30 January 2009

Choices

I finally heard from Madame President and CEO yesterday re: the job turn-down. She was . . . a little snippy, actually. If I may project, I think she felt confident that I was going to accept the position and was disappointed and angry that I didn't, especially after she made some concessions to accommodate my family situation. I can understand that, and I'm sorry if I wasted her time.

I read her e-mail just after walking in the door last night with Maddie and Riley. They were all bundled up and high on the joy of a fun day at school and a stop at the bakery for a cookie on the way home. They can take their own coats and hats and boots off now, which they do with pride. I read the message from Madame President and CEO (MP) as Maddie and Riley set off for the kitchen to drop off their backpacks before hitting the playroom for some quality time. I had a visceral reaction to MP's palpable disappointment. I actually started to cry. I went straight to some not-so-buried part of me that hates to do what people don't want me to do. I don't want to be a disappointment.

Then I thought, yet again, about why I'd made my decision. I'd made my decision for my family. I read that message at 5:00 p.m. If I'd taken that job, I wouldn't even be picking the kids up from school until 5:30 every day. Instead, I get to walk in the door with them well before that hour, and that's after spending some time chit-chatting at daycare and then fawning over cookies at the bakery. If I'd taken that job, I would have to leave the house at 7:45 every morning and the twins would eat breakfast at school. Instead, we sit down for breakfast together at 7:45, and I get to hear Riley make "jokes," such as his mischevious query this morning of, "Mama, can I eat the stove?"

This work/life balance thing is no joke. It was a tough to weigh a more challenging, intellectually stimulating job at a thriving company against two fewer hours per day with my kids and a dull job on a sinking ship. Would the mental health benefits of a job I truly loved make me a better parent, and thus make up for the time away from Maddie and Riley? Ultimately, I didn't think so. Not right now. And that line of thinking assumes that I would have loved the job. It's possible that I would have hated it, and then I really would have been in a pickle.

I've actually never felt more like a grown-up than I did when I realized that I'd just had to make a choice between my career and my family. Granted, it was a small-scale choice, much smaller than the choice between staying home and working at all, or totally changing careers to accommodate spending more time with kids or having to take a second job to make ends meet. But my little choice made me think about just how hard it is for parents at all levels to balance work and family life. So many people who want to stay home can't, or who want to work can't find a situation that will fit their family situation. This is nothing new, of course, but last night it felt very acute, and I was grateful that I'm in a situation where my job might not be all I want it to be, but it gives me a good balance.

I can't figure out how to end this post gracefully, but I have to end it now because it's time for me to go get those kids. We're off to my beloved Chipotle for dinner. Oooooh, yeah. Have a great weekend.

37 comments:

G Love said...

What perfect timing this post is for me. Balancing the work/fam situation is such a struggle, and is getting harder. I leave at 7 am and return home at 6pm. The baby goes to bed at 7:30. So I get a rockin' hour and a half to spend with him before he's out. It sucks. I am all for your choice. More time at home with the kids is worth a lot of job dissatisfaction. I'm looking my head off, but am not as qualified as you, apparently, because this girl can't get a freaking interview to save her life. Sigh. 2009 is a difficult year to be a grownup.

Ellie said...

I had a feeling she might be a little snippy. But that's on her, not you, not at all.

I raised my first son all on my own after his father died (of cancer, just after he was born). He's 19 now, and I made the best choices I could, not just for him and for the sake of the sort of childhood I wanted him to have, but for me too, because of the sort of mother I wanted to be. That meant huge compromises in terms of jobs, money, etc. And you know what? He's turned out fabulously, and I wouldn't change a thing.

You know what's best for you and for your children. I think you're doing great.

Anonymous said...

Just a question on differing styles. Why would they need to eat at school? I have worked since my children were born and they have never eaten breakfast at school. We get up and spend time together before school. Yes, I miss out on the most sleep since I get up and shower and get ready before they are awake. But it works. They get all the sleep they need. We get home by 5:30ish and spend time together in the evening.

I certainly mean no disrespect by asking the question. Just honest discussion, promise I am not a troll.

Mar said...

It IS no joke. There is so much discussion about the work/life balance issue in my field and before I had children I kind of brushed it off as hype -- similar to the way people love to share war/birth stories and such. But really -- it's tough. So many choices, so much doubt about which one is the best for both the long and short term. I think you made a sound decision though -- and you would really miss those "jokes" from Riley (My 2.5 year old has a similar comedy style and it's golden).

mary said...

cudos to you for making an excellent decision. 2 hours a day is a LOT

Anonymous said...

Anon: What time do you get up? What time do your kids get up? Snick has also worked since her children were born, and like you and your children, they spend time and eat together at home in the mornings. With longer hours and/or an added commute, that would no longer be an option.

Anonymous said...

