Friday, September 17, 2010

The eternal question

I'm facing that eternal question; the one that plagues mothers everywhere:

"Should I go back to work?"

Yesterday I was sent an invitation to apply for a proofreading position at a pharmaceutical company 30 miles away, based in the same business park my husband used to work in (although for a different company).  We know the company and we know how far away it is (40 min commute), and we know that I am absolutely desperate to find meaning in my life beyond that of a-mother-with-a-special-needs-kid-who-does-some-freelancing-stuff-when-she-has-time.  So when this opportunity came up I was really interested, but I delayed in answering the e-mail because any decision I make involves the whole family.  It really does.

I spoke to my husband about it when he called home at lunchtime and he was very positive, saying I should definitely apply and totalling up how much extra income we would have if I got the job.  But something still stopped me, and it took me a while to figure it out.

Daycare isn't really an issue long-term.  I'm visiting a nursery on Monday that caters for children like Little O, and they seem very keen to have him on board, but they can't offer him a week-long placement until mid-October, which is awkward.  I'd be able to get him in all day Monday and Friday for a few weeks, but that would still leave Tues-Thurs with no care.  Then my Dad comes out to visit at the end of October and it would be a shame to have Little O in daycare the whole time, and me at a new job.  But come November, and daycare and family issues will be resolved, and I'll have plenty of time for a full-time position.

The commute also doesn't bother me, although the hours are a little sticky.  It would be 50 hrs a week, plus occasional Saturdays, depending on deadlines.  Thankfully I'm a very fast worker when I know what I'm doing, so I anticipate meeting their expectations and then surpassing them, and not actually having to work many Saturdays at all.  I'm also not afraid to commit a large portion of my time to a new job if I really enjoy it.  I actually love working in offices, but I've never found a JOB that I like.  Perhaps that would change.

No, the thing that bothered me and took a while to surface, was my husband's attitude to Little O's care.  My husband is almost as much of a feminist as I am, but on this particular topic it's as though he's thrown all notion of equal parenting out of the window.  When we were discussing specifics last night in bed, I reminded him that if I were to work full-time, it would mean I couldn't take Little O to all the appointments and therapy sessions that I do now.  Actually, at least initially, I wouldn't be able to do ANY of them because I'd be in a new job and trying to make a good impression.  So I requested that he look into his employer's flexi-time policy, and find out whether he can start shifting his hours a little to accomodate Little O's care.

His response was quite astounding.  He said, "No, they won't go for that", and turned over in bed.  End of discussion.  I was gobsmacked, so I pulled him back over to face me and asked him why.  He said they're really busy, and besides, WE need the money.  It struck me that he sees his job and my (potential) job differently.  As far as he's concerned, it's ME who needs to ask for flexi-time because HIS job is already stable, and because it's MY responsibility to take care of Little O.  I was lost for words.  I had always assumed that if I worked full-time again, that parenting our son would be shared equally - indeed, before we knew about Little O's problems, I'd intended to go back to work much sooner than this.  So what the hell is going on?

I feel like I'm meeting everyone else's needs and schedules... what about mine?  I've given up my career to this point to be an advocate and parent to my son, but I feel like it's my time again.  I WANT to go back to work, but I CAN'T do it if my husband won't meet me halfway.  I just can't roll up to a new employer and tell them I need three days off a month to take my son to appointments because my husband won't help me.  It isn't fair to ask that of me, or my (potential) company.  I don't know what's going on.  Maybe my husband's afraid of losing his job, or taking on extra responsibility at home; I don't know.  But I do know that I can't have a full-time job AND be the primary caregiver.  Not with Little O.

In the end, I did apply for the job, via an agency.  I explained my situation to them and they seemed accomodating, but they recommended I don't tell the company until I'm offered a position.  If and when that happens I'm going to feel really guilty, because it will feel like I've misled them.  I'm already panicking about finding childcare for Little O for when I have to go to an interview - how the hell do I pick up those extra three days a week too?  Frankly, I feel confident that I'll get the job if I get an interview, because unlike other jobs I've gone for where I just need the money, in this instance I'm really invested in the position itself.  And I'm fucking good at what I do and I'm confident in my abilities, so selling myself to an employer should be okay.  It's just post-interview that I'm worried about.

I need a grandparent around for about a month, I think.  Someone to take care of Little O while I get a job organised; someone who can take him to his appointments and act on my behalf.  But I also need a husband who supports my decision to go back to work properly, on MY terms.  It's all very difficult.  Exciting, but difficult.


1 comment:

  1. You absolutely have to INSIST. "Husband, I will not be available that day. I'm leaving it to you to sort out."

    The honeymoon of him having his lovely work-life balance is over and now it's time to accept what being a parent means.

    If ever S is ill and so can't go to the childminder, D and I take half a day each. I do mornings and D does afternoons. That was the only equal way we could come up with.

    Anthea x