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Mental sharpness and doing well in the work place - Page 2

post #21 of 127
I actually do keep more on top of things when working/ in school full-time with DS in full-time care, than when doing part-time. This is because my particular type of work is not physically demanding, so I am spending more of my time in the day doing non-physically-demanding work as opposed to the very energetic work of chasing a small child; this leaves me more energy for housework and for the time I do spend with DS. Does that make sense? Of course that will be different for different people.
post #22 of 127
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by spedteacher30 View Post
I've talked about this with other working moms who work in intellectually/creatively demanding fields. I honestly think it is that once you have children it is very hard to achieve flow--you can't immerse yourself in work any longer because you constantly have part of your brain holding back in case your child needs you. Even if your child is safely in loving and wonderful care, your mothering instinct holds you back from immersion in your work.
Thank you for this. I have found this to be so true. Not to be dismissive or snarky or anything, but I do think that working in a field that is intellectually or creatively demanding, like you said, where you have to churn out projects that require a lot of knowledge and skill, is quite different than working part time in a job where there are no deadlines and no projects, where it would be the same sort of customer service oriented or routine activities every day.

My husband always says the difference is a job where a sub could fill in for you if you call in sick or you take a vacation day. Can someone else you work with just cover you? Or is it that you in your background and you with your skill set bring something to longer term projects that no one else could just jump into?

I think that might be the difference.

I feel that if I had a part time job in something like that, it wouldn't be the same level of stress or responsibility or demand on me.

I hope that makes sense.

The thing is I could most likely find a job like that, that would work so much better right now or the next couple of years while I have a young child, but it would pay drastically less (and make day care unaffordable) and it wouldn't be adding to my resume or building upon my career. It wouldn't even make me that financially viable or independent. And this is why I think women's careers take more of a hit when they have children, even if they work after having kids.

I feel the pressure - extreme pressure - to stay on top of my game at work because even though I'm working, that's not enough to keep a career going. It's exhausting.
post #23 of 127
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Prairiemother View Post
I am just realizing how much I have had to sacrifice in my career even though in theory I still have that career.

I have to say, though, that experiencing these difficulties makes me more determined to continue my part-time work. I am starting to realize what challenges women face when try to return to work after being a SAHM. I totally support the idea of being a SAHM, btw, but I couldn't justify it, at least not until my student loans are paid off!
Wow, I wrote my post [below] in response to another poster before I read your post and...you basically said what I was saying.

I have found this, too, that in theory I still have a career - I'm working in my field and I have a really good job - but it is darn hard to keep it all going. The pressure of keeping the career going is enormous. I feel that if I take any additional time off from my career or if I decide to work part time for a while in an odd sort of job that would be less stressful, it will basically make me a nobody with a nothing resume and I won't get a chance to get back into this career.

It doesn't help that I'm in a male dominated field that requires advanced degrees and advanced certifications and ongoing professional credits. It also doesn't help that the rules of our field are subject to laws that change and that new issues emerge and I stepped away for a short time for maternity and I came back and things were different. It's not a field you can really leave for 5 years, but then maybe no field is like that for professional, well-paid work. It really is enormous pressure on women who are mothers but need to keep a career going.
post #24 of 127
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by lolar2 View Post
I actually do keep more on top of things when working/ in school full-time with DS in full-time care, than when doing part-time. This is because my particular type of work is not physically demanding, so I am spending more of my time in the day doing non-physically-demanding work as opposed to the very energetic work of chasing a small child; this leaves me more energy for housework and for the time I do spend with DS. Does that make sense? Of course that will be different for different people.
What do you do?

I work in a field that isn't physically demanding, but I have to say that mentally demanding jobs, for me, have been harder than the manual labors ones I had as a teen/college student. In college, I had a low paying job that required heavy lifting, a lot of walking, and you had to do it fast, and in refrigerated temps! It was a physically demanding job. It's nothing compared to the job I have now, or have had the last decade, where I have to prepare things that are grilled in meetings with outside reps. Those meetings leave me beaten mentally and physically. They are my main challenge.