The time will come soon enough that the sit down breakfasts will be gone, the exciting trips to the bakery will be gone. They will get big and be busy. As much as a struggle it's going to be, I think you made the right one. This time with them is so precious. I have a 16 and 14 year old. I worked like a maniac as a single mother leaving to be to work by 7:30 somedays and not getting in the dooor till almost 6. It sucked. Don't do it till you *want* to and can!

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed that you sent her an email explaining why you turned the offer down. She should have understood your reasons and I'm surprised she returned your email with a snippy one.

Juliette said...

Snick - Forget that snippy lady! You made the decision that was best for you and she needs to respect it. Businesses look out for themselves 100% of the time and you have to do the same. It sounds like you dodged a bullet to me - anyone that mixes snippiness into a business situation would probably not be a good boss.

Anonymous said...

Oooh, you should read Flux by Peggy Ornstien. Your post is exactly what the whole book is about- there are lots of different women's experiences about choices around work and family.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you didn't take the job given her snippy response. Just imagine what it would have been like working for somebody like that.

Snickollet said...

Anon--

Re: breakfast, the kids just aren't up and at 'em early enough for us to get up and get dressed in time to eat breakfast earlier than 7:45 a.m. Sometimes we're eating by 7:30, but even then, if I had to leave at 7:45, we'd never be *done* in time to get out the door on time.

I also shower and get ready before they are up. They usually wake up while I'm in the shower, actually, and I get them up when I'm out and dressed.

I enjoy our morning time a lot, but I wouldn't want it to start any earlier than it already does :).

-snick

Melissa in Grafton said...

Being in HR, I do understand the disappointment that's felt when the top candidate turns down an offer. I'm certainly not excusing her snippiness, though -- sounds more than a bit unprofessional to me.

It sounds like, after a lot of consideration on your part, Snick, you just couldn't find a way to make that job fit into the life you want with your kids right now. I think you made the right decision, and I honestly wouldn't second-guess it.

In this economy (and especially here in the Boston market which is bursting with talent), I guarantee they have a back-up candidate (or two) and I'll bet that person takes the job. So don't feel too badly -- they'll get over it. Honestly.

Five years from now, you'll barely be able to recall her snippy disappointment and the sense of guilt you felt in response. What you WILL remember is this extra, precious time with your kids while they were young. As another commenter said, this time of early childhood goes by very quickly. You're making the most of it!

Hope you dodge any future layoffs at your company... just hold on there as long as you can.

Hugs,
m

twingles said...

You made the right choice. MP would never have made you feel at ease if you needed time off for your kids, whatever the reason. And time with your kids is important, to them and to you. I think subconciously you AS WELL AS conciously you realized this.

Julie said...

You're a great mom for choosing your kids over the job. My best friend had to make that decision ultimately too--a choice between working more and making more money but being stressed out or working less and making less but having more time with her family. She chose the latter and I can tell that she is more relaxed and happy than before. You made the right decision, so don't feel guilty about not taking the job. You can always get another job when your kids are older.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

This just gives you a glimpse into what it would have been like to work for MP. I don't understand why some women are totally inflexible with the demands of current working moms. There seems to be this mentality that they suffered and made it through so you should too. It makes me sick. I was once told by my female boss that my husband "should be pulling more weight at home" when I asked for a raise.

shmo said...

Oddly, I'm in a strikingly similar situation (sans an offer on the table) as my company is mid-buyout and my work is mindless and I have more downtime than I can handle. Other jobs in the same (or increased) salary range would have me commuting a good 30-45 minutes each way, which would cut into the 3 hours or so I get to spend with Jonah at night. Would it be worth it? Alas, since I mentioned above, there are no pending offers as of yet, I don't have to decide. But I can see it coming, and I'm not looking forward to having to make the choice. It's such an emotional/intellectual struggle. Here's wishing some luck for both of us!

Anonymous said...

I would think if MP was snippy instead of understanding, then she may have also been the kind of person to hang it over your head every chance she got that she had made those conessions to accommodate you, especially in situations where you needed a little more flex on days the kids were sick or what not.

Never regret decisions made to spend more time with your children. Time goes by to quickly and as we all know, life is to short.

amyinbc said...

The kids come first for us too. Good for you for standing your ground and knowing what is right for you all. Long work days do not work with kids. Period. Just my opinion but is anything more worthy than time spent at home with our kids when they are so young?

Call me old fashioned! Family time so important while they are young. It is fleeting, sadly I can see that now with a near 16 year old!

deb8able said...

Enjoy this time while you can! My girls are 13 and 8. My 8th grader gets picked up by the bus for school at 6:50 a.m Yes it's freaking outrageous, but that's public school for you. Next year in high school classes begin at 7:15 so the bus will come at 6:35 which means for her to have a shower (which she needs to wake-up), eat breakfast, do her hair and get dressed she will be up at 5 a.m. I'm dreading it!!

Callie said...

First off...sharing the Chipotle love! I was going to write a comment giving my perspective from an HR standpoint, but then I saw that Melissa from Grafton said everything I would have (and probably more eloquent), so I'll leave it at that.

