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Friday, July 29, 2011

Your life or your kids?

 Being a mother is tough. Finding a great job today is tough. Being a military spouse is tough. Imagine you are Kerry, who is all three and is now faced with a terrible choice. Her husband needs to follow orders and relocate to Texas, she needs to stay in Alaska and finish her degree and embark on a career. Her husband wants to take their two girls with him. She is using "The Money Fix" offered by Daily Worth to address her spending habits.

I read this email right before driving home from lunch with my husband, and I feel very sympathetic for Kerry but also incredibly agitated. Just yesterday NPR ran a story on military spouses and how their unemployment rate is 26% compared to the current national average of 9.2%.

Being a professional adult with children forces us all to make difficult choices. I know the feeling of wanting to follow a dream and fulfill a desire that's been put off in order to have kids, or to adjust to a new life in a new city because of your spouse's employment. But Kerry is choosing to follow her career dreams away from her children. While I respect that she can decide what's best for her, I just don't agree with her choice.

I recently chose to bid farewell to my safe full-time job for two reasons. One, so I could work to make my dream of being an author come true. Two, to be more available for my children. At a critical point earlier this year, I was faced with the choice of fulfilling the tasks for a major event for my employer, or caring for the two out of my three kids who were home sick. At the time, I chose work, but I promised myself it was the last time I'd pick work over sick kids.

Not too long after, I launched my own professional writing and public relations firm. I had attempted this before I had any children, but when it was still so new, and I learned I was pregnant, I decided a reliable income was the best decision for our family.

I, too, have had to move to meet the needs of my spouse's employment opportunities, but not to Kerry's extreme.

My husband isn't an American citizen, but he's a gifted software engineer. In order to make the most of his gift, our best options were California or Pittsburgh, because the great tech jobs in our hometown near Washington, DC all required citizenship and security clearance. He wasn't willing to give up his Irish citizenship, so we gave up living close to our families. Sure, he's not in the military and we weren't ordered to live here, but the most logical choice was to move where the work was.  We've prospered here and hindsight shows it was a great choice. Thanks to technology we can keep in touch with our families very well and we have learned not to take them for granted.
Call me old fashioned, but I'm changing
my job to be home with these guys more.

As I reflect upon the choices we've made in our lives, I feel we've tried to follow a course that makes us happy as individual adults. In turn, that makes a stronger couple. And our strong, happy marriage can help us be the kind of parents we aim to be: loving, involved, and good role models.

If Kerry moved to Texas and abandoned her career, perhaps she would become depressed, detached, isolated. Perhaps she would feel resentful and take it out on the family. She has to weigh those possibilities with what she's giving up. I'm not willing to forego the bedtime stories, the backyard Frisbee games, or our peanut butter and jelly pancakes on Sunday mornings.

We all have to chose between things we love. Sometimes it's just between chocolate and vanilla. But the choice Kerry is making would break my heart.


  1. Appreciated your comments- as a newly single (one year) mom of seven, I have been working on another dgree, one in nursing. Yes I have a master's, in a field where it doesn't matter, there are no jobs (7 in the state) and none employing someone who hasn't worked at it in 13 years. I could continue working at my $13 an hour job, with a max of 30 hours a week so I don't qualify for benefits, or I could go back to school and make a bunch more money and get the next 6 through college. (One has a Bachelor's.) Then I could retire, with more than just depending on my ex's social security. It makes sense for me. My four year old has missed out on some time with mom, but she will profit from a much more secure future. I am certainly not in Kerry's position, and and I fear she will lose custody and have regrets, but it is always hard to balance everyone's needs. I am never going to be there the same way a stay at home mom of one or two is, but I hope I am teaching my kids to be hard workers and enjoy the moments.

  2. i agree with you :) and love your blog. i also have 3 boys, am an author, and am married to a computer guy. weird, eh? :)

  3. Wow - Anonymous - you have a lot more worries on your plate than most people. It sounds like you have thought this through and are working toward a goal, which is also more than most people. I wish you all the luck you need, but more importantly I wish you success and happiness.

  4. Elizabeth, thanks, I am getting it done and I am happy. I feel bad for Kerry, though, as I try to be with my kids even just sitting alongside them and reading with my girls. I know it is a struggle for every mom, as you well know. I am trying to be present enough and a good enough student and mom and employee at a daycare. Hey, pb and j pancakes, sometime you must post the recipe. Thanks for blogging.

  5. Anonymous - you asked for it! Here's how I make PB&J pancakes. My husband's variation is to add the PB&J after the pancakes are cooked.