Working It Out — My Work Outside the Home Experience

Time is over!….Action
Originally uploaded by JoeMikel

There’s been a lot of hoopla in recent weeks about which scenario is harder in relation to balancing work and home life:

1. Working outside the home

2. Working at home

3. Being a stay at home parent

Relax. I’m not here to add fuel to the fire or even TELL you which is harder — there’s no right or wrong answer. It all depends on one’s individual circumstances, how many children there are, what the financial situation is, individual personalities and talents, confidence levels … yaddayaddayadda.

And believe it or not, I’m not arrogant enough to make one definitive statement about it; I think that’s rude and presumptuous of people to blanket a subject that is so complex.

However, I can tell you my own experiences and opinions on each scenario because I’ve lived each scenario.

I’m bringing this up because I’m once again standing on the threshold of change in my house. Situations are changing and though it could ultimately be a GOOD thing (at least, this is what I tell myself), I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it makes me just a teensy-bit nervous.

Okay fine, it REALLY makes me nervous.

But whatever. I’m the sort of personality that rolls with the punches (after the shock wears off) and I’d rather KNOW what’s going on beforehand and be prepared than for it to happen all of a sudden and get kicked in the head.

I don’t do spontaneity very well.

I’m once again preparing myself to enter the workforce.

There are reasons why I want and need to do this:

First and foremost, that change I spoke of, which, unfortunately, I can’t really talk about or my husband will kick my butt, but suffice it to say, futures are unknown. So, it could ultimately be a necessity. Though we are debt-free and have money set aside, we can’t live on that savings indefinitely and we certainly can’t count on the assumption that there will be more jobs out there just waiting to be plucked. We all know the current economic job situation.

It looks bleak at best. (Have we reached the double digit unemployment level yet? I’ve been too depressed to look, quite frankly. That stimulus package is working wonders, isn’t it?).

Next, I WANT to. It’s time. Though I am currently the webmaster for nine websites and there are periods when I’m very, very busy (like I will be for the next eight weeks, for example), most of the time, I can downgrade it to part-time status. Though there are updates, the type of updates don’t require that much time and I’ve gotten it all down to a science so I’m quite fast at it. If I’m being honest, and I am, being a webmaster does not keep me busy like a traditional 8 to 5 job would.

So, I’m ready to re-join the workforce. (I’ll talk more about working at home another time).

I am certainly no stranger to the working world. I started working at Wendy’s when I was 16. I was working there back in the time period when we all had to wear those butt-ugly striped smocks and scarves. Do you remember those? (I tried to find a picture of that uniform on Google Images but I couldn’t. I don’t know if I should be sad or glad about that).

I worked there seven years and worked my way up to junior management. It’s when they wanted to move me into senior management, and on salary, that I quit. I wasn’t willing to sell my soul to the company.

After I quit Wendy’s, I applied at banks. I really wanted to find something that I could make a career. Even though I had no desire for finance and I certainly didn’t have any experience in finance, I applied. I’ll never forget the test I took when I applied at Boatmen’s Bank. I was terrified that I wasn’t smart enough to pass.

But not only did I pass, I was hired. I worked as a teller and I loved it. Just loved it. I craved the fast pace and the daily challenge of balancing to the penny. And even though I didn’t ALWAYS balance to the penny, I got pretty darn close on a consistent basis. When I started, I was so scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle it (math has never been, nor will ever be, my strong suit), but I coped remarkably well and I did handle it.

I also met Kevin, my husband, while working at the bank, too.

I did get tired of tellering though and applied for the consumer loan department. I got the job. And again, I loved it. I loved checking people’s credit and reading between the lines about people’s potential and history. I loved putting the paperwork together and then giving it to a loan officer. I loved processing the paperwork after the signatures and making sure everything was air tight and ready to send downtown for recording.

I felt I was good at my job and I was comfortable with my co-workers. I started college with the intention of majoring finance. But after taking a few classes, I knew it was just too boring for me to devote the rest of my working life to, so I changed majors. (To journalism, if you’re curious. But then I hated the restrictions reporting put on my writing, so I compromised and ended up majoring professional writing).

Kevin and I married. And two years later, I became pregnant with Dude. However, I didn’t want to give up my job. I loved it and I saw myself possibly going places. But the banking industry changed, it became more sales oriented, which I WASN’T willing to take part in, and I used that as an excuse to quit and stay home with Dude.

Yes, it’s true. If my job hadn’t “evolved”, then I probably wouldn’t have quit my job. We had a family member taking care of Dude while I worked and it was a comfortable arrangement.

However, this family member’s health began to go downhill and I started feeling more and more guilty for taking advantage of her good nature, so that was another reason I quit my job to become a full-time stay at home mom.

