Mental sharpness and doing well in the work place - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 127 Old 02-26-2010, 09:26 AM - Thread Starter
 
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How do you keep mental sharpness and on top of your game at work, when chasing after a toddler and handling things at home?

I work in a job that requires a lot of research and analysis of fairly technical and complicated issues. The people around at work are all very smart, highly educated people who went to very good schools and have PhDs or law degrees.

And most of them do not have young kids, and most of them are not the primary parent.

Before I had kids, I used to work long hours, and that was one way to stay on the top of the game, and be good at work. I also took a lot of reading home and basically just did my homework to keep mentally sharp.

Now, though, I find I can't work at home on my days off because I have to do other things. I just don't have enough time to read all the reports and studies and be up to date on things.

I feel like I've slipped and I'm just not as good as I once was at work, and I just don't have the time anymore, or at least for right now and the forseeable future.

I hate that I'm not as good as I once was.

Also, my memory is shot from the hectic schedule, the running here and there, and my overactive, high needs, ADHD, sensory seeking toddler who simply is never going to be quiet, sit still, and bounces off the walls most of the day and does so much running and jumping, I feel like it's a full time job just to get through the day without any major injuries. How am I going to sit down and read through a report?

I feel like I need to find an easier job, but, obviously, the pay wouldn't be anywhere near what I can earn in my field, and my DH would look down on me and see me as a failure if I'm not in my field, using my degree, and challenging myself. And, also I already was a SAHM for 2 years and I feel like my resume took enough of a hit from that. If I were to leave the field entirely, even while working, I might never get back into the field and then my lifetime earning potential would be way down to the point where I know it would impact my quality of life.

It's not that I make a huge amount of money, but I know I make more working in my field, using my degree, than in any other job I could have. And my salary right now just at the half time rate basically covers child care expenses and a few other things. If I worked in a job outside my field, financially I don't think it would cover the cost of day care or make it worth my while to work.
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#2 of 127 Old 02-26-2010, 12:04 PM
 
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I honestly think this is one of those situations where you can have it all, but not all at the same time. I'm truly not as good or as effective a worker as I was before kids. I'm 8 months pregnant now and at that "stupid" phase. Like I prepped this meeting agenda on Friday for a Monday meeting and had it all ready to go. I came in Monday and added to items to the agenda that I was certain needed to be there but we had EXPLICITLY said would be discussed at a different meeting. This is with senior exectutives and we had to back out and say "never mind..."

I just think life is cyclical and it runs in phases. I have a 7 yo also and I was just getting "back in the game" when I got pregnant. I was a good worker back in my 20s and I'll be a good worker again in another 5 years when the kids are older. For now, I'll settle for being an OK worker and an OK parent. I don't need to be at the top of my game in both of these things at the same time. I'm good being "mediocre" at both. Some people may make other choices, they may choose to focus on being REALLY good at one thing at a time. Nothing wrong with that either.

Everyone will have distractions that may keep them preoccupied at work - whether it's kids, divorce, death, emotional turmoil or whatever OR they will ALWAYS be at the top of their game at work, but lead a lonely life or their families can't count on them .

PS - I don't really think I'm mediocre as a parent or a worker, but it's short-hand for what I'm trying to say. I'm really pretty satisfied with me life in general.

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#3 of 127 Old 02-26-2010, 12:35 PM
 
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Ditto Eillen's post. Well said. I was a hard, efficient, clever employee. Could solve most any complex problem thrown at me, and lived on that thrill. I married a hard working, clever programmer working at the same company. Then we had our DS. My brain turned to mush. I loved my job at the time, so I got my groove back reasonably quickly. But 2 years later I had DD and my brain turned to less than mush! "Breast feeding brain" isn't an expression for nothing!

Due to other circumstances (a fabulous work environment going to pot), I have not gotten totally up to speed again. My kids are just more important. They are only kids so long, and growing fast. And my job won't be there to be thrilled with my kids achievements. And my job won't hug me when I am old.... So I would say I am a very good mother, but an average employee; but WAY more important, instead of feeling like I have fallen behind, I feel happy that I have such a warm, healthy balance in my life now. I feel good! In fact I am working on being MORE AVERAGE, because I am a happier person that way. My family and friends need to come first.

