I'm reading all this back and forth on the "opt out" generation, of which I'm a part, if not a participant (anymore). I'm listening to the women on the Today Show who regret having "opted out" because now they have bills to pay and they have no way to earn money. One has been "actively looking for work for three years," one says she's been the "CEO of her home" for the last ten years, and the other started her own company in order to earn money and make her own schedule.
*Sidebar: I've been a job-seeker before. If it's been three years and you're still out there, first take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself if you're on the right track, then maybe reconsider your tactics. That's a VERRRRYYYY long time to be actively seeking work.*
Being a mom in and of itself is no easy task these days. Pick up the kids, drive to/from activities, be at every school function, work out/eat right/have the most presentable body on the block, fraternize with other moms, make sure your kid isn't the classroom bully nor the playground pushover... The pressure of simply being a mom in today's society is almost unbearable. Add to that the need to work? Impossible.
Except it's not.
These things are only problems if you see them as such. Folks, I'm "leaning in" as much as the next woman and you know, I have it set up so that my kids are never left to fend for themselves after the school bell, have someone to wave to at every event (most often, me and/or their dad), and feel just as loved as the yoga-pant donning neighbor who is "CEO" of her home.
I make it work not only because I have to, but because I actually WANT to. But don't tell that to my stay-at-home mom (SAHM) friends who look at me in wonderment every time I actually express a deep satisfaction from my work.
"But don't you miss your kids?"
Uh - yes. of course I do. But I would miss ME if I resigned myself to carpool and playdates. Not that I'm judging others who choose to stay home - more power as far as I'm concerned. In my eyes, that's the harder job. I know - I used to be one. I stayed home for several years after my children were born. But you know what, I didn't make spinning the focal point of my day outside of drop-off. I actually stayed online, dabbled in - no - I opened an online store. I got a twitter handle in 2007 before Twitter was good for nothing more than sharing blog posts and late-night conversations with strangers (my friends hadn't yet heard of the thing). I learned the value of blogging about stuff, later known as product reviews. I knew the FTC regulations for bloggers and how to incorporate HTML into my site. I knew this stuff because even though I was not part of the workforce, I knew I needed to be sharp. For myself, for my family, for my future.
It's not brain surgery, but not enough women are doing this. If I hear "I'm so bored, I need more friends" from one of my SAHM friends again, I'll scream. I want to say, "take a class!" "pick up a hobby!" "do something!" because one day they may need it. Let's face it - the divorce rate is 50 percent and alimony is not, in a typical situation, going to afford a desirable lifestyle. Additionally, it won't be long before kids are in school full-time and for five to eight hours a day, you may have time that can be considered billable. And take it from me, it's not easy trying to fill up that large chasm between the last day of work in an office and your career as an at-home mom.
But there are ways around it. Read on.
I used to opt-out. But not entirely. And that, my friends, is the secret. If you are among the lucky few who have the opportunity to stay home with your children during their formative years, even though it might be a busy time, do SOMETHING. Nap time, babysitter time, night time - all times when you can do something to keep yourself sharp. Have something to tell a prospective employer about your time spent changing diapers and attending Mommy and Me - anything. What skills did you work on while you were home? I'm not sure paying your family's bills counts, but maybe you managed finances for your friend's family. A skill! Tweeting pictures of your feet in the sand or your lunch is never going to be considered productive, but taking part in Twitter campaigns - even just as a spectator - makes you social media savvy. It's not that hard, if done right, you can even add spin doctor to that resume.
Admittedly, I don't earn as much as my counterparts who stayed put after kids. I definitely came back far below where I would've been had I never left. But I'm working my way up and instead of being embarassed about this, I'm proud of where I'm at.
So, that's why I call this whole "opt out" thing crap. Opting out is so black and white. You don't have to be totally out to be a SAHM, you can still keep your toes in the water, even if it's just at the edge, because I assure you, someday you'll need to know where the beach ends, and the ocean begins. And if you're smart, you'll know just how to do this.