If the grass is greener, I’m chewing my cud

Mar 16, 2007

#Working Mom

Against my better judgment, I’m writing about work. However, it will not contain the horrifically boring details that will spiral you in to mashing your head against the wall or shoveling mass chocolate chip cookies in to your face like I do nightly. No, I will spare you the details. Instead, I’m going to talk about working from home and how I thought that was the bestest. thing. evah.

When I had LB, I struggled with going back to work. I finished graduate school three months before having her and had to delay my doctoral studies because I couldn’t attend class, what with struggling to deliver life in to this world and all that jazz. However, I had been passionate about my dissertation proposal and felt strongly that it was something I wanted to pursue. One day.

One day turned in to two years and two years turned in to more gestating. It’s not something I regret for a minute. Rather, it is something I think about from time to time with that, “I wonder if…” I struggled because I had this degree that I wanted to use and one I wanted to pursue but couldn’t justify yet another degree if I would not be actively using it in my career. If my career would switch to changing diapers and feeding small children bits of cheerios off the floor while preventing them from eating rocks, I hardly feel a PhD is required. Instead, if you have a PhD and then switch professions to said diaper-changing cheerio-eating administrator, why, that’s your call. Convincing Mr. Flinger to let me pursue a post-graduate degree with two small chillin’s is something altogether different.

I loved my job at the University. It was a good job, I worked with good people. I considered it the type of “one day I’ll be a real tenured Prof!”  kind of Pinocchio-ish possibility. But there was a tiny person who I missed when I was gone. The tiny person I worried about when I left. The tiny person I hated hearing “I miss mommy” coming from her mouth.

Last fall I switched to working from home when we made The Move. I’ve been teaching online and (mostly) loving it. But there is frustrations because there is never enough time, work does not stay at the office or even in a nicely contained office hour or scheduled time. Work bleeds in to life and life bleeds in to work. I give to my students first thing in the morning, my daughter all day long, my students again at night and grade papers until midnight,  when I crawl in to bed exhausted. There is very little “wife” roll. There is virtually no “Leslie” roll. There is only occasional “friend” or “blogger” or “pregnant lady”. There is teacher and mother and teacher.  Everything else falls behind with the dishes and the laundry and the phone calls and the bills.

In the big scheme, I have the perfect balance. I have work and I have home. I have a job doing what I love using a degree I worked hard (or, rather, worked) for and a future. I contribute to our monthly income and don’t feel guilty about that extra coffee/itunes song/shirt because I know I’m helping to pay for them.

But there is guilt, non-the-less. There is begging and pleading for a nap so I can log in and grade.  There is no TV, no IM, very little blogstalking. These are hobbies I enjoy. There is no time for that now.

I thought I would be getting the best of both worlds. I thought I’d be there for my career and my children. I thought I’d be everything to everybody. But turn in the cape because I am not superMom. Instead, I’m a cow watching the grass on both sides of the fence and wondering “what the hell”. I’m still trying to find balance. I’m still trying to find boundaries. I’m still trying to figure it all out. But I see the scales tipping this June and I’m wondering if I’ll have enough strength to keep the balance. Or if I’ll have found it by then.


  1. “Say it sistah”
    I posted about this recently too. I have 2 jobs from home and I sell stuffed animals on the side. My kitchen is a disaster, laundry is far from done, little guy spends too much time watching tv and our food choices suck.
    Now I’m looking into taking the course I need to get my certification so I can have my own business from home. 
    There is never enough hours in the day for everything and everyone. Sometimes you just have to let the voicemail answer the phone, email sit, and household chores wait while you sit on the floor and just stack some blocks or color with your little one. You’d be surprised how much energy you’ll have afterwards.
    Hang in there, it gets easier. I’ve been at it for almost 2 years now and we are thinking about trying for another little one soon.

    By Chrissy on 2007 03 17

  2. Leslie, you know I know where you are coming from.  I know that yearning to be everything to everyone—including to yourself—maybe mostly to yourself.

    The PhD—that can wait, you can go back!  There is no reason why you can’t go back later when the kids are older.  I’m kind of wishing I had waited a little bit longer myself, because I am so pulled in all directions with the kids (mostly my youngest), the house and school.

    Right now, get through this pregnancy.  You might want to re-evaluate the job—or find some help with the kids.  Because you just can’t do everything and you’ll make yourself nuts or sick trying.

