I am a raging feminist.
I don't really advertise this fact. I shave my legs. I have a feminine haircut. But I rage.
This means I endorse (violently defend) women's right to choice. [I'm not actually debating reproductive rights; good discussion on that one here on Rixa's site, however, if you're up for that]. I think women are awesome and intelligent and multi talented with God given gifts to develop for the building up of society, family, community, and self. Hide that light under a bushel? Oh no! Want to work? Get thine ass out there and get a job. Want to stay home? AWESOME! Want to combine the two by working part time, working from home, or running your own daycare? Rock on. You all rock my world. And I'm so glad to live in a country, in a time, in a society where choice is possible.
A few weeks ago, I quit my job. Woah, nelly, that was hard for me to do, emotionally. Partly because I come from a line of women who work(ed--many are retired). My mom and her sisters worked. My other aunts worked. My grandmothers worked. Part time, full time, time off til the youngest was in school: this looked different for everyone, but they all worked. Some from necessity and others from choice, but I think all of them liked working. It's empowering, contributing tangibly to something important outside your home, you know? And bringing home money. I just always assumed I would work, too. Since I had Ayden I have opted mostly to work part time. Sometimes I worked full time one week, none the following week, or full time for a few months here and there. And for a short, six month period when Brent was at job training I worked sixty hour work weeks to put food on the table and pay for our house. Because training cops and paying them at the same time is somehow ridiculous. Anyways. That period of time was very, very hard, but I liked being the breadwinner for a bit. It was quite nice, caring for my family by providing for them. Being the main (only) source of income and actually doing not a bad job of it. I don't endorse sixty hour work weeks, especially when your poor kids are apart from their daddy and have the added weight of far less time with mommy as she frantically tries to pull in enough to survive on, but the breadwinning part was nice.
[oh, and did I mention I was pregnant with Riley? Oh, and did I mention that I worked in a very demanding job with a bunch of men who hated working with pregnant women? Oh, yes. And did I mention how very much I missed my husband when he was away? The worst part was the loneliness. But most of you know all that because you've been reading since those days!!! Ah, fun times.]
Anyways, after Riley was born and we had three kids I went back to work very part time, one day a week. But you know, even that was insane. Nobody ever had clean underwear, school notices got lost, playdates got forgotten, and our house was a disaster. We both felt like we were running a relay race, full out sprinting all the time; either we were working our rather demanding jobs, or we were running the home show alone while the other one was working (or at least, it felt like it, even though I only worked ONE day a week). Our kids always had one parent or the other with them, but it was too rushed. Too crazy. Too wild for us, as the adults. It wasn't the life I wanted, because you really only get ONE life, and you build it, you choose it, you live it, right? So I wanted to build something a little different. Something with a little more calm, a great deal more peace, and something that would enable me to have four kids and still sink my teeth into a solid relationship with each one of them. Every time my life gets crazy I evaluate it and think, what can I do? Sometimes I just readjust my thinking a little, or go to bed at a different time, or for awhile after we adopted Matthew I got a babysitter for two hours once a week so I could paint (wow, I wish we could afford that now). And sometimes, I subtract something from my life, just to enhance the quality of the rest of my life. Not wanting to subtract any people or anything, I decided to subtract my job.
This is scary. I have to give up full control over income to my husband. No more saving up my income and living on his when we had an extra bill or something. No more working a few extra shifts just to save up for something we wanted. I have to just relinquish control and allow my hubs to carry it all. This feels so ultra non feminist (for ME). I've always had some sort of an income, pittance or not. And now I don't. Well, I have CCTB and Universal Child Care benefits from the government (hello, I love Canada!!!), which, because I have so many kids, amounts to almost $500 per month. But that's a pretty low income. :S
SO. I'm coming to terms with the relinquishing of control AND the fading of a professional persona and a professional dream I had. I'm okay, I was ready to leave my job anyways and I feel like I'm morphing as far as professional dreams go. I've changed my mind for now with regards to midwifery school and I'm going to just take what little, tiny bits of time I have and devote them to writing, art, and fiber crafting. (Fancy word for crochet, but includes knitting and hopefully also learning felting). I have always been an artist first, and a scientist second. Being pragmatic I know that artists don't make a living very often, so I figured as an artist I needed a day job. Hence, science. Much more lucrative (though looking at my Ambulance Service wage, NOT ACTUALLY MUCH. Ha ha.). I didn't also figure in kids for that equation, and was finding I couldn't do justice to all three: art, science, and family, so science got the axe. Too bad science was the one with the paycheque.
The actual living life without a job is (mostly) really nice. My home is more organized. My kids are always in clean underwear, unless they pee in them, and I have scraps of time to crochet and paint. And more will come, soon, because every nanosecond these kids grow a foot and a half and accrue better vocabulary until I need a dictionary just to keep up with after school conversation (said dictionary needs to include all Wii terminology and Club Penguin characters, BTW), and pretty soon I will have four in school and more time for crafting and arting and all manner of work with no pay. I like my life, it is manageable, it is good, it is full. But the image of my life is harder for me to cope with. What people think, or might think, when they ask me that inevitable, "So what do you do?"
Ah, um, uh... I'm a doula! is what I usually come up with. Or I'm an artist works, too. I hate being put in a box. And I hate even more the potential of being put in a drone box, ykwim? That stereotype, that drone mom with all those kids and a minivan and churchy ideas and conservative mennonite hair. You know that mom. I'm allergic to becoming that mom.
Funny enough I had this enlightening conversation with a mom friend of mine who has been my friend for over ten years. She has three kids, and always worked one day a week. I realized recently that although we worked the same number of days per week, she identifies as a stay at home mom, and I always identified as a working mom. Isn't that funny? She considers her job as this side thing she sort of does, but really she's a stay at home mom. And I considered my job a vocation and a calling as well as claiming motherhood in all its glory and for most of my waking hours. We worked the same amount.
And even now, I identify with some sort of vocation rather than my relational status. I can't handle I stay home with my kids as a vocation, because I'm just so much more than what springs to mind when I apply that phrase to myself. We all are, no matter what, but for me for some reason the title or vocation I give myself needs to be definitive, and it needs to be separate from my being a parent.
When I did quit my paramedic gig, it was because Human Resources called me to ask when I would be returning to work after my maternity leave finished? Uh, never. There was an official process and HR and my bosses were quite nice about it, and in the end they wanted to do an exit interview. I was to drive out to Chilliwack which is forty minutes from my house, and do this interview and hand in my uniforms all at the same time. I had to cancel my interview on the day of and I was so bummed. I couldn't figure out why I was moping around with this huge sense of letdown until I figured out, I had been looking forward to one final important, official, jobby thing that required a commute and a uniform and an adult oriented meeting that had nothing to do with anyone stealing anyone else's lunch at school or anyone's behaviour at swimming lessons. And then it was cancelled. Boo.
So I'm jobless. And incomeless. And HAPPY about staying home and investing in a life I've crafted for myself to be a good balance of kids and home and art and love. And a wee bit ambiguous about it all.
So. Quitting. It's a mixed bag.