It seems odd to be pondering the question "If money was not an issue, would you work and what would you do?" when thoughts of money have been so prevalent in my mind lately both at work and at home. There was a time when my children were young that our finances and living situation allowed me the luxury of not having to work; except it wasn't a luxury for me. Instead it felt like a prison I couldn't escape from.
Up until my husband and I bought our first house in 1995, with a preschooler and an infant in tow, I had always worked. I worked as a waitress, a secretary, in property management, sometimes full-time sometimes part-time, sometimes from home; interweaving all of that together was my ongoing effort to complete my degree (BA - Communications with a concentration on advertising & public relations) all while being a mom. Just before my daughter was born and we found our perfect starter home I finally graduated from college and with that everything changed.
In theory everything should have changed for the better. I was home caring for our two fantastic children myself, the bills were paid, there was gas in the car, food on the table and clothes on our backs; but I was miserable and felt guilty for it. It started out well enough and to the outside observer everything seemed wonderful, the children were cared for, the house was clean, and dinners were made all while I slipped away from me.
Where I had once been an over-achieving mother in step with the stellar employee and honors student, I became nothing more than a mom. I believed in my heart it should have been enough, that I should have been thankful for my opportunity, and I felt gut wrenching guilt for wanting more. I was literally dying to get out, and that was killing me. Slowly I dissented, getting dressed, taking a shower, and even brushing my own teeth became optional activities. Engaging with people, even my husband and children, fell away. I was almost robotic; going about my self-imposed chores trying desperately to make my life enough. Overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.
I searched for daycare we could not only trust but afford while simultaneously undervaluing any salary potential I had despite my degree, convinced my worth wasn't any more than it had been before the degree. And so I felt trapped, desperate to get out without the tools to do so. My husband encouraged me as best he could, but he was lost too; lost to wonder where his wife had gone.
It's ironic how brightly the sun shone on the September day my son boarded the bus for kindergarten I stood at the door waving goodbye, tears streaming down my face. I cried because I would miss him, I cried because I worried about him, and I cried because I fiercely loved him; but I also cried because it marked my light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. I was free. With my son in school for 1/2 a day I could suddenly see that I had the ability to earn enough to pay, not only for daycare, but even have a little left over at the end of the week.