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Kelly: When I Grow Up, I Want To…

I was doing some major studio cleaning and reorganizing this Sunday when I came back across the cards the girls made me for Mother’s Day. I keep a box in my studio of cards they make me since, more often than not, they make them sitting right there next to me…their little fingers covered with oil pastels and markers while they say “No peeking, Mama!” But these particular cards were made at school. They were those “My Mom…..” fill-in-the-blank kinds of things, like “My Mom has blond hair and green eyes.” I mentioned my eye-opening moment those cards brought me back in this post. What was the eye opening moment?

On Sarah’s card, one particular line read, “My Mom does not like to fish.” Sure enough, I hate to fish. I have no patience for fishing. If I don’t get a nibble within the first two minutes, I’m done. On that same line, Olivia’s read, “My Mom does not like to have fun so much.” Ouch. Big ouch. Given all the special fun stuff I try to do with them, that one really hurt. When I asked Livvie what she meant, she said, “Well, you’re always working, Mama, so you don’t get to play with us as much as Daddy does.” Amazing the clarity of children. When I looked at it from her perspective, she was exactly right. I don’t get to “play” with them as much as Daddy does, at least not during the week. DH leaves the house at 6:30 am every morning, before the girls are even up, so I have the morning duty of getting everyone fed, dressed and to school and work. Guess there’s not a whole lot of “fun” in that. DH picks them up from school about 4 pm every afternoon, so when they get home, they spend about 15 minutes on homework before they get to play, take a swim in the alien pod pool, ride their bikes around the backyard, etc. I don’t get home until at least 6 pm or 6:30 pm on the nights I’m not teaching. Teaching nights, it’s closer to bedtime. But even at 6 pm or 6:30 pm, that’s just in time to get dinner on the table, review a little homework, take a bath, and then read a book before bed. That’s one thing I’m diligent about: Mama gets to read the bedtime book and put them to bed every night, and we have our little bedtime lullaby that only Mama sings.

I know this isn’t unusual for working moms, but that doesn’t make it any less painful. I’ve mentioned here before that I’ve been keeping an eye out for full-time faculty openings for a while now. A full-time faculty position (as opposed to a full-time administrative position combined with part-time teaching) would definitely give me a lot more time. There are a few positions opening up in the fall, and I submitted my application last week. Even though I know a change is needed (no news to my supervisors as I’ve already shared this news with them), I have to admit I submitted that application with mixed emotions. I enjoy teaching, I truly do. Yet I also truly enjoy my current role in Student Life and Leadership Development. I think what I’d miss most if I am able to move into a faculty position is “leading” something. I’ve been in a leadership role for so long that that would be a difficult transition for me. Interesting thing about that, though, is that I’d have no hesitation leaving the formal work force all together, with my only “leadership role” being that of full-time mom and artist, but that’s not an option for us financially.

These particular positions are also new to the college. With our change to a four-year state college, we’re now approaching college-prep classes a little differently, and that will be the focus of these positions. Whereas our “normal” faculty positions require 15 classroom hours and 15 office hours per week each fall and spring term, these positions require 16 classroom hours (since prep classes are four credit hours each) and 16 lab tutoring hours. The 30 vs. 32 hours isn’t the issue as much as the fact that with the new positions, those 16 non-classroom hours are dedicated to tutoring instead of office hours, leaving class prep and grading to whenever you can fit it in. The carrot to balance that? Summers off. My other concern is the flexibility I might lose. Currently, as an administrator, I have ample annual leave and sick leave, so when I need to take a day off to go on a field trip with the girls, visit their school for an awards program, or take a couple days off for an arts festival or retreat, that’s easily done. That’s not so easily done in a faculty position. There is no annual leave or sick leave because you have summers off. These are all things I need to figure out and all questions I’ll have to ask should I be granted an interview. While summers off would definitely be a wonderful thing, are they worth the pay cut and very little flexibility the rest of the year? All things I need to work through.