    By sleeping mommy on 2007 03 17

  3. Oh and the housework?  That has to be the last priority of all. You know that right?

    By sleeping mommy on 2007 03 17

  4. I’m so with you on this! For me, no matter which choice I make, I always question the other. I waited until I was done with grad school to get pregnant. So with my master’s only a year and a half old, I backed off to about 10 hours per week of work. That’s perfect amount for me, but I’m always having to set boundaries for myself and others.  I’m a licensed professional counselor and I can decide how much or how little work to do, but I always feel like I’m not giving my career enough and not giving my kids enough. What I take from one goes to the other and it’s always hard. I could quit working, but I would miss it.

    I too have decided to delay the doctorate degree. Thing is, by the time I can go for it, I don’t know if the cost of it will ever be recouped with my professional work. I plan to homeschool my kids, so I don’t see myself working more when they hit school age either.

    It does seem like the grass is always geener, doesn’t it? I have turned down some awesome career moves since my kids were born. Since the second was born I have struggled even more. It did get harder with two. But at the same time, I need the outlet and professional identity even more. Everything’s a trade off. We all have to figure out the right path. Yours won’t necessarily be the same “right path” as someone else’s. The best news of all is that just because we make one choice doesn’t mean we have to stay committed to it forever. We can change our minds, right? Isn’t that a female’s prerogative? smile

    By MGM on 2007 03 17

  5. I hear you… I’m working full-time from home, and it’s just too much for me.  I’m now of the school that we can do it all… just not all at the same time. The PhD can wait til the kids are older—I have a sister who did hers before having kids, but then HAD to work full-time after her kids were born to pay back the debt!  It’s good to have choices. Your kids will only be little once…

    By Marie on 2007 03 17

  6. Ugh.  You’ve done it again.  I’m getting the poison ready.

    (see my blog to get the reference.)

    By Jenny on 2007 03 18

  7. Found you through Jenny at MamaDrama.  It was funny that the first post I ever read of yours spoke to me so clearly!  I, too, have an advanced degree.  I am using mine about 50-60 hours per week while my husband stays home and raises the children.  I love my work, I love my family, and most days I feel like I suck in both arenas.  I never pace myself but always race around putting out fires.  It always feels like there are so many fires…if I let my guard down for a moment, one might engulf us all.

    I appreciate any mom who can speak openly and honestly about how the “you-can-be-anything” fallacy of the women’s liberation movement cab be a life- (or mental health-) destroyer.  The real truth has a corollary:  you can be anything, but you can’t be everything.  And all of us born in the 60s and 70s are trying to be everything, and I don’t know any who aren’t suffering from that incredible effort.

    I feel like Sisyphus (sp?) some days.  Push that rock up a hill, then waaaaaatch it roll back down…

    Ok, anyway, thanks for that.  I appreciate you.

    By ThatGreenyFlower on 2007 03 18

  8. Oh hon, I struggle with the balance thing and I work outside the home! (that may change soon with me doing 16 hours at home and 16 at the office which I think will be pretty close to a perfect schedule for me.)

    It does get easier as they get older. But the first year or two of CB’s life you will be consumed with the baby thing while at home and it will be almost impossible to get things done and while he naps. If you keep LB in daycare part time you’ll have a bit easier time. But I’m a daycare mama. I know that isn’t for everyone but with me working 32 hours a week it’s the best solution for now.

    I think I would wait on the degree, too. Perhaps wait until LB starts kindergarten. That dream will still be there, but you don’t want to spread yourself too thin!

    I love ThatGreenyFlower’s comment: you can be anything, but you can’t be everything.

    So true.

    I hope you find more balance but don’t push yourself too hard while your little ones are babies and you need to focus on home and mommy stuff right now.

    By Jamie on 2007 03 18

  9. “...a cow watching the grass on both sides of the fence and wondering “what the hell?” 

    If that isn’t the best line ever… well, it is.  I know exactly what you mean.  But, for me it revolves around having the child at all.  I mean, I keep thinking “what if I hadn’t had her?”  “where would we be traveling?”  “what great things would we be doing?”  And then I think “how much would we regret at least not TRYING to have a child?”  How much of “ourselves” would be lost to the universe if we didn’t pass it on?

    It’s always a struggle sweetie.  There is no real way to know what is right/wrong, meant to be/prophetic, wants/needs… that’s life.  But you are always pushing ahead, and that is important.  No PhD will EVER EVER EVER give you the incredible lightness of being that bringing life into the world does.  Even if it’s poopie diapers, it just doesn’t compare. 