And that is where the mental acuity comes in. I just am not as sharp and quick to answer complicated, complex, technical or legal questions on the spot.
post #25 of 127
Thread Starter 

My husband has it backwards

Quote:
Originally Posted by Prairiemother View Post
I have to say, though, that experiencing these difficulties makes me more determined to continue my part-time work. I am starting to realize what challenges women face when try to return to work after being a SAHM. I totally support the idea of being a SAHM, btw, but I couldn't justify it, at least not until my student loans are paid off!
Your post about being a SAHM and the impact on a future in one's career made me want to post something I've been mulling over for a while now.

I think the SAHM and working mom issue that hits so close to my home and my heart is always presented sort of backwards.

My husband, especially, looks at it backwards. He thinks that I am a loser, basically, although he uses more colorful terms, because I stayed at home after our baby was born for a little over 2 years. Prior to that, I'd worked a decade in my field and had a good career, and he "thought" I was career oriented. He always says that condescendingly.

He thought I was career oriented. Past tense.

OK, look, things change when you have a baby, right? Especially in my personal, anecdotal world where I have absolutely no family to help out and where my husband works long hours (either because it's required, or he's goofing off with is pod casts, or because he wants a break from me or our child - it's a combination). But the thing is he's always worked late and long hours and he has never taken time off and it never used to be a big deal because as a childless woman I could handle everything myself, and basically did.

So, having a child changed the entire dynamic of our relationship, and the way our household runs.

It's basically chaos now. My DH helps out LESS than most husbands of SAHMs I know! It's so shameful, I think. I've grown so resentful of him. Yeah, that doesn't help, but this is years into it, and I've approached him many times, and he is just not going to change. I've tried what I can try. It's not going to change. So, I'm just treading water.

And it's not that I don't want to work. Like I said, I was and am a career person. I like my career. I like the work, I like the people, I like the issues I am connected with, I like the stimulation, I like the challenge, I like it all, including making my own money and getting my own, way better benefits than DH. He makes comments now and again about the amount of money I make or that I can't use his money on something so I guess, really, I have the kind of marriage where I need to make my own money if I want to do certain things in life that DH doesn't agree with.

But here's the thing. There's no acknowledgement that anything has changed when I had a baby who is now a toddler. It's like, just keep going, keep working the way we worked before, nothing is different. Everything is different.

Here's what is backwards: DH thinks only women who didn't have a career, or aren't career oriented, or wouldn't make enough to pay for daycare are SAHMs. And let's be honest, even on MDC, which is so welcoming, balanced, and understanding, that is often a thread of belief. I have seen so many posts where a mom says, well, it was a no brainer, I didn't/don't make enough to pay for daycare so I stay at home.

But I think that is backwards. I know there are women who gave up good careers where day care was paid for because the demands of balancing a career and a family are tough, or because the work/home balance between spouses was not equal and something had to give, or because the emotional tug at leaving young children day in and day out, even with excellent day care options was, well, biological and strong.

I have felt all three of those things, deeply and emotionally.

My DH has it wrong. He has it backwards. I do not ever think I want to be a SAHM because of my career drive or lack there of. It has nothing to do with my career! It is only because, 100% because, I have a child now.

If I didn't have a child...if I had not given birth to my child...I would never have taken any amount of time away from work or my career. I would have kept going the same way I had been going the decade prior to giving birth.

So, I get mightily offended when DH starts questioning anything about my career or my drive or my motives or my interest in things outside of the house. He has it backwards. I am not starting from a place of career or no career. I had a career, I still have it, it's just now I also have a child, and that child will be my child, though will have matured into adulthood, long after I retire from my career, be that in 20 years or at some point sooner.

DH was telling me yesterday, which is why I am thinking of this, that I shouldn't compare myself to SAHMs we know that never wanted a career or didn't have one. "Stop comparing yourself to the lowest common denominator." That's a direct quote. What DH didn't get is that I wasn't talking about career. I was talking about parenting.

DH can't separate parenting from career, ever. To him, career is just a given, and if you can't be a parent while having a career, you are not career oriented. And I think we all know here at least that isn't true at all.
post #26 of 127
ThatIsNice--

I am going to share a little of my career trajectory, hoping you can find something useful in it. Since I tend to ramble and sometimes people can't see the immediate connection, I'll tell you ahead of time, this is a story of changing one's job within the same career, and adjusting one's expectations for oneself.

