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.)

Thursday Three #37

  1. This article nicely condenses a lot of what I’ve been thinking in the past few weeks into a small package. The theory is that killers such as Adam Lanza, the Columbine shooters, and now Devin Kelley, did what they did primarily because of our culture, which is becoming more and more devoid of genuine human connection. We have lost genuine human connection because of automation and technology. We can do tasks such as check out at a grocery store and check in at a hotel without any human connection whatsoever. This can lead to feeling isolated, which can lead to irrational resentment and hatred, which, combined with guns, untreated/undiagnosed mental illness, a toxic upbringing, or any other number of factors, can lead to mass murders.
  2. Here’s another good article about why reading literature matters. The article is geared toward college students, but it’s an excellent reminder to not let your reading habit fall by the wayside. Read widely, and you will grow in knowledge and wisdom.
  3. Sorry for the shameless self-promotion, but I wrote a blog post for the American Medical Writers’ Association. The purpose of it was to advertise an open session my colleague and I presented at a conference a couple weeks ago. I believe it’s the first time I’ve written a blog post for something that isn’t this blog, so that’s a kind of milestone. 🙂 If you’re into writing grant submissions and proposals or that’s something you do regularly, you may find it interesting.

How is your week going?

The Four-Day Schedule

If you had a choice between a “standard” work schedule (i.e., Monday through Friday for 8 hours each day) and a “shortened” schedule (i.e., Monday through Thursday for 10 hours each day), which would you choose?

At first, the shortened schedule looks like it would be great. After all, you do get Friday off, so you can get used to having long, luxurious three-day weekends. I personally don’t think I would do it, simply because cramming 10 hours of work into a single day would be painful mentally and physically, especially for four days in a row. My job involves thinking and basically being inside my own head all day long, as well as sitting in front of a computer screen, so I’d overthink myself into panic mode and strain my eyes. Other jobs might lend themselves better to 10-hour stretches.

To me, the main problem with the standard work schedule is that it can get tiring going into work five days in a row, especially if you commute every day. My solution to this would be not to have a day off on Friday but to have a day off on Wednesday, so your 10-hour workdays would be broken into more “bite-size” periods. Another solution would be to work remotely on Wednesday if possible so you can avoid the commute and use the time that’s normally spent driving for more worthwhile things, like cleaning or cooking (or maybe even working on a hobby if you’re very lucky).

What do you think? Would you work on a 4-day schedule if you could?