Once a workaholic …

… always a workaholic?

Is this true?

Until a little more than three years ago, I worked full-time outside the home. When I wasn’t working full-time, my schedule was a combination of full-time school and part-time work.

To those who work full-time it may seem like a dream to be home for three years. At first, I thought so, too. I allowed myself big blocks of time to get caught up on TV shows and movies, to nap when my baby napped, to go on long walks. We went away on long weekends and enjoyed life to the fullest.

Then, the guilt began creeping in. Most of it self-induced. I realized I didn’t exactly feel comfortable with an unstructured life. I needed deadlines and commitments to get things done. Somehow having every day of the week to go to the zoo or the park made it less special.

Now, I have filled almost every block of time in my week with something, whether it’s time for work (when it comes my way), volunteer commitments, working toward personal goals, and the ever-present house and yard work and child care. It’s like I dread an unplanned expanse of time.

When I worked full-time, I was famous for bringing my work home, taking on projects, staying late, and coming in on weekends. I suppose in the beginning it was designed to get ahead. In the end, it was a curse. It did not lead to promotions. It led to more work because I was known as the go-to person for this stuff.

It’s easy to  blame all this on my upbringing. My mother and father always kept busy. They didn’t allow their children to wile away an afternoon. If you were home, you were upright and holding something with a handle: a broom, a rake or a paintbrush.  If you were caught empty-handed, you were given a broom or a rake or a paintbrush.

In some regards, I’m glad they passed on to me this work ethic. (I wish I could pay it forward to my children. Direct requests are always a battle. teaching by example only seems to work with my preschooler.)

Yet, I wonder sometimes why I deny myself basic pampering and selfish “me” time. I’ve literally been at the salon or in a bookstore and felt the weight of guilt bear down on me so heavily I have the urge to flee.

Is there hope for me?

This post brought to you by the lovely Brenda and Flog YoBLogFriday. Click on over and enjoy:

mummytime

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Frustration

frustration

image by runningkate

I’ve lost things lately:

  • my favorite plastic sports bottle, a souvenir of my snow camping experience
  • my sterling silver hoop earrings
  • my mind

Also, I’ve lacked focus:

  • Literally. I need bifocals. I’m pretending I don’t. The faking it isn’t working anymore and it’s making me look feeble. I hope that explains all the typos in my comments around the blogosphere. I hope that explains all the pasta on the tablecloth at lunch the other day.
  • I’m job hunting outside my field of work. Where to direct the confused self when the forest trails are marked either Overqualified or Underqualified? Some days I’m resigned to signing on with Merry Maids or dressing in red and khaki and enlisting in the Target army. Other days I feel a strong desire to go to grad school and follow dreams. Some days I just shop for a roomy refrigerator box to call home.

Job hunting sucks. I’ve had it too easy all my life. I’ve almost always slipped seamlessly from one position to the next. Even during the rare times when I had a gap in my work history, I filled it with temp work.

Now I’m a woman who is halfway to 90 (as one of my drama queen contemporaries likes to say) and almost three years gone from the workplace. My line of work is no longer an option. I have a young child and outside help one day a week. This job search is like riding a bike up a mountain with one leg.

As Dr. Phil would ask: How’s that working for you?

Not so well, Phil. It’s hard to keep the momentum when you have six days between efforts.Until I find work, I can only use FREE babysitters. So far, I’ve found one who’s willing to give one day a week. I’m grateful for the day but one day does not a job search make.

I live in the state with the highest unemployment in the nation. I’m trying not to let that get me discouraged. Much.

I remain hopeful. I joined a babysitting co-op. My little one starts part-time preschool next week. Something has to give.

Job hunting in 2009 is not the same as it was in the late ’80s and early 1990s. Then, it involved typewriters and telephones. It involved pieces of paper, bulletin boards, classified advertising sections of the newspaper and talking to friends and family.

No one I know seems to have any clear answer for today’s big hunt. Get a Web site, they say. So I did. Create your own personal brand, carve out your niche, they recommend.  Still working on that one. Get on social media and work that bitch daily. I do. Although sometimes it feels as empty, cold and meaningless as, well, working some bitch. Networking? I’ve got a steep learning curve on that one. Remember, I worked as a copy editor for the last decade.

Don’t even get me started on the frustration of online application processes. Do you know what happens when you spend 45 minutes completing an online application for a specific position and then the free Wi-Fi zone drops your Internet connection?

For the first time in my adult life, I’m not sure what my role is in the world. It isn’t enough for our bottom line for me to be a mother and caretaker of the family and home. It won’t be enough for my children if I’m gone all day and tired and stressed when I get home. I’m not sure I can return to the workaholic career treadmill I ran on for almost two decades.

Does society smile upon the mother who cares for her children at home? What about the mother who decided to put her family first for a while and now seeks work? Is she given the same chance as the mother who put her career first but lost her job for economic reasons?  The workplace seems to frown upon the mother who chooses her family over her career. Society also frowns upon the mother who does not take care of her children.

There are no easy answers to any of this. One day a week I try to figure it out.

This I call frustration.

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