Monday, May 07, 2007

This is not one of those posts. This is not a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM) vs Work Out of the Home Mom thing. I think that whole debate is mostly drummed up by people who want to sell magazines and morning talk shows.

The morning I had Guille Other Half called my then boss, Gary, to tell him I wouldn’t be in that day. That voicemail became legendary.

Beeeeep “Hi Gary, this is J. I’m calling to tell you that Azucar won’t be in to work today because she had a baby. She wanted me to call you to let you know because she has this whole ‘work ethic’ thing. Whatever, I don’t get it.” Gary played that voicemail for people for the next six months. It’s kind of true…

When Other Half was putting me through school by working fulltime, I still worked three jobs. It was hard to not work (lest you think I’m supergirl, ‘work ethic’ does not extend to ‘housework ethic.’) When it was time for Other Half to finish school, after many fits and starts over the years, we decided that I would work and he would go to school and be the dad. Lots of people can work AND go to school; Other Half is not one of them.

The arrangement let both of us grow. I realized that someday it would be nice to stay at home and be a mom, an idea that I’ve struggled with since being a teenager. It gave Other Half a chance to be a fulltime dad and experience the hard work of parenting all day. I loved hearing him say things like, “Every time I clean something it’s just undone immediately!” Yes, he understands with complete empathy what it’s like being a stay at home parent. He’s a much better spouse because of the experience, and he’s a great dad. It’s been two years since he had a fulltime job. He’ll be graduating soon and is now interviewing for work.

As for me, my job used to be pretty awesome. Even though I was working fulltime, I got to bring Baby Guille with me to work for half the day. He would take his long afternoon nap under my desk while I worked. There was a little room for pumping. If there was a problem at home, I could leave. It was ideal.

In our case, as much as it was a choice, it also wasn’t. Other Half needed to finish school as quickly as possible. I made more money than him. I’ll probably always make more money than him. It wasn’t about buying jet-skis or trips to the coast; it was about being able to pay the mortgage AND tuition. I’ve never had to put my babies in day care thanks to creative school schedules and an incredible extended family.

One day I got into the elevator at work with Guille in his car seat. He was just a couple months old.
“Ooooh,” crooned a woman already on the elevator, “Who do you belong to?”
I said, “I belong to me.”
She said, “No, I mean who are you visiting?”
I said, “No one, I work here.”
She gave me the strangest look. I was a touch annoyed. You know, sometimes women with babies work, I wanted to say to her.
I didn’t want to tell her that sometimes we feel conflicted about working: it’s awful to leave the house; it’s great to leave the house. You don't get to wear aprons to work, but you do get to wear these.

We’ve come to a strange place. Even though J will be working, it won’t be enough to cover our really basic living expenses for several years. Don’t get me started on what they pay public school teachers in this state because it MAKES ME ANGRY. Let’s just say that one day we were driving down the road when we saw a sign on a fast food restaurant advertising for a night manager. J could make more money flipping burgers than teaching your child quadratic equations.

This is my last week on maternity leave, it’s hard to even type that phrase. I’m going to have to keep working for a while. Working breaks my heart into rough pieces; it makes me free and happy.


Tiffany said...

Oh Azucar, I feel for you in so many ways.

I understand completely the frustration involved with teachers not making enough money. I know it all to well. When I taught in Provo, I joked around (half seriously) with the secretary telling her I was going to apply for reduced school lunch, making it 40 cents compared to the $2.50 it cost teachers. Frankly, I reminded her, I made three thousand more a year than what they considered poverty level.

My husband teaches middle school english in Maryland now, coaches high school lacrosse, is in charge of the yearbook at school and teaches 12 students piano lessons every week. I tutor for the school district and sell my little crafty items on etsy and wholesale - ALL just to make ends meet. No cable TV, no second car, no eating out.

It is really no different wherever you live in the US. Very sad indeed. What do you suppose we can do about it? I often wonder about that.

Every mother is doing what she feels best and we are in no place to think that she is less of of a mother or loves her children any less because of her decision to work. We never understand the circumstances.

You are a wonderful mother with a wonderful husband and beautiful, smart children.

Emily said...

Oh, sending a big hug -- 'cause no matter how much you like your job, it's always hard to be away from your babies. I love this. You are most thoughtful and articulate. Soak up all the goodness of your last week at home. And I hope the return to work is pleasant.

compulsive writer said...

Oh, I can relate to this post in so many ways. I just plain and simple wish you well--all of you and in all endeavors.

(But I can't help but also tell you how hard my husband and I laughed out loud when a neighbor who must read the newspaper asked him the other day, "Hey, how do you feel about the plan to make teachers work full time? Hahahahaha!)

compulsive writer said...

p.s. and those are a great pair of shoes. You know I'm just a birkenstock girl, but I do admire women who are coordinated enough to wear something more stylin'.

Tori :) said...

I know that must be so hard. What's funny is that I have always been a SAHM and sometimes I am jealous of the time moms that work outside the home get to spend away from the mess, whining and chaos. So, I think it works both ways for sure.
The pay for teachers in Utah is ridiculous. Kinda like the pay for police officers, firefighters, etc... "Thanks for saving my life. Here's $30k. Go feed your 6 kids."

wendysue said...

Since my chillins were born, I have always worked some (sometimes more than others), and I have to say that I admire and know the extra effort that you have to put into juggling schedules. We've been lucky enough to never put our kids in daycare either (we'd never be able to afford it), thanks to great work schedules and family/friends just like you rely on.

It's a hectic, stressful schedule (ask anyone. . .my biggest stress is what to do with the kids, where are the kids this week?, what if somebody is sick?) So kudos to you for making it work (Tim Gunn anyone??) and it sounds like you and J have it down to a science. I hope the next few months of figuring out all the new schedules goes smooth.

p.s. loved your label. . .Take this job. . .as in the famous song/movie. . .Take this job and shove it? That may be a new blog for me.

pflower10 said...