When I was in college (at a high-powered, demanding college) I majored in educational policy with the intention of working for a think-tank or becoming a professor like Ted Sizer who was a world-renowned educational theorist and consultant about educational design and school reform. My parents suggested (and I heartily agreed with them) that teaching first would make sense--so I got my masters in teaching in special education and taught for 7 years at an urban public middle school.

I spent 7 years teaching and getting more and more involved in both city-level policy and the teacher's union. I got burned out, realized that I would never have the reserves I needed to raise my own child while teaching and experiencing the emotional gauntlet that is teaching high-needs adolescents with disabilities. So, I went back to my original career trajectory, and started working on a PhD full-time. I was planning to be a professor at that point.

I got pregnant and had our son while taking classes, got really depressed, realized that I was a mediocre mother and a mediocre student trying to balance it all. I hated the idea of the tenure process and publish or perish, I realized that most of the research done is pointless (sorry, researchers! it's true in education at least). So, I dropped to part-time and took a job with in the state headquarters of the teacher's union.

So, now, I do research into both compensation and instructional practices, I monitor the state board of education and the state government for changes that will affect our members and teaching and learning, and I work with local leaders in the organization to affect real change within their school systems.

It is not that it's the best job in the world, or even what I ever imagined doing, but I am still doing the major things I had envisioned back in college. And, I get paid more now as a middle-level bureaucrat than most entry level professors make, without the pressure of tenure hanging over me. I have great health insurance, and pay almost nothing for my son and partner to be on the family plan. I have the most generous retirement contribution i have ever heard of, and I work in a place that recognizes that parents are the primary teacher for their children, and does everything they can to support parenting. There are still days when I cringe at the thought of going to work, and there are still days I'd rather be playing with my son. I still occasionally cry on the way to or from work because I am stressed about the balance, but for the most part, that is all gone.

So, all that to say: Is there a way to tweak your job and do something similar but not identical? Like, if you are a computer programmer for a large company, can you find a job with a small firm that does some sort of specialty work?

Admittedly, my situation is very different than yours, because I have a supportive partner who is older than I am, and happy to step aside and let my career be our primary career, and her work be work, not a career. I had a professor who told me that she and her husband learned early that in order to have a successful family, only one parent can have a primary career, and the other must have a supportive career. And, she and her husband figured out how to have her be in the supportive career initially as he created a computer business of his own, and then flipped so she is now primary and he is supportive--she was initially a post-doc and then research faculty for a million years, and then once his company was established, she applied to go tenure track and was accepted and now is on a more traditional path again.
post #27 of 127
I am struggling with this. I work in a field where this is absolutely not acceptable. Twice in the past two months I had made mistakes that could have resulted in death. I was able to fix them, but that isn't the point. Now, I am petrified to go back into work.

These past two years, I have had four miscarriages, lost my home, went into bankruptcy, moved to a part of the country wherein I know no one, am the sole supporter of my family while my husband is going to school and throughout, I have been able to work without errors that could result in harm. Now I have made two. I am so shaken by this.

I need my job to be able to put food on the table. I can't just move to a less stressful job, because we are moving again in four months. I have to figure out how to last at least four more months, and going back into work.... the possibility that I am a walking time bomb of inaccuracy just makes me want to run away as fast as I can to Tahiti and put on a straw hat and never come out of my grass hut again.

But I can't. I have to go back. I have to work and I have to never make another error again. I don't know the source of my issue other than I guess it's just finally all added up. But how do I fix it??
post #28 of 127
Quote:
Originally Posted by That Is Nice View Post
I've contemplated this very thing. What causes it? All these changes? Just being a parent? Going part time?

While I know that my days might be more consistent if I were to work full time, and I could afford more child care and convenience things, I really don't think going full time from my part time status is going to improve things. I think it would worsen. I'm already really tired and totally not able to keep up with laundry and dishes and household things. If I started working full time, as many have recommended, the quality of life due to piling laundry, dishes, errands would plummet.
Well it's really hard to say. I definitely lack in mental energy a lot of the time and I don't feel like I perform as well as I did before having a child - but I do feel it's starting to improve. And some things I'm actually better at, like I know I have to leave at 4:15, so I don't procrastinate. (Also I live in fear of sick days.)

