Friday, July 9, 2010

WAS I WRONG TO BE A SAHM?


I am having a tough time emotionally with the job search thing right now. I keep thinking about what I could have/should have done differently in my life so this would not feel like such a disaster.


Should I not have stayed home with my children for 16 years? At the time I knew I was lucky for the opportunity so perhaps I should have been more aware that it might not last... and I should somehow have been preparing to go back into the job market.


I didn't get married until I was nearly 31 and had the twins when I was 35. I worked until 2 days before their planned C-section delivery. I had a nice solid resume going. Management experience, graduate degree.


After they were born I planned to go back to work on a part time basis with the support of the family owned and operated company. In fact, they were in negotiations to sell their company, which they did a month after the birth!


The new company hired me as a consultant - long story - but I worked from home mostly and made some money for about a year. By then, Tom was making a good salary and working very long hours. We decided I could stay at home, which I was very happy to do. It was 1988.


When the twins were 3 I went to work for a friend starting up a children's wear line. It involved regular hours but a long commute. It took a toll on our family and when we decided to have another child, I left that job and had our youngest when I was a couple of months shy of 40.


Tom made good money, I was busy with kids, we moved to a new state and back. The years went by. The economy was changing, corporations were being acquired and broken up and all kinds of nastiness as happening. Through a number of really difficult things that happened with Tom's corporate employers, we found ourselves without much savings, and Tom out of work. He just couldn't see going back into corporate life again and really wanted to be a practicing lawyer.


So he set himself up in our garage and started hustling for work. By that time our oldest kids were in high school and driving. The youngest was in school not too far from our home and Tom could easily take her to and from or she would walk, if necessary. So I started to look for work, too. It was 2004.


The last time I had a corporate job, there were one or two computers in the building. I had a secretary to do my typing. I sent telexes to communicate with European companies.


In the years since I had worked outside my home, I had used a computer to shop on e-Bay and help the kids with homework, do banking and put together photo collages for the sports teams. I had a passing familiarity with Word and had used e-mail. I had never even opened up Excel. I had seen the kids use Power Point. I used Quicken for my own finances.


Is is a surprise that it took 8 months to get a job? And that I was not ever once called for a management position I applied for? I was lucky that a woman with a small company too a liking to me in a phone interview and her first choice candidate declined the job. I was there for 5 years. Loved the work though it was administrative and customer service and, as far as my husband was concerned, far beneath me. I was really good at the job. I was an asset to the company. I worked hard and was on time and devoted myself to being a good employee. I was an idiot for leaving.


His practice is busy and he has been out of the garage for a few years now. He wanted me to work for him. I knew in my heart I could never work for him. I have a hard time living with him...but that is not the point of this post.


The point is, now I am even older. The economy is much worse. Employers are much more picky and paying less and less. No matter how high or low I apply, I can't break through. I can't figure out how to become employed. And more important than that:


I don't know what lesson to teach my daughters.


Should they not stay at home with their children? Keep working, even though I think it is best to be home if you can?


I have advised them about kinds of careers, like my sister's in nursing, which is so flexible and always in need, but they are not interested in that.


My parents said to delay marriage and children until we had lived more life because they had married and had children so young. Yet my mother had a wonderful career which started after I was gone to college - she was only 38 then!


I am awake at night worrying and upset and feeling that I have made wrong turns and bad decisions. How will you advise your daughters?




6 comments:

jenontheedge.com said...

It's interesting that you bring all this up, because it's been on my mind lately too.

I took off five years from work to be a SAHM. I am glad that I did it, but was also happy to go back to work part-time. That job lasted 8 months and then was cut due to budget constraints. I was out of work for a year and have now been in my job for four years. However, my job has been stressful and this last year was very difficult -- so much so that my husband and I decided that it would be better if I left. My contract ends on August 31 and I will be unemployed on September 1 if I don't find something else soon.

I recently interviewed for another part-time job and was a finalist before finding out yesterday that I didn't get it. I knew that I was one of eight candidates and that the odds were long. I live in a great town that lots of people want to be in, so there is always competition for jobs.

None of this answers your question, but is my wordy way of telling you why this has been on my mind.

I don't regret taking time off from my career to raise my children. I know it's not for everyone, but it was great for us as a family. I also feel no great compulsion to jump back into things where I left off. At this point, I want a job that offers flexibility and is interesting. If I'm not a manager, I will happily live with that.

jenontheedge.com said...

It's interesting that you bring all this up, because it's been on my mind lately too.

I took off five years from work to be a SAHM. I am glad that I did it, but was also happy to go back to work part-time. That job lasted 8 months and then was cut due to budget constraints. I was out of work for a year and have now been in my job for four years. However, my job has been stressful and this last year was very difficult -- so much so that my husband and I decided that it would be better if I left. My contract ends on August 31 and I will be unemployed on September 1 if I don't find something else soon.

I recently interviewed for another part-time job and was a finalist before finding out yesterday that I didn't get it. I knew that I was one of eight candidates and that the odds were long. I live in a great town that lots of people want to be in, so there is always competition for jobs.

None of this answers your question, but is my wordy way of telling you why this has been on my mind.

I don't regret taking time off from my career to raise my children. I know it's not for everyone, but it was great for us as a family. I also feel no great compulsion to jump back into things where I left off. At this point, I want a job that offers flexibility and is interesting. If I'm not a manager, I will happily live with that.

Lisa said...

You ask what advice I give? Honestly? I tell my kids that if they want to do the things we couldn't do because we were always broke or close to it, then they should 1. not get married and 2. don't have kids. And know that the careers they choose will drive what kind of life they have. Plus - doing things is far better than having things.

I hope they're listening.

I also had Chloe take Elizabeth Warren's book The Two Income Trap out of the library and read it. I'll insist the others do the same.

I got married at 22, had my first kid at 25 and spent most of the last 20 years wishing that being a SAHM were an option. It rarely was. I built a solid career in a good field and eventually worked my way to the top, as it were. Now I've been laid off since December 2009 after having taken a job "beneath" my top skill set because when I stupidly left my last job in 2008, the economy was already sliding. In 6 months, I've had one interview.

It's not you. You did what you thought best. Don't regret it.

Nan said...

What Lisa said. When it comes to the individual job search, it's not you, and the life your daughters live won't be the one you did.

Waisting Time said...

What a great post! I can so identify. I worked in HR before my boys were born and was lucky to be able to stay on part-time when I was a mom. I thought that was the best of both worlds but finally quit in 1997 when things just got to be too much. A few years ago I also started looking to go back to work (part-time again) and was struck by not being current. I tried to teach myself powerpoint! Thought about excel. I was no longer up to date enough to go back to what I had done. What was I qualified to do? Then the economy fell apart and I stopped looking, thinking others needed the jobs more than me.

I do not regret staying home with my boys. My advice to your daughters if they want to stay home too is to find volunteer work that gives them skills they can put on a resume. And to stay current on whatever technology comes up.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

This is a very tough situation.

I am with you on giving advice about portable jobs and ones that can be done part-time. My oldest daughter is in pharmacy school and my youngest daughter (so far) seems set on nursing.

They also know that I think that having kids young was a great decision for me since I knew I was going to stay home with my kids. I'm starting my career a little older than your mom (46), but with lots of time left to earn some money and make my mark.