    You amaze me -  daily.  I’m proud of you and grateful that you continue to push the envelope of your own being.

    Hang in there.  In the end, it will be proven that you did the best you could - changed the world in your own way - and took the credit after all.


    By Katie Kat on 2007 03 18

  10. It’s tough.  I don’t think a Superwoman can do what you are doing right now!  You are doing Great.  Yeah, the next degree can wait but little ones grew up Fast.  Before you know it, they are taking their backpacks and going to the yellow school bus everyday!

    By Kerry on 2007 03 19

  11. Whew! That kinda stressed me out.  Do you’ll not have any family close by?  I think that makes a big difference…if you can drop the kids off at grandparents and say “take them for the day!”  You’ll get through it…just take it day by day.  And start getting excited about your new little one!  I can’t believe it’s so soon!

    By Emily on 2007 03 19

  12. Preacher: Choir.

    I, too, thought “working at home” (2 days/week) would mean I at least had time to get my laundry done. Hahahahahahaaaa ha. Ha. And I still send AJ to daycare on those days, I just try to smash all of my work-work into as few hours as possible, and pick him up early.

    Again. Ha.

    It’s a really delicate balance. Just this week I’m thinking it’s time to tweak our schedule a bit. Last time I tweaked, it was to benefit the company; this time it’s to benefit ME and my time with AJ. Every time, I think it’s going to come out exactly right, and it never quite does, at least not permanently.

    I’m glad to read you like your career; and I love the “anything, not everything” comment. So true. No hard and fast answers.

    By el-e-e on 2007 03 19

  13. To ThatGreenlyFlower: oh, I know, I KNOW! This? ““you-can-be-anything” fallacy of the women’s liberation movement cab be a life- (or mental health-) destroyer.” I actually have a post somewhere in the archives labeled, “Women’s Lib My Ass.” On one day I find myself a bit of a feminist “I can conquer the world!” and the next day I’m all, “I’m a hormonal mess that just wants to be a mommy…” I’m still working through that one.

    KatieKat, I love your last line “change the world in your own way..” Sometimes I forget that the mundane things like being there for my child(ren) is actually making a difference. Especially when she’s saying, “no, MOMMYYY.. I DO IT.” *sigh*

    El-E-E (And y’all, her blog? Awesome. Seriously.) I am going to be tweaking the schedule. I realize taking on another class is not in the cards for this lady here. Especially when it’s on the cusp of adding another person to the world. But I do the same thing: LB goes to daycare two days a week so I can “work” which means I work like a mad women on those days and work like a tired ranting lady on the other days.

    And yes, the PhD will wait. And wait. And wait. And maybe one day I’ll go back. And maybe I won’t. I just think now isn’t the time to take that decision (like SleepingMommy said, “Get through this pregnancy.”) Why I chose to tackle the big picture when I’m a hormonal wreck is well beyond me.

    By Mrs. Flinger on 2007 03 19

  14. I always thought the ‘working from home’ thing would be ideal too. Until I started doing a little work from home and I found that it didn’t make me happy. Of course, this is while I was working full-time outside of the home too. *So that could have something to do with it, right?*
    Good luck finding balance. I know I’m still trying . . .

    By Renee on 2007 03 19

  15. I think all of us can relate to your story to a certain extent. I am paying on my student loan, and I didn’t even finish college! 60+ hours and no degree, all because I couldn’t decide what I wanted to “be” when I grew up - teacher or nurse? And of course my three children came into the picture, and staying home just seemed the right thing (for me) to do. Still, there are days when I’m peering over the fence and trying to get a better look at the party going on over yonder. I have a lot of guilt too - for not contributing financially, for actually getting tired and annoyed with my kids and their demands.

    I don’t think we women will ever find true balance. The weight is constantly shifting, and we have to manage as best as we can. And hopefully we will have others to help support us along the way . . .

    By Melissa R. Garrett on 2007 03 19

  16. I am going to go digging for “Women’s Lib my Ass.” I have had that EXACT thought more times than you know. smile

    By el-e-e on 2007 03 20

  17. I can SO relate to this post.  I’ve been trying to fit in some working now that my kids are all in school.  I thought I’d have time, but I was totally wrong.  I haven’t had any sleep, time to myself or *gasp* time for blogging!

    It’s tough being a w-o-m-a-n!

    By Friglet on 2007 03 21

  18. what a great post, because everyone seems to think working from home has to be easy, including me. But it is still work, isnt it?

    By Sparky Duck on 2007 03 22