I got an email yesterday from my grad assistants' union. They need to hire a new staff organizer this summer to replace a guy who is leaving. I briefly considered applying, as there are many attractive things about this job:

-It's part time, 25 hours a week.
-The job is union organizing, so you'd be getting paid to help the progressive cause.
-Being a union job, it has great benefits (including child care reimbursement) and pays a living wage (meaning you couldn't support a family on your salary in Madison, but it's good pay for a single person used to living like a grad studen, and it's great supplemental income for a family).
-There are some pretty darn cool people that work for and volunteer with this union. It would be a great work environment.
-This is the first real job I'm qualified for that doesn't involve teaching "Yankee Doodle" to a first-grader.

There's one snag, though. A BIG one: I have a baby. I don't really have a prejudice against day-care - in fact, I think it's good for socialization - but Stuart and I have decided we don't want to place our child in day-care for the first year of life. We want our son to be with his parents whenever possible. (Mostly, that's for emotional bonding, but when you're breastfeeding, it's also a practical consideration.) Part time work is not an option for Stuart at his company, so that means I'm the stay-at-home parent.

The other issue is that I am a musician. Let's say I applied for the union job and got it. What then? Would I continue to teach a little bit and play recitals a few times a year? That would add up to a full-time job. Would I instead take a hiatus from music for a year or two in order to spend the time I'm not working with my kid? Musicians can't really do that; it would be like a professional athlete suddenly taking a year off from exercising. So, as long as I'm committed to being a musican, and as long as we have kids too young for school, I can't (or won't) seriously consider other kinds of part-time work because it would add up to too much.

So I'm not going to apply for this job. It kind of bums me out that I have to pass up even trying for such ideal employment, not just now, but for the forseeable future (as if such an opportunity would ever present itself again!) It makes me feel a little bit hemmed in by my options, or, more accurately, my lack of options. I see years ahead of teaching half-assed students and accompanying lame undergrad recitals and wishing I could find work that made me feel valuable. But, as I said to my husband last night as we were discussing this over dinner, this has helped me to see something a little more clearly: as much as I gripe about how I'll never make a decent amount of money, my family is more important to me. I'm not going to sacrifice that much time spent with my kid just for the sake of earning money.

PLEASE don't take this to mean that I think mothers shouldn't work outside the home!! In an ideal world, there would be better part-time options for mothers and fathers so that parenting could be shared more equally. In an ideal world, musicians could make a decent living and not have to worry about paying for health insurance. But we don't live in that ideal world - yet - and so for now, I have to be satisfied with what I've got.


mamacita said…
Hi there Suze,

As a mom with a wee one, I can relate to your job dilemma, and I think you're doing the right thing by staying home with him for the first year. You have your whole life to work. I think that US culture is overly obsessed with work and underappreciative of mothering. He needs you most now and if you are able to be with him, do it by all means!

There will always be more work opportunities. So now that you are at home with so much free time on your hands (ha, ha...I know the reality), you work on your musical talents.

Good luck and if you happen to find this book on staying home with your baby, check it out: Home by Choice : Raising Emotionally Secure Children in an Insecure World
Suze said…
Thanks for the book recommendation, mamacita! I just finished reading a pile of books from the library (including the Da Vinci Code, gripping!) and need some new material.

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