I think you can have it all, just not at the same time. You can be a great employee/employer, or you can be a great mother or a great wife or a great artist or whatever. But you can not be great at all of these at the same time. I know, I tried it once. I was great at EVERYTHING - for about 6 months, until I was so time limited and so stressed and so burnt out that I actually got very ill. Something had to give. For me that was work. Other people may make other choices. Make the choice that will make you the happiest.
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#4 of 127 Old 02-26-2010, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have a 7 yo also and I was just getting "back in the game" when I got pregnant. I was a good worker back in my 20s and I'll be a good worker again in another 5 years when the kids are older.
Thank you.

But, wow, did it really take 6 years to feel like you were getting back in the game (the age of your older child minus the number of months you are pregnant)?

I am just so...tired...and often feel bad at work because I can't do the quality of work I'm used to, and I want to do, and also I have a big problem with memory these days and it takes me longer to read and understand things than it used to. I'm just not as quick, and I hate that.
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#5 of 127 Old 02-26-2010, 02:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think you can have it all, just not at the same time.
I wish someone could get this point across to my husband.
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#6 of 127 Old 02-26-2010, 03:19 PM
 
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I work in a mentally demanding field, too, TIN, and can relate to your frustrations. I'm single, I WOHM FT, and I have a 7 y.o. DD.

My emotional, intellectual, and physical reserves are finite. Accepting that I'm human and not superhuman has been hard for me. Instead of being a star at work like I was in the past, I'm now content to be a contributor. That acceptance has been hard, too, but it's vitally important to me to reserve my best energies for DD and our family life.

That isn't to say that I don't have my "gulp" moments at the office when I see people getting assignments and advancements that would have come to me in previous years.

It's a constant balancing and re-balancing act for me.

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#7 of 127 Old 02-26-2010, 05:18 PM
 
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I just came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to be able to do it all. And I chose that I was going to spend time with my kids and home life. It means that my research has faltered. I'm OK with that, for now.

As your kids get older, it does get easier to focus. They sleep better (mostly). They want to entertain themselves while you get things done.

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#8 of 127 Old 02-26-2010, 07:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I work in a mentally demanding field, too, TIN, and can relate to your frustrations. I'm single, I WOHM FT, and I have a 7 y.o. DD.

My emotional, intellectual, and physical reserves are finite. Accepting that I'm human and not superhuman has been hard for me. Instead of being a star at work like I was in the past, I'm now content to be a contributor. That acceptance has been hard, too, but it's vitally important to me to reserve my best energies for DD and our family life.

That isn't to say that I don't have my "gulp" moments at the office when I see people getting assignments and advancements that would have come to me in previous years.

It's a constant balancing and re-balancing act for me.


I love your post so much, I think I am going to cut it and paste it somewhere I can read it every single day.

I think I need to get to the point where I feel OK not being the star at work, and everyone's project darling, the go to person, and be content with being a contributor, and be ok with some of the mediocre work I turn in.

I struggle with this...former A student, real go-getter, always top of the class, and then really great career before having a baby.

And now I'm just not as sharp as I used to be. I know it. I'm just not. I'm not sure if it's the aging process, the baby process, or both. But I am just not as sharp, not as quick, and not as energetic. Things are much harder now, and I'm not even accomplishing as much.

But I have to remember that almost all the work in my life has doubled. I used to have to do laundry for just me, now I do laundry for me and a child. Same with meals, same with bedtime, bathtime, all that. Everything has doubled so of course I don't have the time I used to have or the energy.

Thanks for the post!
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#9 of 127 Old 02-26-2010, 07:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I just came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to be able to do it all. And I chose that I was going to spend time with my kids and home life. It means that my research has faltered. I'm OK with that, for now.

As your kids get older, it does get easier to focus. They sleep better (mostly). They want to entertain themselves while you get things done.
Thank you! Good post. You're in research, too? We should talk...I've not found too many on the working moms boards in a field like this.

Also, you live in the PNW?!?! That is where I want to move! My heart is set on finding a job in research in the PNW.

How come you don't want to live there? (Your sig line...)

To me, it would be perfect. Temperate weather but still distinct seasons. Beautiful scenery. Progressive. Mountains. Ocean.

I'd love to hear your perspective. Thanks much!
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#10 of 127 Old 02-26-2010, 08:11 PM
 
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I'm just getting back in the sharpness game now that DS is 3, but I have oodles of help. If I were doing it all alone, plus being regularly sabotaged by my husband the way you are, it would take me at least until age 7. Also remember that being treated the way your husband treats you is going to generate a constant buzz of a fight-or-flight response, which then impairs your sharpness in other areas. Your sense that just keeping yourself and your child alive and uninjured is a major achievement, is correct.
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#11 of 127 Old 02-26-2010, 08:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm just getting back in the sharpness game now that DS is 3, but I have oodles of help. If I were doing it all alone, plus being regularly sabotaged by my husband the way you are, it would take me at least until age 7. Also remember that being treated the way your husband treats you is going to generate a constant buzz of a fight-or-flight response, which then impairs your sharpness in other areas. Your sense that just keeping yourself and your child alive and uninjured is a major achievement, is correct.
I know this to be true. My worst day is Monday - because, in my opinion - it is the day after a long weekend with DH.

