On Facebook, I'm part of a group for introverted mothers.
I know. Sounds exciting.
Actually, I love hearing from other women who are also introverted but still need connection. I find personality types fascinating as I get older and realize: oh wow...we're legitimately not all the same.
I think part of me, in my 20s, believed that we all had the same desires/needs/paths. As I've gotten older, and as I've changed myself, I realize we truly are unique persons. I've also realized, we're not the same person throughout our whole lives, a fact that sometimes throws me into a tailspin of what-ifs, should-haves and so on.
Back to Facebook. A member of the group asked, simply: what is your career?
She was curious about what other introverted women do for work.
Readers, the answers are fascinating.
There are all sorts of jobs (engineers, dental hygienists, nurses, cashiers, dietitians, teachers, massage therapists, graphic designers), but the thing that stands out to me most is the constant refrain I keep seeing from so many women. That is, many of the women who responded feel they made choices regarding careers before they really knew themselves, their personalities and how they would respond to a working environment.
Many of the women noted that while they loved the job itself (teaching or nursing, for example), they didn't realize what a toll engaging in other aspects of the job would take (meetings, dealing with families/parents, etc.).
Many of these women are wishing they'd studied something else or could somehow step down a bit in rank/title so as to actually engage in their primary job (teaching) without all of the extra baggage (administration) that tips the scales a bit in terms of sapping energy and actual job enjoyment.
I felt this when I worked in DC. I loved my job. I sat in an office or conference room and read reports all day and then wrote reports of my own. It was heaven. I couldn't believe they were paying me to do it. The rub? I was expected to quickly 'outgrow' that job and move up. Moving up meant managing budgets, people and travel. It meant testifying before Congress and going to a lot of meetings.
I didn't want to do those things. I wanted to sit in that office and research human trafficking and write reports and go to lunch and go home at 5:00. And I was willing to make $42,000 a year to do that.
Perhaps the biggest career move I made that wasn't the greatest fit was to become a stay at home mom. On another Facebook page recently a woman argued that SAHM mom isn't actually a job. She said it's hard, yes, but it's not a real job. I disagree with that, and I think this is partly why so many women struggle with the role and why society (no matter what is said outwardly) struggles to respect SAHMs. But that's another post.
My struggle came when I actually stayed home with my kids. In my mind, I thought it would be all fun and games - or at least homemade bread baking while the new baby entertained herself in a playpen and then we all went and met friends for coffee, the house sparkling and my hair blown out in a smooth cascade down my slim back.
Obviously, things didn't work out that way. It was a bit of mayhem.
In the end, I've concluded that the conditions of staying home or even working from home aren't the best fit for me.
Like many of the women on the Facebook group, I struggle to know how to fix that. When we invest so much of our time, selves and finances in a certain career (SAHM, teaching, nursing, engineer), it's hard to then step out of it, in large part because the life we created hinges upon the paycheck that career provides or the other foundations created in the years we've spend engaged. My husband's career is possible in large part because I stay home with our kids. If I shift careers, so to speak, I am not the only one affected.
It's difficult to know, when we're young and haven't had much experience, what we will or won't like, which career will engage us and which one will leave us lackluster or worse. We don't know that nursing involves much more than tending patients or that the majority of how teachers spend their time isn't actually teaching but managing - parents, administration, testing requirements.
I recall one of my professors once telling me she was a little disillusioned with her job, not because she disliked teaching but because of the administrative 'bullshit' she had to deal with. In her syllabus, for example, she noted that all papers should be typed. A student handed her paper in (late) and handwritten. When the professor balked and said she wouldn't accept that (reminding the student to re-read her syllabus), the student took the matter up the chain of command. The professor was reprimanded and told to accept the paper; the syllabus, the administration argued, said the paper should be typed, not must be typed.
This has me thinking and questioning the merits of attending college in our late teens and early twenties at all. Should we be encouraging young people to work first and save college for, perhaps, one's thirties? Once a person has invested (and often incurred debt) in education, it's difficult to simply walk away from that because the job isn't a great fit.
But we only have one life, and while our careers aren't the sum total of what makes us happy or fills our buckets, it's a big part. It really is.
I realize many people don't have the luxury of college or choosing a career at all. But society puts intense pressure on young people to have it figured out, to attend college if at all possible and to stick to their plans, come hell or high-water. Is this realistic? Are people miserable because of a proverbial ball and chain they attached to when they didn't know themselves well enough to make the best choice?
Anyway, lest I veer further, if you had the luxury of a do-over, would you major in the same subjects in college? Would you choose the same career path? Would you do something different?
I'd major in sociology or anthropology with a minor in economics if I had a do-over. I'd work in international development. I wouldn't have become a stay-at-home-mom, even as much as it pains me to write that and as guilty as it makes me feel.
Knowing yourself now, perhaps at an older age and with more experience, do you know which career would be a good fit?
It's raining here today, so I rallied and hit up Jazzercise this morning.