Life and Risks After motherhood: In Pursuit of a Passion
By Chrystal Rambarath
Go to college: check. Earn good grades: check. Graduate with honors: check. Go to graduate school: check. Graduate: check. Get a good job and start a career: check. Meet a suitable partner: check. Get married: check. Buy a house: check. Start a family: check.
I had a plan but as they say about best laid plans, and mine is no exception…they often go awry. At first glance, one would think that I had met all of life’s major milestones, and perhaps I have. But I found that simply meeting the milestones was not a true measure of success all the time.
Five plus years of becoming a mother has found me mostly happy and satisfied. I have a good, strong marriage with a strong, stable, though often annoying husband. I have two beautiful, healthy, intelligent but often exasperating children. I have a home that I adore - though as any homeowner can attest, it is a case of non stop improvement and repair. And I also have a strong family system and friends that I can reach out to when life allows me to. Have you noticed the glaring exception to this list of positivity?
If you said, career, then bingo! You hit the jackpot. For some reason, or many, my career has taken several blows. These were not insignificant: high risk pregnancies, an incompatible work environment, chronic illness of a family member which required a cross country move, and the imminent need for heart surgery for my young son. Through all of these, I managed to find the next job and treat each occurrence as though they were minor hiccups. But in my last job, even before the compelling feelings that I had to treasure the last of my children’s pre-school years, I felt bereft of a true purpose in life in a professional sense.
Truthfully, I have been feeling this way for some time. It became more profound as I reached a major birthday at same time I became a mother. It was a growing, nagging dissatisfaction with what I was doing professionally. Though I did my job well and proved capable of more, I just felt that I could not reach for the next step. And it seemed that motherhood pushed the next step further away. I did not quite know or understand how this happened.
During my school years, I easily excelled, often earning a spot on the Dean’s List and even President’s List more often than not. By all indications, It seems that I was headed for a promising career. I knew I wanted to do something great, though I did not necessarily know what. At the same time, I knew I wanted a family. Without an end goal, and without the benefit of a mentor, I sort of drifted from one milestone to the next, without ever venturing too far into the unknown. I was very risk averse, which in hindsight, I wonder if that was always a good thing.
At the time we decided to start our family, it seemed ideal. We had known each other for a number of years, and were well established in our respective jobs. Most importantly for me, was that by the time our children would be college age, we would still be young enough to travel and enjoy our empty nest. But recently, as I have have been mulling over the state of my standstill career, I read an article that gave me pause. According to this article, women who had children between ages 25 to 35 experienced the greatest gaps in income and were often passed up for more challenging and rewarding jobs. Worse yet, working mothers were thought to be less committed to their jobs, despite often working harder than their colleagues.
Finally, it seemed as though I had an explanation for the stagnation I felt. However, this knowledge did not make me feel better. I just feel wholly unprepared and deflated. It seemed like I did everything that I was supposed to do, in the order I was supposed to do it, but it was not enough. As a girl, I fully intended to earn degrees, have a job, and yes, to have a family. I never expected to be out-earned by men and to have my husband earn a significant amount more - though I am grateful. I could not anticipate how difficult it would be to have a rewarding career and to be the engaged parent I wanted to be.
I know too, my particular family situation makes it even more imperative that I be home on time for dinner, and that overnight business trips require some wrangling. Upon further reflection, I know that every trip away from or without my children has to be a carefully coordinated with my husband. Both by design and by circumstance, our lives have had to revolve around our children, particularly for me. And while I know that I am fortunate to to have the luxury of the choice, working in a traditional sense was challenging and actually put strain on our family life.
If someone would have told me that I would have to look to my husband to provide for us or to ask for his blessing to spend, I would have thought they were joking. This is probably the most bitter pill for me to swallow by leaving my job behind, albeit temporarily. To compensate for my inability to contribute financially, I amplified the emotional labor I provide to my family. But as we all know, mothering is often a thankless job, which sometimes makes me feel inadequate. However, I take a deep breath and focus on the precious gift I have to participate in my children’s fleeting childhood
As I enjoy the twilight months of their preschool years, I continue to mull over my career prospects. They say motherhood changes everything and it’s true. Every choice I make, I have to consider how it would affect my family, and the time that I would need to spend away from my children. It is especially important to me that if I chose to work, it would have to be a meaningful experience.
Even as I write this, I know that the time in which my children will need my constant attention is coming to an end. In between the times that I am teaching them, or taking them to one activity or another, I am pursuing opportunities to volunteer and explore areas of interest in which to pursue my next career. I am writing as my mood moved me, and I am reading to my heart’s content. As I play with and teach my children, maintain my home, and pursue my interests, I am steadfastly thinking, evaluating, and making plans. I look at this impending end of my children’s pre-school years, as my new beginning to venture out and do what I’m passionate about, even if this time I finally take a risk.
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