Two weeks back into my return from maternity leave, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I read the article about mothers who left their children in more willing and capable hands in order to follow their own ambitions...and I found it, well, ENJOYABLE. Not because working motherhood is terribly hard (it is, sometimes) and I'd rather be home with my babies (I would, more than sometimes). The editorial in the Society section acknowledged women who have dared to do what men have been at liberty to do forever: put parenthood second, while putting themselves and their ambitions first. The author, Julia Baird, sited Dorthea Lange, who gave her five children to foster families while she created many now-famous photographs migrant workers. I am not saying I want this lifestyle, so put away your slings and arrows. Heck, now that I'm back to teaching I already have this lifestyle half the time anyway; someone else is raising my children during the day. It's their fabulous Nana, but still, it's not me. Were we financially able, you would not find me taking my job and shoving it either. Hubby is the one who would happily be a stay-at-homer. To me, working means the change of scene, adult conversation, and renewed sense of purpose - things I can't do without for extended periods. I get itchy. To quote author Doris Lessing, who left her children to write Nobel Prize-winning literature: "There is nothing more boring for an intelligent woman than to spend endless amounts of time with small children." Or, Omigod, please, let's talk about something besides princesses and playdough.
Though the career of a public school teacher in New Jersey may be changing drastically in the next decade, right now I feel I've hit the goldmine where working mothers are concerned. I have a career, one for which I was educated and in which I could immediately use that education, but it's a career that lets me be a mommy too. Few late nights, safe conditions (unless you talk germs), and it's still child-focused. Right now, as "interesting" as life has gotten, I find work to be a respite from home and child worries, just as home is my safe haven from the turmoil at school. It's compartmentalizing, and it works.