Recently my older daughter had a day off from school, one of those scheduled “in-service” days that – like snow days – bring a breath of relief to teachers and strike dismay, often, in the hearts of working parents. So I’m rushing this post out in between playing house, cleaning Cheerios off the floor, changing diapers, and attempting ballet while tossing a balloon in the air.
Last winter and spring, when I first embarked on the post-ac life in earnest, I knew that my pregnancy would throw a wrench in my plans to pursue any kind of job, any time soon, in the new city in which we found myself. What I didn’t realize was how good I had it: my 3-year-old was in school for a good chunk of the day, giving me time to write job applications, contact people for informational interviews, and read up on topics of interest. Once my baby was born – and once I emerged from those first few months of postpartum, sleep-deprived haze – I’ve still found it almost impossible to get out to do the networking part of looking for a job. Just going to a meet up with the local Versatile PhD group a couple of weeks ago was a major commitment – an hour of driving each way, plus two hours at the meeting, and the agreement (with encouragment) from my husband that he could watch our kids, including the baby, while I was out, despite having a couple of classes to prepare for for the next day.
Having a baby around, and children in general, makes it that much harder to find time for many of the de rigeuer aspects of a job search, like internships, volunteering, or networking. I’m on the alt-ac trajectory at least partly for the sake of the kids, and herein lies the irony. I need job stability and a bigger paycheck than adjunction affords at least partly on their behalf, and yet it’s really hard to get to that stability when the need to pay for someone else to care for the kids enters the equation. As it is, I sneak my at-home work around the edges of 30-minute naps that I wish were longer, carpool pickup lines at preschool, and the hours of six to midnight, three times a week, when I get out of the house to my library job and get a peek at what a real job might be like.
The other irony, of course, is that I can’t expect this situation to stay the same. I’ve been meeting several very successful women who, as their children have grown older and gotten well into the elementary years, have dialed back on their high-profile careers, much like Anne-Marie Slaughter writes about doing in Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. I find it almost unimaginably cruel that balancing parenting and work, much less the work of sorting out my working life, will only get harder as my children get older. Finding a job is hard enough in today’s economy: finding a job as a mother and a woman trying to change career directions seems, at times, like virtual insanity.
Given that, when I look at what lies ahead, I know that a part-time work, some of which I can do from home, might be as close to the best of both worlds as it’s possible to come, and I can’t predict what demands on my time (so to speak) my kids might make as they get older and more enmeshed in friends, hobbies, and homework.
I have more to say on this… like why it took until I had a second child to realize why feminists are often perceived as angry, despite having been a feminist for as long as I can remember, and why time management is the holy grail of changing careers, but for now, with the memory of this particular day at home still fresh in my mind, I’ll leave my thoughts in this child-induced inchoate form.