Saturday, September 6, 2014

The things I think about

Sometimes I think I would be a lot happier if I didn't work outside the home at all, or at least worked a lot less than fulltime hours.

I think I'd be less stressed. The juggle would be easier. I could do my own cleaning and logistics the way I'd prefer, and I could do a lot more volunteering and community work. I could write more. I could READ more. I could give more quality time to the kids and my husband, and I would probably be a whole lot less exhausted.

I don't fool myself that life would be all rainbow kittens farting fairy floss in a vermillion sky - I'd still be a busy person, my life would still have stressors, I'd still have hell days from time to time, etc etc etc. The thing is, as it is now, it's not like I don't still have all those things and responsibilities and aspirations - I just have them PLUS 45-50 or so hours a week of paid employment to fit in.


The reality of our lives is that we're not independently wealthy, and we have three children to raise, and while I don't aim to put silver spoons in their mouths, I do very much want to make sure their educational and life needs are well covered. I want to be able to travel with my family. I want my husband and I to be able to look forward to a comfortable retirement in our mid-late 60s, not be forced to keep working til we drop (which, if genetics are any guide, is likely to happen in our latish 80s). I want to be able to give to a meaningful level to causes I believe in.

We could manage, and manage well, on less than two fulltime incomes; my partner works a 4 day week now, and this is how I also will be hoping to move in the coming couple of years. We couldn't forego a substantial contribution from each of us, though, without compromising on the goals I mentioned above, and without risking significant stress of a different kind (the fear of not having enough to cover the bills is always lurking, in those situations).

There has to be a Goldilocks spot somewhere. I think I was probably closest to it in the 2 years from 2006-2008, when I had two preschool-aged children and was working 20 hours a week, 1 day in the office, 1.5 days from home. I actively enjoyed my work-life seesaw for almost all of that time. I was working enough to be given interesting and meaty projects, but not so much that it consumed all my thoughts and family life. Of course, it didn't hurt that I was part of a highly functional team of great people, and had an awesome manager. I was earning enough to make life doable, but not at the expense of everything else that life is about.

These days, I have three children, all in school, and expenses are growing. 20 hours a week probably wouldn't cut it financially, and realistically I can accommodate more anyway because they are all away 6.5 hours every day. I feel like maybe 30 hours a week would be a useful target for me to aim at - either a 4-day week, or shortened days in a 5-day week. I think that might put just the amount of slack back into my schedule that I need to ease back on the constant overwhelm.

So these are the things I think about, when my stress levels are clawing the roof off my head and threatening to swallow me whole.

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