiny to say that my career hasn’t always made my heart sing.
So I sit here, thinking I want personal fulfillment but not sure where to find it. I’m enjoying writing these days, a lot, but it doesn’t seem like a very solid career. At least not from where I’m sitting today, anyway. I consider continuing to live as if I’m collecting EI when I get my severance, and seeing how long I can make it last. Maybe I can stretch it out for a year or two, just slowly drawing on my windfall and spending this time with my kids. Perhaps the answer isn’t to find a new career, but just to drop out of paid work altogether for a while.
But there are problems with that scheme, too. For one, how can I justify paying the money to send my 4-year-old Hannah to the daycare she loves if I’m home all the time? The idea of pulling her out, when she so clearly likes it and is getting something out of it doesn’t appeal to me, though. For another, if I’m not working it places a lot of pressure on my husband in a less-than-ideal economy. We depend on my income, if I’m not making anything it means we need to make some big changes. But mostly, I’m worried that dropping out would leave me in a bad spot.
The fact is I want something of my own. It doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t have to pay out in exactly the same way as my engineering job did. If I just while away a few years in the slow lane with no plan I’m not exactly advancing my own options. I’m afraid I will find myself a few years older, trying to start over again after not having worked in 3 or 4 years, with rusty skills and no direction. If I need to find a job at that point, will I be in a worse position than I am now? And if I don’t, then what am I supposed to do all day when I don’t have little kids at home?
I would love to hear some insight from other moms. Maybe you took a few years off and went on to bigger and better things. Or maybe you’ve found some way to make some money and do something for yourself outside of a traditional 9 to 5 job. Or perhaps you’ve long since kissed the workplace good-bye and have found meaning elsewhere. I need to hear some stories, because I’m at a loss here. Help a sister out.