Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mid life crisis?

Ever the over achiever, I think I am experiencing a mid life crisis years before I am supposed to. I turn 35 this month and as Bill puts it, I am "at a crossroads."

For much of my life I have put my self worth and validation around my career. I have tried to lessen that as I added a husband and added children, but over the years I have found myself still drawn to jobs that require that I have more "work" and less "life" balance. I constantly struggle with the two and rarely feel like I have actually achieved my blog titled "Equilibrium."

I don't really talk about my job on here partly because I would bore you even more than I normally do (How is that possible you ask yourself? Don't tempt me to show you) and partly because I don't want to be fired (Dooce, anyone?). But I'll share with you where this mid-life crisis is coming from. For starters, for the money that I get paid, it generally comes with strings attached. Things like taking conference calls at 5am or 10pm or pulling all nighters during a big release. It also seems to come with a lot more stress. Stress that I don't seem to handle well with a lack of sleep and priorities pulling in all directions. I don't get paid to make a mistake or to not have an answer. My job is to double check to make sure I don't make mistakes and to find someone who has the answer if I don't. Sometimes I would really like the option of saying, "Oops, my mistake" or "I don't know the answer. Please help me."

There was a time in my life when I would have happily done all those things. That was a husband and two kids ago. Now I want a job where I can go in an office, leave at 5, and never think about that job again. I want to spend more time with my family. I want to put less responsibility for the kids with Bill. I want to have more time to clean the house and do the laundry (ok, let's face it...all the time in the world isn't going to make me get laundry done). That's what I say I want, but here's the dilemma:
  • I haven't found any jobs that meet that criteria that pay my same pay. So what are we willing to sacrifice for me to make less money? A smaller house? A longer commute (counter productive to the goal)? Cheaper childcare?
  • I'm not sure I can be an Indian and not the chief. Again, counter productive goals. I want a job where I am in charge but I don't want to deal with it after I leave there. Most chiefs carry Blackberry's for a reason. And I'm pretty sure I see more gray hairs on the chiefs than the Indians, purely from stress.
  • I actually don't even care for the field I'm in. I've been in IT my entire career. I'd rather be picking out sofa fabrics and paint swatches. But that field doesn't pay much when you are starting out and I don't know how to get into that field without going to school. I'd want to be an interior designer, not just a decorator (designers can move walls, a decorator can just paint them). All the classes are during the day around here and are terribly expensive.

I was kind of hoping that once I laid all this out, by the end I would know what I needed to do from here. I think I've been too busy looking for all of the answers for my client because I don't seem to have any answers left for me.


Deanna said...

We're working on the same balance, so I know where you're coming from. When I started out in the industry I'm in, I loved field time. To be gone for a week or two weeks, staying in hotels, meeting new people, being "on the job" and the person calling the shots. Having a family changed all of that, and I dread any out of town time I have to do now. And you're right...being the chief is synonymous with a blackberry and 24 hour on-call. Our society pushes the balance more towards work and it makes it hard for us to push back and tilt it towards family time. Didn't mean to leave a novel for a comment, but I hope you have some doors open for you to help you on your quest.

Joanna said...

Bridget - I understand exactly where you are coming from. I loved my job before I got pregnant, but now that I don't want to do the travel thing, my duties aren't as fullfilling. I would love to spend my time doing needle crafts, but that makes even less money than being a decorator does. Without my income, we wouldn't be able to pay the mortgage or afford health insurance, so quiting and cutting back won't cut it.

I also have trouble balancing the creative and analytical me with the wife me and the mommy me. I'd like to pour 24 hours a day ito each one of those aspects of my life, but work takes up almost 10 hours of that, and sleep only manages to get about 7 hours. That doesn't leave much time for what I really want to do.

Don't you wish you just work part time?

Steph said...

I'm in a somewhat similar situation without the Blackberry/Chief requirements. I would love to find a job with more flexibility (as I sit here telecommuting!) and less travel, but nothing is going to be equivalent in salary and allow me the less travel/more life balance I want. My dream of being a yoga instructor is just that for the same reasons you are not a professional interior decorator at this very minute!

LauraC said...

So many things in this post resonate with me!

I am also an over-achiever but when I was looking for my current job, I knew we would be thinking about kids. Good work-life balance was key. I somehow found an IT job where I work 40 hrs a week, get paid 6 figures, and they let me telecommute. It is sweeeet.