That said here's what improved for me going full time:

Work:
- I'm at work for the full workday so I don't spend time wondering what I've missed or feeling guilty for not getting back to people etc. Showing up to meetings and things does mean I feel (whether it was true or not) that people are judging me less.
- Mentally, being there each day does help me stay on top of things.
- I accrue the full benefits (sick/vacation time etc.)
- I feel better about my contribution (weird but true)

Home:
- For us the full-time care we found is really good and includes extras like martial arts, yoga, music, so I feel like I don't have to handle as much of the enrichment as I would otherwise
- We're not home so the house stays tidier - even though my son can trash it pretty fast, it's not the same as doing craft projects all day
- Because my work is more in my head, I actually enjoy doing the housework and gardening as a change of pace.

Laundry and cooking remain pretty much the same, although lunch is part of the daycare.
post #29 of 127
Quote:
Originally Posted by geekgolightly View Post
I need my job to be able to put food on the table. I can't just move to a less stressful job, because we are moving again in four months. I have to figure out how to last at least four more months, and going back into work.... the possibility that I am a walking time bomb of inaccuracy just makes me want to run away as fast as I can to Tahiti and put on a straw hat and never come out of my grass hut again.

But I can't. I have to go back. I have to wok and I have to never make another error again. I don't know the source of my issue other than I guess it's just finally all added up. But how do I fix it??
That is so hard. I had a similar period of time a few years ago and the stress of it did hit in a delayed way.

I would honestly suggest a walk before work every day to help clear your adrenaline out a bit. I don't know how your work works but is there someone at your work that you could approach to spot check you from time to time or back you up here and there?

Also remember that each error is that - ONE error - and you are very responsible to be aware (and clearly in your job, you have to be). But it doesn't mean you will be a "walking time bomb of inaccuracy." Breathe and give yourself the space to regain your judgment - the fact that you are thinking about it tells me you will find a way to address it.
post #30 of 127
Quote:
Originally Posted by That Is Nice View Post

DH was telling me yesterday, which is why I am thinking of this, that I shouldn't compare myself to SAHMs we know that never wanted a career or didn't have one. "Stop comparing yourself to the lowest common denominator." That's a direct quote. What DH didn't get is that I wasn't talking about career. I was talking about parenting.

DH can't separate parenting from career, ever. To him, career is just a given, and if you can't be a parent while having a career, you are not career oriented. And I think we all know here at least that isn't true at all.
Sometimes I really just want your phone number so I can give your DH a piece of my mind.

What is sad about this is - a job doesn't love you back. And I love my job and I love working & earning, and I would work no matter what.

But it does. not. love. you. back. It is really sad that your DH is missing out on the love you could give him if he weren't such a jerk, and the possibility of his loving - working for and with and alongside AT HOME - family. It's awful. I am sorry he is so narrow minded.
post #31 of 127
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by spedteacher30 View Post
I had a professor who told me that she and her husband learned early that in order to have a successful family, only one parent can have a primary career, and the other must have a supportive career. And, she and her husband figured out how to have her be in the supportive career initially as he created a computer business of his own, and then flipped so she is now primary and he is supportive--she was initially a post-doc and then research faculty for a million years, and then once his company was established, she applied to go tenure track and was accepted and now is on a more traditional path again.
Thanks for writing this.

Essentially, my DH does not believe this [above, what you wrote] and he would never say something like this.

You know, on some levels I think my DH has issues with working women and SAHMs, although I can't identify what exactly it is. It's something. I think he sees himself in the unwelcome role of - his poor choice of phrase, which I absolutely abhor - sugar daddy if I work anything less than full time. Even now, working part time in pretty awesome field and pretty awesome title, he doesn't truly respect that.
post #32 of 127
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by geekgolightly View Post
I am struggling with this. I work in a field where this is absolutely not acceptable. Twice in the past two months I had made mistakes that could have resulted in death. I was able to fix them, but that isn't the point. Now, I am petrified to go back into work.

These past two years, I have had four miscarriages, lost my home, went into bankruptcy, moved to a part of the country wherein I know no one, am the sole supporter of my family while my husband is going to school and throughout, I have been able to work without errors that could result in harm. Now I have made two. I am so shaken by this.

