Work has been on my mind, enough to keep me from taking full advantage of my daughter's new ability to sleep through the night. It is manifesting in my mind in a variety of suits - my "work" as a mother, the work possibilities that loom in the future, my husband's work situation, whether or not I can turn my hobbies into lucrative "work" - and it refuses to let me go. There are so many unanswered questions in my life at the moment, and they are leading me to consider how "work" defines our existence, whether we like it or not.
In my own personal life, it has become obvious that to continue to live the standard of living we have grown accustomed to, and to enjoy life the way we see necessary, we will need more income. Most new mothers either leave a steady job for their maternity break only to return when the interim ends, or they had children with the intention of staying at home with them indefinitely. I was in a different camp. I left my job because I was pregnant, but didn't return afterward mainly because we moved. I no longer had that option. In the end, the idea of staying at home with my daughter in her sensitive early years seemed like an ideal scenario, and until the EI stopped it was manageable. But, like most households, one income just doesn't suffice. And so we must consider a new game plan.
My husband has had his own professional crisis to consider. His company, the one he has dedicated himself to and truly invested in for years, has not reciprocated the loyalty. It has been a hard pill to swallow, and although he would stay there and work himself to death if it meant taking care of his family, it seems a little drastic considering the kind of employee he is - one that any company should be elated to have on board. With both of us wanting to live balanced, meaningful, fulfilling lives, this has meant considering a different path for him as well. But you know what they say about money: it makes the world go round and keeps people stuck behind a desk. Or a drill rig. In a snow storm.
So there is anxiety in the air about where our lives are headed and what our destiny has in store for us in terms of our "work". Will my job of house caretaker, baby nurturer, writer, and crafts person be supplemented by a new role that (gasp) includes a paycheck? And if so, is this an opportunity for me to pursue private professional dreams I once held so dear? Or is it a period of time in life where I am going to have to grin and bear a tough scenario where I hand over my child for the majority of my days in order to bring home some serious bacon, while my dear husband finds a better fit?
Or will things just magically turn out the way we want them to? Without the agonizing sacrifices?
I watched a documentary on Netflix last night - "Inside Pixar" - where John Lasseter explained that he always told his children to make sure that in their careers they did what they loved so they wouldn't have to work a day in their lives. What a concept. So why do so many of us get stuck in a position that makes us miserable, chasing a paycheck?
The answer lies at the end of that question. We need to pay the bills.
But what's worth it? To me, having a yard for my baby to discover grass in is worth it, but not if I can't be there beside her to watch her do it. Having a truck to get us to the city to buy groceries is worth it, but not if I am sacrificing my only hour in my day with her to do that. Having money to treat ourselves to artisinal foods and wine for picnics by the lake is worth it, but not if my husband is worried about his safety everyday he goes to work to make the money for those luxuries.
We all make sacrifices, and often they are in the form of our time and everyday enjoyment in order to support the lifestyles - or perhaps the "stuff" - we feel we need. It is a balance, but that's just the thing...balance. It has to be there, or we'll be miserable.
I want my work to inspire me, to not feel like "work". Sure, being a mother is exhausting and draining, but it is the most inspirational job I've ever had. But I've always wanted to be in tourism, to show others the beauty I see and know around me, to share in experiences. I think there is value in a professional career that allows me to give pleasure to others, through wine and food and exercise and outdoor activities and learning and sustainable practices. I think there is value to giving my daughter opportunities to enjoy life with other people, too. There is room there, and I'll find the sweet spot that makes sense. I have to be committed to that before I find myself in a situation that's tough to get out of.
But I encourage others to find their way out if they want to. There is always a sweet spot, and it will never be perfect. Only we know how our own work/life balance makes sense to us. But I suspect some of you are unhappy enough that things need realignment. I vow to do my best to be true to myself, and hope that others will be, too. The best advice I've ever received was to be happy because others benefit from our joy. They are fueled by it, and wouldn't it be lovely if the world ran on more blissful electricity? And wouldn't our work benefit from that bliss, too?