Can I have it all?

In my undergrad I took a course on the psychology of women and one on gender across the lifespan. In those classes I learned about the “double shift”, which is the term given to the fact that working mothers really work 2 shifts: one at their paying job and the other once they get home. It was also pointed out to me that almost all of the female professors (at least in our department) were childless. This highlighted another societal condition: in order to get to high career positions, many women sacrifice at home. Historically women have been primarily responsible for raising children, keeping the home in order, and putting food on the table. This continues in many homes and, as far as cleaning and cooking are concerned, that’s how it is in my house. In contrast, tradition dictates that men are the primary financial providers and that is their main focus. History has not faulted them for remaining more distant at home or making it their “job” to kick back with a beer in front of the tv after a hard day’s work. It used to be that women didn’t work outside of the home. Looking back on it, it makes sense. After all, running a household and raising children is a full-time job in itself with a hell of a lot of overtime! However, as time progressed, more and more women began working outside the home as well. This didn’t mean that the previous duties were obsolete, only that we were expected to manage it all! So, the question is, can you really have it all?

Ever since grade 10, my plan was to become a psychologist. I didn’t quite know how much work would go into that at the time, but I knew that all my friends came to me for advice and I loved being able to help. Once I entered undergrad, I was sure that I had picked the right career path. I found the courses so interesting and along the way I learned about grad school requirements and different types of psychologists. I was mainly interested in clinical psychology, but because programs are so competitive, I opened myself up to school & applied child psychology as well. During the application process, I met J. I actually told one of my best friends that it was a shame that I’d just have to break up with him once I moved for grad school because I could really see us getting serious. By the time grad school acceptance letters were sent out, I was completely in love and sure that he was the one. And he felt the same. The problem was that he had a really good job already waiting for him across the country and if I pursued a PhD as planned that could mean 5+ years of long distance. We both agreed that wouldn’t work. So I crossed my fingers that I’d be accepted at the school where his job was located. Luckily I was. It wouldn’t have been my top choice for programs, but it would still lead to my end goal of being a psychologist and we could be together. As much as I was driven in my career goals, having a family was always more important to me.

Then I started grad school and hated first semester. I had total imposter syndrome where I felt like I didn’t belong and everyone would soon figure out that I didn’t know what I was talking about (turns out I was actually doing quite well). It was that semester that led to my diagnosis of depression. During that semester I also learned that to work in Alberta (the province where I went to grad school and still live) you could be a fully registered psychologist for the same pay whether you had a Master’s or PhD. So with that in mind and the stress I experienced, I decided I would stop at a Master’s. Another driving force behind that decision was that J didn’t want to get married while I was still in school and I also didn’t want to be held back in trying for kids. So twice in my life, big decisions have been made in favor of home life over career (to an extent).

The reason I bring this up is because when I finally get to be a mom, I want to be a super mom! I want to make crafts, play games, go to the park, read stories, go to museums, etc. etc. I also love looking at blogs and pinterest for ideas for DIY, cake decorating and fun food preparation (even though I don’t know if I possess the skills to pull that stuff off). I have checked out what Mommy & Me classes are available here (because I research things to death and obviously over prepare), but pretty much all of them are during the work day :( I want to learn photography so that I can take some great photos of our little family. Add to that that I feel that I need to keep a perfectly clean home and I want to try out a ton of new recipes. I just wonder how will I do it all and still work!?

I will admit that I used to have a completely biased view against stay-at-home mothers. My own mother worked and in a high powered profession at that. I admired that about her. She also managed to keep the house very clean, cook every night, and play with me. I still think of her as one of the world’s best moms. When I was little though, she worked part-time. Now I see all the “yummy mommies” in my neighborhood (many of whom are stay-at-home moms and still have nannies . . . .) and I am jealous because I won’t be able to spend all those daytime hours with my kids. There’s always the choice to become a stay-at-home mom myself, but that obviously changes our financial situation (which J especially doesn’t like the sound of) and I feel like all the hard work toward my master’s degree and the extra training involved in getting registered as a psychologist would be a waste. The other thing is that I only really want to be at home during the pre-school years.  So there’s the option of staying home just until they start school. But my profession involves a lot of continuing education and if I am behind on the latest research and assessment measures, it might be quite difficult to even find work. I could always switch to part-time while they are young, that way I can have daytime fun with them and keep my foot in the career door. But that brings us back to loss of income. Like with most major decisions in life, to have one thing you must sacrifice something else. For working mothers I wonder if they feel like they sacrifice a bit in each department so that they can try to have it all? Hopefully my children’s lives will be fulfilled by my love and quality time when I’m not working rather than feeling like they got jipped because I couldn’t turn their sandwiches into dinosaurs.

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One thought on “Can I have it all?

  1. I co-sign everything about this post!! It is so difficult to achieve career and family goals at the same time. Even by taking just one year off for maternity leave I feel like I’m falling behind professionally. It is delaying my full registration, which means I’ll have to wait longer to get on a higher payscale, be done with monthly supervision, etc. But I’m also terrified to go back to work and leave my baby with a stranger. I don’t want to miss any of her big milestones.

    I don’t know how to reconcile these two aspects of my life.

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