I need my job to be able to put food on the table. I can't just move to a less stressful job, because we are moving again in four months. I have to figure out how to last at least four more months, and going back into work.... the possibility that I am a walking time bomb of inaccuracy just makes me want to run away as fast as I can to Tahiti and put on a straw hat and never come out of my grass hut again.

But I can't. I have to go back. I have to work and I have to never make another error again. I don't know the source of my issue other than I guess it's just finally all added up. But how do I fix it??
Oh, my goodness. I just have to say, hang in there. And I wish I could give you some answers. Your situation sounds so hard, and so much more difficult and challenging than my own.

I should just shut up now.

I'm so sorry that you face such major challenges. You must be a very strong person to have handled all this so long.

I wish you the very best.

Good luck.
post #33 of 127
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
Sometimes I really just want your phone number so I can give your DH a piece of my mind.

What is sad about this is - a job doesn't love you back. And I love my job and I love working & earning, and I would work no matter what.

But it does. not. love. you. back. It is really sad that your DH is missing out on the love you could give him if he weren't such a jerk, and the possibility of his loving - working for and with and alongside AT HOME - family. It's awful. I am sorry he is so narrow minded.
Yes! Thank you. That was actually part of what I was thinking yesterday! A job does not love you back and can never be compared to a child.

I'd work a job I hated for my child. I quit a job I loved for my child. (And I'm putting up with a man I don't want to be married to only because he's the father of my child, honestly).
post #34 of 127
GuildJenn, I think working out, or just a quick brisk walk around the block might help before work. The fresh air might do me a world of good. I'll start that. Thanks.

That Is Nice, While I do think I have had a rough couple of years, I don't know how well I would do in your situation. I've read your posts for a while in PAP. Living with someone who is tearing you down seems, to me, to be unsustainable. I hope that one day, either he wakes up and sees himself as he truly is and changes, or you are able to leave and start a new, harder at first for sure, but ultimately better life for you and your kiddos. Life is hard enough as it is without someone there whispering in your ear about how much you suck at it. KWIM? You deserve better.
post #35 of 127
Quote:
Originally Posted by That Is Nice View Post
I think the SAHM and working mom issue that hits so close to my home and my heart is always presented sort of backwards.
Yes, it is exactly backwards. The whole world has it backwards. I had it backwards, before I became someone's mother.

When I went back to work full time at 8 weeks (bc I did not think I had a choice to do otherwise), someone said to me that that was 'hard-core.' As in, something to be admired. And when I said it was difficult, someone else asked me if that was because of the sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation?! I didn't mean it was hard on me personally - I meant it was hard on my child, my 8-week-old baby who desperately needed her mom and was suffering innocently and needlessly. I did not feel what I had done in returning to work so early was admirable in the least. I thought it was ignorant and cruel, actually.

Somehow the world thinks that maternity leave/SAH is for the mom. Duh. It is not for the mom. It is for the child, and children are the ones being hurt by the pathetic threadbare patchwork of maternity/flex 'options' in the US.

Anyway, that is my rant.

That Is Nice, I've been following your posts as well and I am really sorry for your situation. I agree that your DH is 100% wrong but I also think that the only way your life can become tolerable is if you force some kind of change. I would drag him to counseling under threat of divorce, because I agree with what others here have said, that your life now seems unsustainable.

And honestly I would be ready to back up the threat. Usually I'm more of the 'child-needs-two-parents' school of thought but honestly I am not sure whether it is benefiting your son to have a mom who is so unendingly overworked, tired, and resentful, and a dad who just doesn't seem to get it. What is your son learning from this situation, and is it what you would like for him to learn?
post #36 of 127
Mambera, most marriage counselors can unwittingly make abuse worse because they are not trained to address abuse/ DV (although I know a few who are-- if you can find someone with a degree in Community and Clinical Psychology from Georgia State, they are trained in both from what I understand-- that was where my sister got her degree).

TIN, I'm in academia but right now I'm a part-time Ph.D student. When I was full-time and TA'ing, parenting was a bit easier as I said (though there were some things that were harder).
post #37 of 127
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mambera View Post
someone said to me that that was 'hard-core.' As in, something to be admired.
I know exactly what you mean. Exactly. I have had this same attitude from people, including my husband, for the past couple of years.