All I know for sure is that Mama definitely does like to have fun and having more time to do that would be nice. I’ve been trying to look at things objectively. Now, I work some long hours but I have a lot of flexibility. Should I make a switch, I’d have fewer work nights and work weekends away from home coupled with summers off, but less flexibility during the school year and a pay cut. I can think of a lot of things I’d like to do with summers off, like have much more time to create art and expand my Purple Cottage ideas and retreats, which could potentially make up for or even surpass filling in for the pay cut I’d be taking, yet would I then be limited to doing those types of things during the summer, particularly the retreats, because I’d lose flexibility during the fall and spring? You see my conundrum? I realize I’m putting the cart before the horse here, but for my sanity, I need to work through these things before the horse gets rigged up. So, oh wise ones out there, what’s your take? If you were in my shoes facing a decision like this, what would you want to be when you grew up, since I guess that is exactly what I’m talking about here. 🙂

[Cross-posted from Artful Happiness]

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kelly, long-time readers will remember that you’ve been considering a lateral move within the college for some time now. I hope that if the time is truly right for a change, that it happens as smoothly — and as pleasantly — as possible!

    I know all too well what those little pre-printed books can deliver in terms of smiles and KNIVES TO THE STOMACH. Here’s what my 5-year old wrote in the Mother’s Day book he created at school this year:

    “My mother likes to……WORK.”

    Of course the poor thing thinks I like to work, seeing as that’s what I do ~28 hours a week. I really felt like my son’s book was another sign that things are not yet where I want them to be. I still have trouble with transitioning out of my work day and into home life and I don’t bring enough enthusiasm to my job as Mom. Even though I’m much better about avoiding the laptop during non-work hours, there’s no question that work seems to dominate most of my brain space in one way or another.

    Lately I’ve been feeling very out-of-love with my work, while at the same time kicking myself because I have a job that many people would describe as ideal. I work for myself, have a huge amount of flexibility, and make very good money for the time that I work. I have retainer clients, which means that even though I am a freelancer I don’t have the typical worry about where my next assignment is going to come from. Even though there are many administrative, cat-herding tasks associated with my job, I write and edit and get to be creative. What’s not to love?

    Well, what’s not to love is that this work isn’t my life calling. It’s hard to pass the 40-year field stripe and acknowledge that what you’re doing really wouldn’t pass the lottery test: you’d quit if you could. Knowing that my job is largely a means to an end ($) and that I have to put my kids aside in order to meet that objective, makes me comfortable.

    What’s the answer? I need to find my own Purple Cottage, and figure out how to ramp that up while I focus on the best of my “day” job. I know this is a topic that comes up a lot at this blog; it’s so hard for me to wrap my mind around. Maybe that’s because I don’t really know what *I* want to be when I grow up. Yes, I’m writing several books, and I call myself a writer on account of being paid to write, but I don’t even know that that’s what I would do all day if I had the “luxury” of doing so for myself. I feel pulled toward doing something more art-related, but then the voice of reality speaks up loudly, pointing out that I have very little art training and that I’m dreaming if I think I’ll ever be able to make any income at all from following that dream.

    You do inspire me, Kelly, with your successful launch of Mermaids and Mamas — turning your dreams into reality even before you’re completely “free” to do so. You have a fulltime job and a family, and yet you’re able to create beautiful jewelry, attend shows, maintain your blog, two Etsy shops, and Lord knows what else! And meanwhile you don’t seem to let yourself feel oppressed by “having” to work.

    However the current situation resolves, I know you’ll make the absolute best of every moment. The pros and cons of each path do seem almost balanced against each other, don’t they? If you can’t see the “best” choice on paper, just follow your heart. It seems like you’ve been doing that all along, and you haven’t gone astray thus far. 😀

    June 9, 2010
  2. wonderful post about decision making. i responded on your blog in more detail. but thank you for sharing your decision process with us, kelly!

