Posted by: canthold | June 26, 2007

Calling Home

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I had the unexpected good fortune to spend this weekend with a teacher. My family and I traveled to Lake Tahoe to celebrate the birthday of a woman with whom my husband works and the teacher was another guest. We talked the entire weekend about what it means to  teach and I was so impressed with her outlook on what she does.

I have been drawn, time and again, to the teaching profession. I feel that it is my calling, but I’m not always available to pick up and answer. I put my application for a credential program together twice, but still have not gone back to school.

Part of my hesitation is that I only graduated from college in 2000. It took me 15 years from start to finish, so the sense of completion is pretty strong. I’m not as anxious to go back to school as I might be if I were somewhere in my twenties looking toward a first career. Another part of my hesitation is timing. My first attempt for my credential would have put my youngest daughter in full-time daycare at six-months-old. I couldn’t do that. If my livelihood depended on it, I may have felt differently, but I had a fairness question regarding what I did for my oldest versus what I intended to do for my youngest.

Then there is the part of my hesitation that stems from my capitalistic quest for the almighty dollar. Being a greedy money-grubber that I am…wait, that’s not me. Not exactly. I’m just practical. On one hand I could ramp back into the workforce at a slow year-long (or so) pace and go deeper into debt for a low-paying – although noble – career path. On the other hand, I could return to my old area of expertise, experience and education and wait until the last possible moment to make my leap. And while it is not nearly as noble, the pay would be significantly higher.

I have to admit that, as a worrier, the discussions stemming from Leslie Bennetts’ The Feminine Mistake made me look long and hard at my decision to stay away from the workforce. My “aha!” moment came this weekend when I suddenly saw that I wasn’t staying away from the workforce, I was staying with my children. Getting the right perspective on choices is very important.

The dilemma to be a stay-at-home mother, sidelining a potentially profitable career, and security, is essentially the same argument about which job to take when I return. People don’t decide to become teachers because it is a lucrative career, they become teachers because their internal compass points them in that direction. In deciding to stay at home with my children, I was not deciding to do anything for me. I was answering a call that was stronger than my urge to further my career. Let me tell you, that was a pretty strong pull, too. I decided to stay home in spite of the fact that my lifetime earnings would go way, way down.

And I suspect that if it is in the cards for me to be a teacher, I will become one, regardless of which numbers show up on my paycheck. The funny thing is, that working in business is a calling, too. I have a good head for what works and how things should run. I am excellent at managing customer expectations and I love to work hard when my rewards are high. I wouldn’t consider myself a sell-out to return to the business world because I have as many strengths and desires in that area that would also give me considerable personal satisfaction.

The best part is that none of the choices that I make have to be mutually exclusive. Choosing to stay home with my children doesn’t preclude me from ever working again. It’s a brief (in the grand scheme of things) time-out of sorts. A pause. So I can be a stay-at-home mom and have a great career. I can work in business and become a teacher. Now, instead of just wondering what I will do, I wonder when I will do it, too.

Lest I sound too optimistic about the world as my oyster, I am fully aware of the potential downsides of making any of these choices at any given time. I know that I may have shot myself in the foot – or even a major artery – by staying home with my kids. I feel incredibly lucky to even have any of these choices to make, as many of my fellow women out there do not get to choose how their lives will go. I know that I’m an adaptable survivor and will weather the storms of life, no matter which beach I’m thrown upon. And I will teach my daughters to make choices based on what’s inside of them. As I hope to do, no matter what those choices are.

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Responses

  1. I am so very glad that you dropped by my blog and inadvertantly alerted me to the fact that you were back up and posting–the last time I dropped by (admittedly too long ago), something was amiss.

    As a once-upon-a-time lawyer who stayed home with my daughter and accidentally started a second and then third career part-time while home with her and then landed my dream job when she was old enough for me to have one, let me just say…the world is your oyster, and there’s more than one pearl in it.

  2. Thanks for the words of encouragement. Pearls of wisdom from your own oyster!

    I’m glad you’re back!


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