It's been 5 years and I can safely say that I would gladly give up being a chief any day to have the soft benefits I have. It's good to be an indian so that work never ever interrupts my home life. I've got the rest of my life to be a chief. I figure I have maybe 10 years before I'm not cool enough to be around Nate and Alex so much.

I know what I have is rare, which is why it stays completely off my blog.

DesiDVM said...

It's the hot button issue, isn't it? My hubbie doesn't understand why this is so much harder for me than him. I can tell you that before J was born I had a job that I LOVED and made great money at - but I worked over 60 hrs a week and was on-call (literally) all the time. After J was born I went back to my old schedule and only lasted 3 months before I started looking for a different job. I did take a pretty significant pay cut at my new job (still good money though), but I would not go back for the world. I only work 4 days a week, 8 to 5, no on-call (rare for vets), and excellent benefits. Although the paycheck is a little smaller, my stress level is SO MUCH lower and I get alot more QT with the family.

It is hard, though. Sometimes I get so burned out on trying to balance everything, but I went to school for ten years to become a doctor, so it's not that easy to just walk away and do something else. Unfortunately I haven't figured out a way to be a vet from home just yet....

Julie said...

This post resonated with me too. I also am an over-achiever and spent my single 20s working really long hours in academic research science. After I became pregnant, I decided I was done. It was such a hard decision, but I felt that science is not a family-friendly field and frankly I just did not enjoy it to the same degree anymore. I just wasn't interested in working my butt off for such little intellectual and financial reward at the expense of my family life. Luckily my salary was never a big one, so doing without it was not a big hit to our bank account. But I sometimes feel kind of bad about having gone to school for 10 years (like Desi) to get my doctorate only to be a SAHM. People have told me I threw away my education, that I am an overeducated house cleaner--ugh! It is hard for all of us, regardless of our decisions to feel like we are achieving 100% "equilibrium". Joanna--you said it on the part time!! I wish!!

Karen said...

I think this post described exactly how I feel but didn't know how to put into words. Like Joanna, I would love to work part-time but it just wouldn't cut it. I would love to be a personal shopper for people or make diaper cakes! I keep hoping that the solution will just fall into my lap but I don't think so.

Joanna said...

Julie - I hate when people make judgements that leave you feeling like you are wasting your education by being a SAHM. It's like the only reason you should ever take a class is so you can make money off of it. As if there is no value in learning just for the love of it. All knowledge is worth having, and it's certainly something that enriches your life, and the lives of you family.

JenFen said...

Bridget - This is such an awesome topic and I think you can tell by the number and length of these comments that you are not alone. I think we all have moments when we want to be doing something else. Even when we have times that we feel our life is in perfect balance, I am not sure that feeling can really last - just the smallest thing and you are teetering again. Not to sound pessimistic, I am just saying that if we did not have that balance to work toward, where would the challenge be?

Obviously only you will know the answer as to what is best for you, your kids and your family. If you are not happy at work, you cannot truly be happy at home and for some people that means continuing to take on demanding careers and that is okay. But it is also okay to want something that is more family-friendly. To want to take that step back. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to follow your dreams. Each choice will have it's pros and cons and you just have to weigh them on that teeter-totter and see which one gives YOU the closest balance. Good luck and I look forward to reading about your quest.

Stacey said...

I think you should write a book about this. We can all relate. You'd make a fortune and then you can quit your job and be a designer.

Kandace said...

Yes, I have the same dilemma as you noted on my blog. Thank you by the way!

Yes, having a family and being the chief is difficult but possible.

I left a major corporation when I was 4 months pregnant knowing if I stayed I would be choosing my career over my family. I cried.

Now? I'm faced with losing the cushy day job that reqiures only 30 hours a week and pays like I work 40+.

We did the math. We can consolidate our debt and make it completely on my husbands income without having to change our current lifestyle. I had never even considered consolidating debt but it is the best option.

Either that or sell myself to the devil for another $250/week and see my children when I wake them for daycare and right before bed and, for me? That is selling my soul to the devil.

Let's say you have a lifespan of 72 years which is the average I think maybe 80 for women. Anyway, if you are 30ish now you are almost halfway through. And is money really THAT important? I mean if you can eat and still make it then put off the career for a while.

Life is too short! Go on live a little and enjoy that family. When the babies start school you start with them and do what you want!

/stepping off the soapbox.

Anyway,do what is right for you. And what is right for you may not be the same for others. Make the decision from your heart. These babies won't be little for long.