I just don't know why it's admirable. I mean, there are many admirable things about having a career and maintaining the balancing act if and when you have children. I respect that.

But skipping out on maternity leave by choice? I understand if it's something that must be done for financial or other reasons, but to look at an early return as admirable...I just don't know about that.

My husband is in that camp, though. He's said to me that a couple of women he works with (there are very few, but there are some) are strong and didn't take a maternity leave or work full time and don't breastfeed, etc. That really is DH's ideal. Different values. I am going to bet that these women probably don't see their situation as ideal and probably aren't going to have an honest heart to heart with my husband, their co-worker.

I just feel incredible sadness for women who aren't able to take at least 3 months of maternity leave. It really should be an option for all parents, and we need better laws in this country. And I'm willing to put my tax dollars to that end.
post #38 of 127
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mambera View Post
Somehow the world thinks that maternity leave/SAH is for the mom. Duh. It is not for the mom. It is for the child, and children are the ones being hurt by the pathetic threadbare patchwork of maternity/flex 'options' in the US.
Exactly.

Yes, exactly.

I mean, I never once questioned my career before I had a baby. Work wasn't all roses and sunshine, but a lot of it was good, and I made it work and I did it steadfastly for a decade. And if my child were in high school right now, would I have this struggle? I doubt it. It's really about the child in the younger years when parenting is so intense and you have to do everything for or with your child.
post #39 of 127
Your husband thinks it's admirable of his colleagues to skip out on their leave, because that meant less inconvenience for him. Anything that inconveniences your husband=bad and anything that improves his convenience=admirable, from what you've described. Did you read any of Stanton Samenow's books yet? I'd think they would make his behavior and reactions much more predictable for you and provide you with an organizing principle for dealing with him. That alone might improve your stress level.
post #40 of 127
Wow, that situation sounds really tough. I think the emotional complexities are likely a primary factor leading to your feeling of a lack of sharpness. First, I'd imagine that it's just impossible to feel like you're measuring up to your FT colleagues when you're working part-time. Not that it's not a great opportunity (to keep pace, at least for the most part, in your field while you have young kids), but I'd find that context emotionally challenging. I find it challenging enough to feel like I'm performing well while working FT but telecommuting 2 days/week and staying on top of the game by all measureable standards--and it's a real mental trip to stay on top of the emotions of it all. I think flexibility, even when generously offered, has its hidden challenges that it's hard to stay aware of and deal with productively on an ongoing basis.

I also find toddlers incredibly intellectually and emotionally challenging--much more than infants or preschoolers/elementary schoolers. To me, the mental agility required by their developing sense of agency coupled with inherent irrationality is just exhausting (though I adore the age too for all the obviously wonderful things about it!)

And then there's your partner's attitude, which is just terrible and demeaning--and from what the other posters have said it seems like there's a lot of difficulties in your relationship--so trying to run two emotional marathons every day/week (work/toddler) with no support to fuel you just seems miserable. Ugh. I'm so sorry.

I suspect my criteria must be different from most of the other posters, because I do think it's possible to be mentally sharp on the job and good parents--but I think it's only possible if there's support all around--financial, emotional--and if you feel valued in all the parts of your life. And if all the parenting doesn't fall on one person.

For me, it'd be too hard to work half-time and keep up with my job--but I have occasionally thought about 3/4 time--a friend of mine (completely different field, but similar to mine in that it's associated with academia and expectations are very high) works that and I envy her balance. It's very tempting now that I have a 14 month old, but I have flexibility in other ways that is sufficing for now, and working fewer hours would give me less leverage for the flexibility I have now with telecommuting, etc. so I'll most likely just not go down that path at all. If I had concerns about housework, etc., and had the option and a bouncing off the walls kind of kid, I'd also try to have just a bit more daycare than hours I needed to work, to be able to get things done very efficiently and then have less pressure on the time I spent with my child. (like 3/4 time daycare with 1/2 time work, or FT daycare with 3/4 time work--and would try to not use it all the time, but having the option could offer some breathing room).
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