Sigh.

Yes, he very much exacts a toll on me. But so too does parenting. I can't blame it all on DH.

Also, I am getting older, and really feeling it, or maybe that is DH again. I just have no energy. I fall asleep early, don't sleep well, get up early, work all the time, repeat.

Oh, well. I know others have it far worse, and I really have a great job and pretty decent career that I am blessed to have. There are some bright spots.
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#12 of 127 Old 02-28-2010, 03:33 PM
 
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Thank you! Good post. You're in research, too? We should talk...I've not found too many on the working moms boards in a field like this.
I'm a professor, which means that I can focus on teaching and advising students, which is what I've done for the last few years. I'm trying to get my research program back in gear and it's really tough. It's not just mental acuity (that's mostly back), it's the lack of mentors in my area right now.

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Also, you live in the PNW?!?! That is where I want to move! My heart is set on finding a job in research in the PNW.

How come you don't want to live there? (Your sig line...)
I like it here, and if it were closer to our families, I'd be thrilled to be here. It's just really really hard for me to have my kids grow up not really knowing their grandparents, aunts & uncles. I feel like they're missing out on so much. I grew up with a large, close extended family, and my kids don't have that.

In many ways, the area is perfect - temperate (but grey, grey, grey in the winter), progressive (at least in the cities, rural areas are a whole different ballgame), lots of outdoor things to do. I'm literally counting the months until I can quit driving to school and start taking light rail (right now, I'm taking dd with me to K on campus, and it's too much of a walk for her. But in 3 1/2 months, we're done with private K and I'll be commuting on my own).


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Also remember that being treated the way your husband treats you is going to generate a constant buzz of a fight-or-flight response, which then impairs your sharpness in other areas. Your sense that just keeping yourself and your child alive and uninjured is a major achievement, is correct.
Don't discount the effect that stress has on your brain. Really. Right now you're in constant 'fight or flight' mode. Cortisol (released under stress) has well known effects on your ability to process and retain information.


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Yes, he very much exacts a toll on me. But so too does parenting. I can't blame it all on DH.
Yes, parenting does. And I'll be honest that for the first 1-2 years of my kids' lives, my job was hard. But after that, things got better.

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Also, I am getting older, and really feeling it, or maybe that is DH again. I just have no energy. I fall asleep early, don't sleep well, get up early, work all the time, repeat.
Hon, you sound depressed. Given your situation, I'm not surprised. Depression and stress will sap your mental energy. When I had PPD, my brain stopped working. I literally could not even grade my students' papers. (And I have a supportive husband who works from home.)

Is there someone among your health care providers who you can talk to? A counselor to see? I don't know what the right situation is for you, but the one you're in is not tenable long term.

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#13 of 127 Old 03-01-2010, 05:53 PM
 
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But, wow, did it really take 6 years to feel like you were getting back in the game (the age of your older child minus the number of months you are pregnant)?
Well, everyone's story is a little different but here's how it went with me.

Pregnancy - totally on my game! First kid, didn't want to stop, didn't tell work until I was 15 weeks and showing and didn't let up. And honestly, I was fine with that. Worked until baby was born - taking vacation days and going to 3-day weeks at the end. Used to off-days to finish up financial reports for volunteer group. No problem!

Year 1: Completely overwhelmed. Survival mode only. Work, nurse, sleep, tend to baby. Exhausted.

Year 2: Started to do a few more things that felt like "me" (sewing, meetings etc) but not very many and they only served to remind me how much I missed the things that used to be me. Also, kid was toddling and into things and just not as portable as a baby. But she was awesome - language exploding, exploring, pliable, receptive. Fun with baby, but I'd lost "me."

Ages 3.5 - 5! OMG! The terrible 3s (and they didn't end until close to age 5). Felt like EVERYTHING was a battle - she woke up crying, went to bed crying, was dropped at day care crying and wouldn't LEAVE day care without crying. At this point I could do more things for myself, but my DD was very difficult. Any kind of change in schedule was just torture. Getting dressed was a battle etc. Finally took her to some Occupational Therapy for mild sensory issues. Either the therapy helped or she grew out of it.

