Career vs. Family: Reprise

Back in 2012, I wrote a post about career versus family and the balancing act that must be done when one is trying to “raise” both. So now I can provide insight to my past self because I am in the position of having a career and a family.

But if we’re being realistic, I don’t think I have much more insight than I did then, except I realize that I could never be a stay-at-home mom. I always thought I could because after all, my mother did it. So why couldn’t I? I was so wrong. The three months of maternity leave I did take were hell on earth, and I couldn’t wait to get back to work so I could feel like I was actually doing something.

But you ARE doing something! You’re raising a baby! people tried to tell me. It didn’t erase the fact that without work and no routine to speak of, with sleep deprivation and zero energy, I was starting to get severely depressed. I was honestly thinking of dropping the baby off at the fire station and checking myself into a mental health institution. It was that bad.

Then I went back to work and the world brightened instantly. I went back to normal. The fog lifted. Everything was better. My hat is off to the stay-at-home mothers of the world. I don’t know how you do it. I admire you deeply.

Even so, all this is not to say that I would choose career over family. A career should serve the family, not the other way around. The family does not exist to serve one’s career, and if it does, you’re doing it wrong… or you’re a politician.

My three months of maternity hell leave made me question my own motives. Do I love my job at the expense of my family? I don’t think so. I try my best to keep my time within the standard eight hours a day and not take on unnecessary extra work. I keep it in my head that a job is a job, and a job cannot love me in the way that my family can. If I lost my job, it would be devastating but ultimately replaceable, but if I lost my family, it would be devastating and irreplaceable.

Perhaps if circumstances were different, and my family was in a situation where I did not have to work to keep us afloat, I would have enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps it was just postpartum hormones, and not simply being out of work, that made me so miserable. Perhaps if I had started my family before starting my career, I would have wanted to stay home with the child(ren), but alas, today’s economy really doesn’t allow that. Gone are the days when one can get married straight out of high school or college and expect to live on one person’s income while supporting children.

As my son gets older, perhaps things will change, and I’ll be better able to balance career and family. Now I feel like one or the other always gets the short end of the stick. “They” say things like Do what’s best for you and your family, not what everyone else thinks is best, and that’s what I try to do. But man, those comments from the peanut gallery can really get you down. (And that’s a post for another time.)

If It Brings Joy

In general, I don’t like “stuff.” Clothes shopping is a rare occasion for me. I can’t remember the last time I bought jewelry, knickknacks, or something that was a want and not a need.

So you’d think I’d be an adherent to Marie Kondo’s philosophy of getting rid of things that don’t bring joy. In an ideal world in which I live in my own neat little bubble, I would be, but it’s hard when I have a husband who is a pack rat and a baby who will naturally accumulate tons of clothes, bottles, books, toys, and other accessories. (I’m dreading the days when I have to avoid stepping on Legos and K’nex!)

Books are probably the physical object I love the most, if I had to pick something. Not only are they useful, they are decorative. Little is more aesthetically pleasing to me than an organized bookshelf. Notebooks and journals are also difficult to part with, even if they’ve never been written in. They are essentially books and have that same pleasing aesthetic quality.

But the sad fact remains that books take up space, which is a precious and rare commodity in our apartment. So I pared my book collection down to only 30. To be honest, it wasn’t all that difficult. Every reader has books in his collection that are destined to be sitting on the shelf for years, never read and never touched. Probably 90% of my books fell into that category.

Every reader also has books that, for whatever reason, he will never part with and would probably be buried with, if given the opportunity. Those were the 30 books I kept. Only two were fiction (both by William Faulkner). The others were writing related and other nonfiction. Religious books didn’t count because my husband wanted to keep most of them; I think if I had included religious books in my 30, it would have been a lot harder to choose only 30. I did cheat a little by keeping two “keepsake” books and another written by a friend, but all three are pretty small and won’t take up much room. 🙂

Is it easy or hard for you to part with physical things?

When East Meets West…

“…there’s gonna be one hell of a mess.” (Warlock, led by Doro Pesch [1987])

When you hear the word “Catholic,” you most likely think of the Roman (or Western) Catholic Church, headed by Pope Francis in Rome. However, there is also a much smaller segment of the Catholic Church known as the Eastern Rite, whose traditions are flavored with the cultures of the Ukraine, Armenia, Greece, and many other countries, depending on which branch of the Eastern Church you adhere to or visit. The Eastern Church is still led by Pope Francis, but its bishops are different from Roman bishops, and when you walk into an Eastern service, you wonder if you’re even in a Catholic parish at all. The closest thing to compare it to would be an Orthodox service (which I haven’t been to, but that’s what I’ve heard).

My husband has been having a dalliance with the Eastern Church recently, so this past Saturday, we went an afternoon Divine Liturgy (the equivalent of the Mass in the Roman Church). My first (completely honest) impression of the church building itself was that it looked like a ghetto daycare. Some old-looking jungle gyms had been set up out back, and the building looked like it could use a new coat of paint. My second impression was that the interior smelled like cucumbers and incense, and the latter scent only increased as the priest swung his censer all throughout the service. The Eastern Church in general is a tiny community, comprising only about 1.5% of the entire Catholic Church worldwide. Here in North Carolina, the Eastern Church is even tinier. I doubt 50 people would have fit comfortably in the church we visited.

I enjoyed the first homily, which was given by the deacon. He wasn’t afraid to state the absolute truths of the Catholic faith in black and white, something you don’t often encounter in Roman Catholic churches nowadays. I felt like standing up and screaming, “Amen, brother!” at certain points as if I was at a Southern Baptist church, but I was already standing up and trying to keep a handle on my squirming child, who desperately wanted to get down and flail on the floor in his recent attempts to crawl. Instead, he settled for making goo-goo eyes at the baby next to us.

The second homily (apparently not a common occurrence) was given by the priest. He spoke about the Pan-Amazonian Synod that will be held in October. Again, I agreed with his opinion and was glad that he stated it because, again, personal opinion and overt statements of the truth are not frequently heard in the Roman Church, which is a terrible shame. I mean, come on. If you believe that truth is truth, say it. (This is a rant for another time.)

What I didn’t like was that the entire Divine Liturgy, except the homilies, was sung in what I found to be an atonal drone. I nearly fell asleep, and as a result, I didn’t get much out of the service and couldn’t focus (although this may have been partially due to my son’s attempts to wriggle out of my grasp). As I mentioned before, there were so many differences between Eastern and Western Catholic worship that it would take a long time to get used to. Even the saints the East venerates differ from Western saints, and not as much emphasis is placed on the Rosary, which made me sad.

It was a nice visit, but I doubt I return anytime soon. I’m a Roman Catholic through and through. I’m Italian and German. My roots are with Rome. My culture is with Rome. It was nice to try another flavor, but I did not find it to my liking (although I sincerely wish Roman Catholic priests would speak out about Catholicism’s beautiful truths more often).