Life is filled with so many divergent pathways and adventures that I’ve always found it difficult to choose just one. This made finding a career practically impossible.
I started with archeology (think a female version of Indiana Jones) and ended with International Politics (think Golda Meir) with a short stint in acting (think the Broadway version of Natalie Portman) and then got an extra degree in Education (think Robin Williams’ character in “Good Will Hunting”) just to make sure I covered all my bases.
And then I had a baby. The thought of leaving his chubby arms and sweet baby smile for anything—even finding the Holy Grail—was just too much for me to bear. So, I became a stay-at-home mom. For 11.5 years now, I’ve been home with my three little ones.
The thing about being home with kids was that no matter how exhausted I was or how boring it could be, there was always this sense of wholeness. My world revolved around their needs and, as long as I met them, I was satisfied. Each day that ended with smiling, well-fed kids was a good one. And, if I had an hour or so to myself afterwards, well then it was a smashing success.
But next year, my youngest will be in school full day. Although I will miss her, the idea of getting back to the working world has made me practically giddy with excitement. I have spent the last few months dreaming of the fabulous new job opportunities that will throw open their doors for me.
Then I started to look for actual jobs. Turns out there aren’t that many places anxious to hire a former stay-at-home mom with big dreams and little experience.
Fortunately for me, there are a few. While I admit that none of them are as exciting as being a world leader or a Broadway star, I am doing my best to see them in a positive light. Here are the options I’ve got so far:
1. Cleaning Lady: Just because my own house is a disaster doesn’t mean that I can’t clean other people’s houses, right? In fact, the idea of being up to my elbows in toilet water and on my hands and knees mopping kitchen floors has a certain martyr-like appeal to it. And when I crawl though my own door baring calloused red hands and sore feet, someone else can clean my house.
2. Child Care: Never mind that it pays peanuts and will sap every last drop of patience that I have left for my own kids. The hours are perfect and, after 12 years of changing poopy diapers and quelling tantrums, I’ve got this one down pat. Besides, spending hours with dozens of demanding toddlers will stop cold any errant ticks on my biological clock.
3. Direct Sales: The idea of turning into one of those extra smiley women at the park who, five minutes into the conversation, invite you to their (insert: jewelry, handbag, cosmetics, kitchen gadget, tupperware, nail polish, sex toy) party makes me cringe a little. But, if I can convince my 6-year-old that those green things she sees on her plate are tiny elf trees that will grow into a magical forest in her tummy, I can sell anyone anything. I have a short-lived pre-kids career in telemarketing to prove it.
4. Retail: While standing on my feet for hours zapping bar codes and filling bags may not be the most stimulating work, it does involve lots of adult interaction. After years of solving complicated sibling rivalry issues and negotiating chore contracts, wishing people a good day over and over sounds kind of perfect.
5. Bounty Hunter: Excitement, adventure, the opportunity to travel. What more could you ask for, really? The fact that there’s no experience necessary makes this one a real winner. The only challenge would be to fit all this in before my kids get home from school at 4 o’clock.
Of course, these aren’t the only options. I could go back to school (yet again), start my own business, or learn a new skill set (like barista-ing or operating a fork-lift).
I’m doing my best to remain optimistic, but the truth is I’m scared. What if, after all these years at home, I’ll never be able to find a satisfying job? What if I’m too old/too lacking in experience/too out of touch to have a successful career? What if trading in all my big dreams to stay home with the kids was a mistake?
And then my little girl leaps into my lap, throws her arms around me, and gives me a big broccoli-toothed kiss, and I know that it wasn’t.