What do you do when you are the breadwinner/benefits provider and you have 6 months to find a new job, but no idea what you want to do with your life?
No, really–I’m asking.
It’s been 18 months since I left my 18-year job in the dust. When I’m feeling scared about the future, I often try to take myself back to that day when I was leaving the parking structure for the last time. I felt free. I felt like the world was mine. Opportunity was there for the taking. Goodbye safety net, but hello happiness.
I went back to school, and spent a year (so far) totally immersed in studying and enjoying the classes. I volunteered to be room parent for my daughter’s class. For a year, we haven’t had to worry about who will take Charlotte to an appointment, or who will stay home when she’s sick. We’ve only had one schedule to consider about when we plan trips.
I love this life more than I ever imagined I would, and the thought of heading back into the patriarchal world of corporate America makes me physically ill. I can’t do it. I won’t do it.
Except that’s total bull because of course I’ll do it if I have to. I would never sacrifice the security of my family for my own benefit. It would negate the perceived benefit. We need my income. There is no way around that short of winning the lottery or inheriting a lot of money from a relative I never knew I had. What do you mean I had a great aunt Matilda who passed away and left me her sprawling farm and 19th century country home in Vermont?
So here I sit. There are a lot of things I love doing–and not a single one of those things will pay enough to cover our mortgage and preschool. There are a few things that I hate doing, but I’m pretty decent at. Those things require my butt in a chair in some concrete business complex where I work to help men in suits earn their bonuses and sacrifice every bit of flexibility I have now for the sake of a paycheck.
Doesn’t it seem like there should be some middle ground? There has to be, right? I mean, I could take a modest pay cut. Nothing dramatic, but we could manage with a bit less. Would the expectation of less money offer me more flexibility in my work schedule? Why should I have to expect to make less money simply because I’m the parent of a small child?
I don’t have all of the answers right now. Hell, I don’t know if I have any of the answers right now. I just know I need to pick a path, start walking, and hope I read the map correctly.