Again, my child wasn’t the number one reason why I quit my job.

But wait, my selfishness gets better.

Fast forward five years after the birth of my second son, Jazz. (I’ll talk more about those stay-at-home years in an upcoming post). I started feeling claustrophobic and just a little lost. Where did Karen go? I had become a wife and a mother but somewhere down the road I had lost myself.

I became irritable and unreasonable. Everything Kevin and the boys did rubbed me the wrong way and I knew something had to change. Whenever I suggested that I start working again, Kevin had laughed at me and didn’t take me seriously.

So, I went out and applied at Wal-Mart mainly just to piss him off and show him I meant business.

To my utter surprise, Wal-Mart hired me.

I worked evenings. That way, Kevin could stay with the boys while I worked and I would be home with the boys while he worked. We didn’t have to mess with daycare (and I knew in my heart I could never leave them at a daycare center so it was never an option for me) and we didn’t have to pay anything for daycare.

But it was really, really hard. It was hard on Kevin to be brain dead after working in his accounting office all day to come home and take care of a 2/12 year old and a six-month old baby (but ultimately a good thing because it gave him a chance to bond with the boys and a new appreciation for what I had been doing), and it was hard on me because I worked 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. and was back up at 7:00 a.m. to take care of the kidlets. I ran on about four hours of sleep every day and was always cranky.

I started out as a cashier. But I was only a cashier a month before an opening became available in the cash office. And since I had had so much experience working with cash, they stuck me in the office.

And again, I loved it. I loved working with the money, counting it, recording it, making deposits. I was accurate and I was fast and it became a personal challenge to me to be one of the best.

However, during this time period, my attitude started changing. I worked with a bunch of ladies, who were all nice and fun to be around, but there were a few who spouted nothing but poison when it came to marriage and men. It’s always harder to remain optimistic and upbeat around all of that negativity so eventually, I became one of them.

I was rude, obstinate and incredibly arrogant and my work attitude started affecting my home life and before long, Kevin and I were having MAJOR marital issues.

I won’t claim to take all of the blame, he certainly contributed, but overall, I do believe my attitude was at the center of it.

Things were coming to an ugly head in my marriage. Something had to change. I was forced to step back and take a hard, long look at myself and my motivations for working. I loved the mental challenge. I loved making money and not feeling guilty for spending any. I loved the interaction with friends.

But I did NOT like who I had become in the interim. I knew I had changed. I felt it. I could see it reflected through my family.

So, with a lot of anxiety and regret, I quit my job in order to save my marriage.

In the end, I couldn’t handle putting my family second. My relationship was suffering and I was impatient and snarky with my boys who deserved so much more than a tired, irritable mommy. I was being selfish.

I needed an attitude adjustment.

So, in my opinion, working outside the home is hard. REALLY, REALLY HARD. It’s hard on you, as an individual. It’s hard on your relationships. It’s hard, and unfair, to your children. It’s nearly impossible to find the balance between providing for your family and being there for your family. It’s really hard to handle the guilt of not being there for your kids when they need you. It’s hard to summon the energy required to BE the person your spouse/children deserve.

When you work outside the home, you don’t have the flexibility to be available to your family without pissing your boss off. I think the fact that I didn’t have the flexibility is what bothered me the most when I worked outside the home. I had to work a lot of weekends. I also missed a lot of family functions because of working the weekends.

I worked outside the home for selfish reasons — a lot of people have to work outside the home because they don’t have a choice. It’s a whole other ballgame when you DON’T HAVE A CHOICE.

And now, I’m on that working outside the home threshold once again. But this go-around, I may not have a choice, it’ll be necessity.

However, the boys are teenagers now and self-sufficient. It won’t be the same as it was when they were little and in pre-school and grade school. I won’t feel AS guilty for leaving them or working on the weekends and missing functions. Kevin is older, more mature and definitely more secure in our relationship than he used to be, so I don’t foresee any problems in that area, either.

There are definitely perks to being older. 🙂

So, I’m filling out applications online. I’m hoping to land something part-time. And I’m REALLY hoping that it’s with Barnes & Noble or Borders because I would LOVE to work in a bookstore. *drool*

But if it’s not, it’s not, and I’ll take what’s available. I would LIKE to work a 9 to 2 shift during the day (thereby only being gone when the boys are at school and being home in the evenings with Kevin), but if that’s not possible, then again, I’ll take whatever is available.

I will be working weekends – working weekends comes with the package when you work part-time and I’ll miss some family functions, but that’s a sacrifice I’ll have to deal with when the time comes.

Part of me is really nervous to get back out into the working world after being gone for six years, but another part of me is really looking forward to a fresh new challenge.