Friday, March 16, 2012

To work or not to work...

Snuggles a few days after coming home from the NICU
 My dream growing up was to be a Mom. I thought I'd go to college and earn a degree in something fun, work for a few years while looking for the perfect husband, get married, have babies, and stay home to raise them. My plan has almost come true.

I did earn a fun degree in advertising and public relations and I worked in the field for about two years before deciding it was not so fun after all. I was doing school marketing and working with teachers and thought - Hey, teaching sounds like fun! I went back to school and got a master's degree in social science education. I taught middle school for ten years and during that time met the perfect guy, got married, and got pregnant. So far so good, right?

My husband is also a teacher and as the world knows teachers are not highly paid. So as we made plans during my pregnancy we thought that it would be best if I took the three months maternity leave and went back to work, shipping our baby off to daycare somewhere. I was not thrilled with this since I firmly believe that the best person to raise a child is their mother, but I also realize that raising a child with no clothes or food is not a wise option either. (And as a side note, I have taught in three different states, meaning that I basically have no retirement at this point! Yikes!) So off we went during what turned out to be the final month of pregnancy to explore our child care options. And it was scary.

Where we live there are not day care centers, instead there are women who watch 6-10 children in their homes. We printed the list of the home day care options from the internet and started making calls. Many places were already full - especially since they can only take two babies under the age of two at a time. We met with several scary people in their scary homes until we settled on someone that we didn't think was perfect, but could do the job (and it helped that our friends sent their babies here too). As fate would have it, our daughter came two months early and spent three months in various NICU's.

My maternity leave came and went quickly and we were still in the hospital. We learned of my daughter's life-long health issues that require hormone replacement therapy and careful monitoring. We decided that our best move would be for me to take a leave of absence for the remainder of the school year to stay home with Sweet Pea.

Being home with her has been a dream come true. Literally. I love waking up with her in the morning, playing with her during the day, being able to handle her medical care (paperwork, insurance, appointments) in peace, taking an afternoon nap with her. I like that I can keep the house somewhat clean and bake to my hearts desire. I am tired at the end of each day, don't get me wrong, but I do not have any papers to grade once I put her down for the night - and that is utterly delightful.

My husband and I have debated finding new jobs and moving closer to a major hospital for the sake of our child; we talk about it daily and have explored many different options. This would be incredibly difficult however because we live in a relatively affordable (very rural) part of the state, and the two areas with major hospitals seem to have housing markets that require you to have millions in the bank. We would both have to get lucky in finding teaching jobs. I've applied for one so far and although I was perfectly qualified I didn't even get an interview. We've been told that the superintendent is asking schools not to hire anyone with more than five years experience. No other jobs have posted that either I nor my husband are qualified for.

We've also toyed with the idea of me staying home one more year until Sweet Pea can at least talk. Then she could tell someone when she wasn't feeling well or if she needed a drink of water... and she could tell us if someone isn't treating her well. We could make this work if my husband works this summer and if I could work part-time somewhere - but where would I work? What would I be doing? Could I work from home? We would still have to be very frugal and would not be able to build our savings back up, but it could be done.

And last, I could go back to work. I've already resigned from my current position because even if I went back to teaching I would not want to work in that same position - the drive is just too far. I've recently learned of an available position at what was just last year my dream school because it is right down the road from our house. I could ride my bike if I wanted.  There is no reason why they shouldn't hire me. But do I really want to go back to the classroom? We've decided we would have to hire a nanny - if we can find one - for Sweet Pea and that would cost half of my take home pay. It would be worth it to know that she is cared for and safe. Taking this job would mean that I'd have a teaching job until I retired, but it also means that if we did decide we HAD to move at some point in the future I'd have even more teaching experience (and would thus be more expensive to a school) and administrators might wonder why I've taught in so many different buildings.

There are so many things for us to consider that it is quite overwhelming. I would most love to stay home with Sweet Pea while getting paid to write and taking her with me on new adventures. I'm not sure how to make that happen though and I'm running out of time to figure it out!

Did you struggle with the decision to go back to work? How did you make your decision? I'm starting to think my t-charts need an upgrade!

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