When I really thought about it, I felt that she was very much struggling to understand the world - and the world was sometimes unpredictable. She had no sense of time and would want to read 2 books, but couldn't understand that some books were longer. Some days were different than other days. Sometimes we did an activity and that changed the schedule.

So - I was just exhausted from the constant grind. (I think this might be where you are due to lack of support at home.) I had no energy for much. This was the constant stress - fight or flight for me. It was MUCH worse than the baby period. In the baby period I was a zombie and tired, but not nearly as stressed and tense as this period of time. I doubted my parenting - everything.

Then by 5 - well, she got really fun again. And independent and she understands more of the world and it's not so frustrating. And I felt like DH and I could again take on commitments, volunteer work, art etc. I can talk to her, explain things, she asks questions. She's really fun. I can bring her places if she REALLY wants to go and set her up with an activity or leave her back with Dad if she wants. I took on a new job at work where I could commit myself to learning new things and really diving into the job.

I took on a monthly newsletter for my volunteer group when my DD was right around 5. I was thinking I'd step back up to the plate and take a job for them. The newsletter slot opened about 6 months before I was really ready, but they were desperate so I took it.

Now, I'm pregnant again and not "pedal to the medal" but I'm doing OK. We've got a good transition plan and I'm able to parse it out among at least 5 other people.

Third generation WOHM. I work by choice.
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#14 of 127 Old 03-01-2010, 09:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, everyone's story is a little different but here's how it went with me.

Pregnancy - totally on my game! First kid, didn't want to stop, didn't tell work until I was 15 weeks and showing and didn't let up. And honestly, I was fine with that. Worked until baby was born - taking vacation days and going to 3-day weeks at the end. Used to off-days to finish up financial reports for volunteer group. No problem!

Year 1: Completely overwhelmed. Survival mode only. Work, nurse, sleep, tend to baby. Exhausted.

Year 2: Started to do a few more things that felt like "me" (sewing, meetings etc) but not very many and they only served to remind me how much I missed the things that used to be me. Also, kid was toddling and into things and just not as portable as a baby. But she was awesome - language exploding, exploring, pliable, receptive. Fun with baby, but I'd lost "me."

Ages 3.5 - 5! OMG! The terrible 3s (and they didn't end until close to age 5). Felt like EVERYTHING was a battle - she woke up crying, went to bed crying, was dropped at day care crying and wouldn't LEAVE day care without crying. At this point I could do more things for myself, but my DD was very difficult. Any kind of change in schedule was just torture. Getting dressed was a battle etc. Finally took her to some Occupational Therapy for mild sensory issues. Either the therapy helped or she grew out of it.

When I really thought about it, I felt that she was very much struggling to understand the world - and the world was sometimes unpredictable. She had no sense of time and would want to read 2 books, but couldn't understand that some books were longer. Some days were different than other days. Sometimes we did an activity and that changed the schedule.

So - I was just exhausted from the constant grind. (I think this might be where you are due to lack of support at home.) I had no energy for much. This was the constant stress - fight or flight for me. It was MUCH worse than the baby period. In the baby period I was a zombie and tired, but not nearly as stressed and tense as this period of time. I doubted my parenting - everything.

Then by 5 - well, she got really fun again. And independent and she understands more of the world and it's not so frustrating. And I felt like DH and I could again take on commitments, volunteer work, art etc. I can talk to her, explain things, she asks questions. She's really fun. I can bring her places if she REALLY wants to go and set her up with an activity or leave her back with Dad if she wants. I took on a new job at work where I could commit myself to learning new things and really diving into the job.

I took on a monthly newsletter for my volunteer group when my DD was right around 5. I was thinking I'd step back up to the plate and take a job for them. The newsletter slot opened about 6 months before I was really ready, but they were desperate so I took it.