I do want to echo what she said about not second guessing. It's so clear to me from reading your blog (I sat down and read it from the very beginning)how important it is to you to create a world of love, safety and stability for M & R, and this decision is yet another example of that. Be proud of yourself!

JK said...

It seems like you made the right decision. It is hard to be a grown up! I don't remember noticing it was so hard for my parents. Now, though, for me, it's very hard.

django's mommy said...

I'm struggling with a similar thing right now, and trying to choose between two postdoctoral positions. Do I go with position A, which I *know* will be more hours, but is more prestigious and more inline with my career goals? Or do I stay where I am and do position B, which is more relaxed, flexible, but would not put me in as good a position for my career? Sigh.

The only thing I'm certain of right now is that YOU made the right choice for you guys.

Karyn said...

Good choice. Any choice that helps you achieve better balance and more time with the kids is a good one. Congrats--a tough decision indeed!

mames said...

in our day and times, it is such a balancing act with family and work. i struggle with some of the choices myself, but always feel reassured when i read about other mamas like you, weighing the options and then finding the best choice for you and your family. go, great mama!

susan said...

Her snippiness is all about her, not about you. The family/work balance stuff gets worked out year by year, decision by decision, and sometimes you need to go a little down a road in order to figure out what's right. That's what interviews and offers are all about. I'm glad you're happy with the decision you made--that's the important part.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Madame has a couple kids sitting at home with one or two well paid nannies and saw something in you she was envious of! You mirrored back some guilt she might have felt/is feeling maybe?

-GRC said...

But you know, after seeing her response to you not taking the job, it's probably a good thing that she wasn't your boss after all.

OTRgirl said...

What a great post. It's such a hard balance to achieve. For me, it feels like I have to have a "whatever" attitude toward the job or else it starts to dominate my life. Yet, I don't respect myself or like they way I act when I have that attitude. And, I'm only having to balance getting home to walk a dog!

I'm proud of you for doing what was necessary. And, if she was snippy now, I bet MP would have actually been much less flexible about the kids once you were there.

Beth in CA said...

These are such hard choices to make. For what its worth, I think you made the right choice (but certainly would not have faulted you had you opted to take it...life is very gray, indeed.) I'm a year into having left my chosen profession b/c I couldn't make it fit with my life/work balance (along with a few other reasons) and struggling with instead stepping into just a "job" in order to be around more with my kids. It is hard, hard, hard but, at the end of the day, literally and figuratively, it still feels like the right thing to do (for me). I send a big mom power salute, fist in the air, to you and all the others who are also navigating these seas.

Angela said...

As always you made the best decision for you and Maddie and Riley, I know it wasn't easy for you to make so I am glad you are happy with your decision. That's unfortunate that the CEO's response was less than understanding...but hey, she'll get over it and I hope any guilt that you feel is very short lived. Having work/life balance is so priceless and amazing and I am so very happy that is what you have.

Anonymous said...

Ah, hugs to you. You don't need to hear it from me, but I think you made a strong choice.

I hope an ideal job comes along soon!

Shelley

Shannon said...

I had to turn down a job - actually, I rescinded my acceptance of it - well before my start date - and the conversation with my never-to-be boss still sticks in my head after more than a year, and she didn't even really get snippy! It's so hard to disappoint people, especially when your choices aren't black and white, but going through with it anyway points to the fact that it was the right choice.

BTW, for what it's worth, my reasons for turning down the job were FAR less noble than yours (I had a counteroffer for more money and an arrangement that would let me go to grad school), and I still don't feel guilty. Good for you for doing what you knew was right for you and your family.

Also, Chipotle is yummy, but I dearly hope you give some love to Boloco as well. I'm hungry now...

nuvseps said...

Snick, this was a wonderful post.

I've been thinking about some of my work/life balance issues, and I really found your reasoning helpful—than you!

Just Me said...

I have a disability (I don't explain this at interviews, but in a convuleted way as for the one change I need (somewhat flexible time, a given in my career anyway). I have learned that people will LIE to you about what they will offer to accomodate needs, if they think they can hire you and you are responsible enough to try to fill your duties regardless of what they are. More than once my flexible hours have turned into my 36 hour week becoming a 44 hour week just because they didn't bother to hire someone for those 8 hours.

If she was snotty just in a response to not taking the job, she would have done other not-nice things.

darcie said...

Good for you! I work a crummy B O R I N G job instead of a "career" with higher pay etc because it allows me the flexibility and family time I both want and need for my two little joys - It doesn't pay a much, especially after paying for daycare 4 days a week but the flexibility and extra time I get to spend with my kids is priceless.

Roads said...

Yes, time goes by quickly and gather ye rosebuds whilst ye may.

'Hell know no fury like a woman scorned.'

Apologies that's not PC, but it might just be correct for this snippy MP, anyway. I wouldn't like to work for her, and neither would you.