“Don’t ever let economics alone determine your career or how you spend the majority of your time.” -Denis Waitley
Michael’s role as a crane specialist in reliability maintenance was going well. I loved his normal workweek schedule and he enjoyed learning and working on projects that fit with his degree. We discussed renting in Crown Point so we’d be closer to church and friends. Then we decided, heck, maybe it’s time to buy a house. Michael can pursue his MBA or another Master’s degree on nights or weekends and the mill will reimburse him, provided he stays with the company at least 2 years after completing the degree. We were far from certain, but things seemed to be moving in a stable direction.
Then we got word that Michael is being temporarily moved back to his old job as a melter foreman. Back to 13 hour workdays, back to nights, weekends and holidays in the mill, back to incessant demoralization, and a dangerous work environment. Back to the questions: do we want to do this? Do we want to stay here? Is it worth the frustration and the risk? It’s only temporary, starting this week through at least September.
One night, Michael and I re-discussed the pros and cons of me working. We determined that we’re happy with the ways things are going. Occasional substitute teaching jobs bring in a nice little boost of extra pay. Most of my time is free for volunteer work, which keeps me pretty busy. There’s plenty to do. I am always able to prioritize my schedule around family and church. We’re living reasonably comfortably and saving a responsible amount of money. We’re successful by our standards: we’re content, we almost never fight, we have time for things that matter to us. Life is good as is.
The next day, a job offer fell into my lap. Lake County Right to Life needs a secretary. OK, God, what are you trying to tell me? This is a job that suits me, with an organization I like and already volunteer for, serving a cause I’ve been passionate about since high school. But it’s in Highland, a 50-minute commute. It’s part-time, but every day, meaning it dramatically changes the schedule we’ve been enjoying as a single-career family. It involves being alone almost all day in an office where no one else works.
I don’t want to say no to a job just because it’s a job. I don’t want to yes for the same reason either. So what now? I’m currently working the job on an interim basis. The Lake County Right to Life board of directors has to meet to discuss what to do next. They have to decide if they want to hire me permanently and I have to decide if I want to be hired permanently. But for now, I’m filling in the gap to keep things running.
The timing of these two job developments is less than ideal. Michael went back on his melter foreman schedule the same day I began my secretary job. One of my reasons for not getting a job while he was melting was so that I could be flexible with his shift work. Now I am off for the 4th of July and he’s working. But he’ll be off Friday while I’m working. The first of many work conflicts.
I have long wanted to be a housewife and stay-at-home mom. Before marriage, I didn’t predict how difficult it would be for me to defend that decision. So often the question is raised: what do you do? Instantly, I’m in explanation mode. Well, I stay at home. Or, I’m a household manager. Oh. Do you have kids? No, not yet. Then the questions about my degree. Why did I choose it? Did I try to find jobs in journalism? Do I intend to? Am I planning on pursuing some other career? Most people are well-intentioned. They’re just trying to learn more about me. But I always sense this underlying suggestion that I’m lazy and spoiled. And sometimes, especially from friends who are working women, a hint of resentment.
It’s not like I think I’m entitled to sit on my butt all day and then go on lavish spending sprees with hubby’s money. I believe that foregoing career is a true vocation for some people, one that is seriously undervalued by our culture and desperately needed for a healthy society. When I volunteer at church or at a non-profit organization, they are head-over-heels for me. Before long, I’m getting calls and emails asking me if I can help with this and that the other thing. I’m in high demand because there are so few volunteers. Once they know I’m available, they want me to do everything. This isn’t to brag, but to explain a situation in America. Because everyone is so committed to career, no one is available for essential, unpaid, behind-the-scenes work. People try to work and volunteer, but there’s only so much one person can do. They end up stressed out, burned out and resentful. Family is too often the first area to suffer. As a culture, we are chronically too busy. Not everyone is blessed with the opportunity to not work. I am.
I don’t want to take a job to satisfy the expectations of others. If I am employed, I want it to be because it is the best use of my time and talents in the service of God, my family and my community. Now I just have to determine whether or not that is the case. It’s a lot to think about.
I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. -Bill Cosby