What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Because I didn’t make a lot of money as a teacher, leaving the classroom when we couldn’t afford childcare anymore wasn’t a question. It was a necessity.
I get it. We just couldn’t afford childcare. And I guess that maybe if I wanted to continue teaching, I just shouldn’t have had all these kids (*eye roll*). But I did, and here we are, and truthfully, I’ve been lucky enough to have figured out a way to stay in my field, work part-time, and further my education.
If I’m honest, the balancing act gets HARD. And really, really exhausting. Work, class, sitters, cleaning, and, oh right, being a mom. Sometimes I think I should just bow out. I mean, what’s the harm in taking a couple years off? A lot of people do it. A lot of people do it and then return to teaching.
And while that’s true, I have clung to my career like a life raft. I have no idea why I’m working so hard to work. But I just can’t let it go. I can’t let go of the fact that I have a couple degrees and a lot of experience and feel dedicated to a job and profession I am lucky enough to be a part of. It’s more than a huge part of my identity. It’s a big part of my purpose. It’s a big part of my brain. It’s just a big part of me.
Don’t get me wrong. My kids are a big part of my identity. They’re a big part of my purpose, brain, and heart. To have this career isn’t to negate who or what they are to me. I think I just thought it would be easier. Or that the path would at least be there. Sometimes I feel like I just got totally duped.
“Hey, Little Girl, you can grow up to be whatever you want to be. You, too, can go to college! Just know that if you go into a profession that has been historically occupied by a majority of women, you won’t get paid very much. Also know that if you want to a be mother, as well (and you do, don’t you?), you’re going to have to figure out how to afford childcare. Also know that you probably won’t get a paid maternity leave, and your insurance may or may not cover you healthcare costs. If you get married and your husband makes more money than you- and even if he doesn’t- you will be responsible for organizing childcare so you can work, scheduling doctor and dentist appointments (the kids and your own), managing any sick days (the kids and your own), cleaning at least half the house, and, well, actually, a lot of the family household management responsibilities that are still spilling over from pre-women’s-lib-movement. You can grow up to be whatever you want to be. And good luck with that.”
I don’t know if I’m the only one that feels this way. It’s not that I’m unhappy with being a mother, and it’s not that I thought I could “have it all” (though I don’t know why the hell not, my husband seems to be having it all just fine). I just really didn’t think I’d go to school and work for so long only to find all these structural barriers against me continuing to work.
And maybe I’m selfish, but I’m sad about it. I like the professional part of me. I just don’t know if I can really maintain this. I think the work women do is important. But until some systemic change happens that makes being a working mom more sustainable, this is it for now.