Thursday, January 29, 2009

Work and home angst in a difficult economy

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a pretty staunch advocate of my working. When the kids were little many of my friends would feel guilty for missing out on circle time at nursery school or not going to gymnastics class with the kids. I (almost) always felt like going to work was the right thing for me and my family, and as long as I did not miss out of the BIG IMPORTANT kid things, then it was ok that I work. I do sometimes feel badly that I don't often see my friends and my husband and I rarely have quality time together, but I have not felt like the kids, or I, was missing out. This was in part because my job generally gives me enough flexibilty that I don't have to miss the BIG IMPORTANT things.

But now work is getting harder. And more stressful. And the stakes seem higher when everyone in our community is losing their jobs. Last week I had a real working mom conflict moment. My daughter won a big award at school and the ceremony was at 9am. Both my husband and I planned to be there. But at 8am I got a call that I had to be at work for a 9am meeting. Now, in a better economy, perhaps I would have said that I was unavailable. But in this environment, telling them I was going to miss a pretty important meeting did not seem like a good idea. First, I cried in private. Then, I very sadly told my daughter that I could not attend the ceremony. I explained that I really needed to go to work, that I want to keep my job, that the family is dependent on my job, and that I was very proud of her and that her dad would share the pictures of the ceremony with me.

I expected some tears. In the past when I have missed certain events, she definitely let me know that she was angry and that it was unfair that I wasn't available. Sometimes she would tell me that she wished I didn't work or that it was unfair that all the other moms were at school but me. But, amazingly, this time she understood. And while I felt badly for not being there, I was extremely proud of her for giving me a hug and telling me that it was ok, dad would be there, and she knew I had to go to work. And I again felt good about working, and having her understand that hard choices have to be made, and that those choices did not mean that I loved her any less, or was any less proud of her. We had two things to celebrate at dinner: her school award, and her growing emotional maturity. To me they were equally important.


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