Now, I'm pregnant again and not "pedal to the medal" but I'm doing OK. We've got a good transition plan and I'm able to parse it out among at least 5 other people.
Hey, you've pretty much described how it's been for me so far. I think I'm in the 3-5 range right now. The earlier phases is how it was for me, almost exactly.
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#15 of 127 Old 03-05-2010, 02:20 AM
 
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I've been feeling like my career has taken a hit, too. I had three babies in just over four years and took a year off of work with each one (they are approximately two years apart). I returned to work part-time and I don't know whether it is the absence from work, the part-time hours or the challenges inherent in parenting three young children that takes the greatest toll on my mental abilities. I have been back to work about 8 months now and I am still not quite with the swing of things and lately have been wondering whether I ever will be. I can't stay late at work either, because I have to go and pick up the children, and I go in about as early as I can manage to go in and still be awake (I'm not a morning person). Lately I've resolved though to try to do some work-related reading on the weekend while my daughter is at dance class - my "free" hour

Thank you for your post. It's made me think more positively about my situation. I have the same issues as you, I think, and knowing I am not alone makes me feel better about myself even if my difficulties with work will remain. I wish you the best.

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#16 of 127 Old 03-06-2010, 11:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your post. It's made me think more positively about my situation. I have the same issues as you, I think, and knowing I am not alone makes me feel better about myself even if my difficulties with work will remain. I wish you the best.
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#17 of 127 Old 03-06-2010, 11:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I returned to work part-time and I don't know whether it is the absence from work, the part-time hours or the challenges inherent in parenting three young children that takes the greatest toll on my mental abilities.
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.

It's not that I want to spend my hours or my life doing laundry, it's just that I need some amount of time to do these things.

I look at it this way. I used to be a woman without kids, with a good career, who worked full time. And I did my laundry, errands in my free time (evenings and weekends).

Now I have a child. That has doubled the amount of work I have around the house...more laundry, more dishes, way more vacuuming required. I have to get another person ready in the morning when I used to just have to get myself ready.

So, working part time as a mother is harder (for me) than working full time without a child, even with long hours back then.

To be honest, the way I succeeded and stayed on top of the game at work pre-baby was to work late, volunteer for every new project, really get involved, and be a go-to person on everything.

I can't do that anymore. I am falling asleep exhausted every night. I do bring home reading from work to go through with the intention of catching up on things after my child goes to bed, but I'm fried and I fall asleep. Even if I could stay awake, I can't remember anything anymore! My memory and mental accuity is simply not what it was.

Maybe I'm older, now, too, and that plays into it. I don't know. All I know is I'm tired and struggling to keep pace with people who are brighter, more talented, quicker thinking, and don't have rugrats at home.
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#18 of 127 Old 03-06-2010, 06:53 PM
 
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So, working part time as a mother is harder (for me) than working full time without a child, even with long hours back then.)
It's harder for me, too. I took some time off, as well, after each child was born and now I am behind my colleagues. I am just realizing how much I have had to sacrifice in my career even though in theory I still have that career. I had a meeting with my supervisor about work quality the other day and it was very frustrating because clearly I need to improve, but I am unable to add the hours that would help me to do so.

The compromise for me is, I think, to work a little less - or at least to be paid a little less. I plan to reduce my hours and spread them out a little more, so that I can stay late on my part-time hours and try to make up for the skills (or simply time) I lost. It will cost more financially but I think I need to make that investment. I've tried to bring home reading, too, but there is very little time when I have the quiet space or the energy to do it! I hear ya.

I suppose one good thing about working full time would be that it would justify bringing in some help with cleaning - I had housework!

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!

busy mama of three
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My daughter is 3. I'm pretty sharp at work on the important things. My advice is don't even think about attempting work in the evenings after you are home. Taking a guilt-free rest is better for your productivity than trying to cram more into your day. I never check email after I'm home and I'm much fresher at work the next day because of that.

I ruthlessly prioritized and ignored all kinds of crazy crap at work to fit more of the important stuff into my day, you'd be surprised at how much stuff you can cut out of your day if you get out of the straight-A-student submitting all paperwork mentality and start doing only what is truly important (not just urgent).
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#20 of 127 Old 03-07-2010, 01:24 AM
 
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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.
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#21 of 127 Old 03-07-2010, 01:40 AM
 
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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.
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#22 of 127 Old 03-07-2010, 11:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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.
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#23 of 127 Old 03-07-2010, 11:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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.
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#24 of 127 Old 03-07-2010, 11:23 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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.
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#25 of 127 Old 03-07-2010, 11:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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.
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#26 of 127 Old 03-07-2010, 12:36 PM
 
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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.
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#27 of 127 Old 03-07-2010, 12:47 PM
 
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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??

Momma to DS 1, age 8 and rainbow baby DS2 4-21-11.
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#28 of 127 Old 03-07-2010, 12:53 PM
 
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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.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#29 of 127 Old 03-07-2010, 12:57 PM
 
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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.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#30 of 127 Old 03-07-2010, 01:00 PM
 
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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.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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