"Who do you belong too?"????????? How old was that lady?? Did you tell her you've been emancipated and are now a free woman? geeeeeeeeze....

Great post!! Fabulous shoes!!!

Mrs. Dub said...

well said.

i'm particularly fond of the mental image of a baby sleeping under a desk. i think every office should have one.

sarah k. said...

Oh man, those SHOES! I haven't worn high heals in 6 years. I tried some on the other day and nearly broke my ankle on the first step.

I don't know what I'd do if I had to go back to work. I don't have any skillz. Maybe I could go be one of those "part-time" teachers.

Sarah Anne said...

I salute you for your frankness. I know you're thinking, "Who are you? And why do I care if you salute me?" I'm just a friendly lurker who's been the working mom/homemaker before (3 babies in 6 years of teaching 10th grade English) The validation and adult interaction feels so good at work, yet the wet kisses and tiny hands to hold feel good in a different way. I wish you peace with your inner dialogue of guilt and glee.

Lindsey said...


Bek said...

This is one reason I love you Carina. I also loved working and worked until L was 18 months old. I feel blessed to be able to stay home with the kids... we are lucky enough to have my husband have a job that allows us to pay the bills without me going out to work (but it took us 10 years to get here). I find that while I am glad to have the freedom to stay home, I miss the freedom of work (but not the icky stuff). Thus, the charity stuff. It helps me find my balance, it gives me something to do during the course of the day that will not get "undone" the second I do it. I satisfies both sides.

I love the last sentance of you post. That is how I feel. Exactly.

P.S. Good luck going to back to work. That is the hardest week. My first week back to work, my aupair decided not to show up, and my computer was seized b/c on of the guys at work was using it at night for insider trading and was using my e mail account. I had the SEC questioning me about what I was doing... THANK GOODNESS for maternity leave. It is what saved me.Needless to say, it was a wild week.

sue-donym said...

Why is it that when men bring their child to work it is endearing, and when women do it, we are looked down upon?

April said...

I think it's wonderful that both you and your husband gave each other the opportunity to finish school. And it doesn't matter who makes more money, as long as you're both happy. Although it would be ideal to be properly compensated for educating children.

Good luck to you both! (How many times did I say "both" in this comment? Hmm.)

pflower10 said...


What happened to that guy? Is he doing hard time?

La Yen said...

Seriously. I love being at home (well, I love watching Passions while Jooj naps) but I hate being so incredibly strapped for cash. My biggest problem is, I have no family near by (within two states distance) and I feel like I would be taking home about $150 a month after I pay for day care for my kid so I can work full-time. So frustrating. Because I want to "contribute" to our family, but I don't get paid for raising my kid. And I struggle every day with the notion that I am actually contributing nothing. And the praise that comes with working! How I miss the praise! And the lunches! And the office! sigh. Tell me again why I am paying off two million in student loans? So I can teach Jooj to make play dough snakes? sigh.
I love you for doing what is best for your family, even when you really don't want to. It is a tremendous example to me.
ps--where are my interview q's?

Bek said...

The guy did not go to jail...they pled him out and fined him, but the press would have been worse if they fined him (it involved a majore Ibank and a HUGE IPO at the time...). So, he pretty much got away with it.

Do you know how they caught him? He was faxing the info from the work fax machines and left the documents in the computer. Great, huh? Criminals are dumb!!

Julie said...

Criminals are dumb, but mothers sure aren't. What an awesome post, Azucar! You are gifted with words, wisdom, and a wicked sense of fashion. I hope everything works out the way you want it to.

b. said...

I loved this post, azucar. I relate on soooo many levels, some day I hope to be able to express it as well as you have. What I know to be true about you is that you will absolutely be successful at either or both,separate or together. All the while, teaching your children and others the importance of finding happiness in whatever you put to task.

tiff-fay-fay said...

The hardest pull for me has always been to give up the career. I think if I had, things _might_ have gone differently, but on the flip side, I'm glad I still have it to fall back on. I remember that the last week of maternity leave was always had that sinking feeling to go along with it, but I've always fell into a rhythm that seems to make it work again in our life. My golden rule is that the kids will always be at their house at all times and no day care, which I know can't happen for everyone.

Genuinely, I am glad that I can be at the place I am with my career to have such flexibility and the earning power that I do to make such a good life for me & my girls.

Eliza said...

Totally don't know you, but I'm coming out of the lurking closet to thank you for this post. I (a mom of a 4-month-old) work half-time not especially by choice but it's kinda complicated (when isn't it?). I went back after 6 short weeks with a temporarily modified schedule. It's a full-time job that I'm struggling to fit into 20 hours each week. It is practically an ideal set-up because I work 8 hours a week from home (although that makes it so I can never just "leave it at work") and when I am away, I have my own office to pump in and my husband leaves work early and is dad to the babe. I mostly love my job and I also love being able to pay rent but it can be so stressful sometimes. Then again I have to remind myself that if (when) I quit, my problems will not magically disappear.

I want to copy your last sentence and frame it on my wall. Thank you.

Rachel said...

amen, sista!

Michael said...

I know that this is an old post, but for some reason it showed up in my blog aggregator as new.

The pay for many public workers is horrible. It's especially bad as real estate and the cost of living has gone up so much while the pay for those jobs hasn't. Are you going to stay in Utah after your husband graduates?

Oklahoma is near the bottom in teacher pay (they were closer to the bottom but just got a raise) so a lot of education graduates move to Texas where the cost of living is a little higher but teacher pay is much higher.