    June 9, 2010
  3. thanks, m. i do believe somewhere on there mine also said, “my mother likes to work.” 🙂 they options do seem balanced. overall, work or play, we all need to find a way to balance our must do’s with our want to do’s, don’t we.

    thanks, too, cath, for your very thoughtful post on my blog.

    funny thing…today my collegewide supervisor dropped in to tell me that he thinks he’s getting somewhere with my position upgrade (that we’ve been working on for, oh, five years now, which is why for the past year i’ve been tired of waiting and have been looking at faculty positions in the first place!) i did tell him about a month ago that i would be considering faculty positions should they become available, so if he was still working on that upgrade, he might want to get moving on that. now that he does appear to be moving again, i told him that was great, but that i would continue to work through this potential faculty shift while we continue to work on the upgrade for my current position (which really involves just actually getting paid fairly for what I’m already doing), and then i would weigh both sides objectively to determine what’s best for me. we go through this cat and mouse game on a regular basis, but this time i think he’s finally really concerned that i’m going to make the move. so again, benefits on both side….the faculty benefit continues to be more time…the upgrade would mean the ability to put the girls in private school once middle school comes along in a few more years. the timing of how it all plays out will probably be a big factor in my decision. or maybe i’ll just win the lottery this weekend. 😉

    June 9, 2010
  4. Kelly, my heart is crying out with you. I have been on both ends of the spectrum. My oldest only had his mama home for about a month after he was born before I went back to work. And then there were small periods throughout his childhood that I was “at home full time”(he is now 21). The littlest one has only known me to be the “at home all the time” mommy. That has happened with incredible amounts of sacrifice. We sold our house, are down to one old car. All outings are free. AND we worry CONSTANTLY about money. One of those 2 paychecks away from homeless scenarios. Such a struggle, this motherhood thing. My kids will flesh the memories out the way they will. I found the opposite to be true as well. They will mention their most special memory is that I used to kiss their feet.

    I think the struggle we have in itself shows we are trying so hard to LOVE THEM WELL. And that HAS GOT to mean something.

    June 10, 2010
  5. robin, mine is a very similar story…one paycheck away….it has never been an easy decision to be home or to be at work for me. but if i can write now at home with toots til she’s in school or preschool (possibly next fall) as difficult as it can be, and as torn as i feel, which is why usually my writing is in the hour of sesame street, and the editing is when i can get out of the house for my writers group, the sacrifice in income is worth the time with her and in creativity.

    i really lost out in overworking when #1 was infant-toddler, i was able to be home, again through sacrifice with #2 and out of necessity, because daycares would kick him out. but again, under financial stress. but by the time he was in integrated preschool, i was a single mom working three jobs around their schedules. i got that down eventually to one meaningful one where i could be home when they got home from school, and i plan to try to continue to do that once toots is ready for school. but i find in my ‘new’ environment, between education cuts etc, they do not want to pay me a wortwhile wage, so i am looking at other opportunities.

    this is a constant concern and juggling act for so many of us. and i often think of kelly as an incredibly energetic example of how to balance the fulltime working mother, creative spirit example of how to do it well.

    me? i just hope and pray and try a lot, and seem to fly by the seat of my pants mmore than most. but there is some greater scheming going on….

    June 10, 2010
  6. cathy, I chuckle about the “scheming” that is going on in my mind -little ideas for income streams. All of this “experience” has got to come together somehow, right?

    June 10, 2010
  7. Brittany Vandeputte #

    Kelly, this is a great post and I fervently hope things work out for you so that you can show those girls of yours how fun you really are! (I seriously have my doubts they could keep up with you :-P)

    I’m writing this from my laptop in our temporary apartment in NY–the result of much soul-searching, sacrificing, etc to get Tom in a position where he’d have more balance between work and home.

    Tom knows all too well how much it sucks to see his life reflected in a child’s questionaire. Sam’s preschool did a similar thing for moms and dads at the end of the school year. Mine said “Mommy likes to… go to the library”. Tom’s said “Daddy likes to… go to work.” Our problem in a nutshell.

    Today is Tom’s first day at his new job. Hopefully, next year, Sam will say “Daddy likes to… take me out on his boat after work.” (Our new marina is just a mile from the house :-))

    June 14, 2010

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