Why I am Choosing My Career

This blog has been all about how I am pursuing my dream to be a writer and leaving my engineering job so I can be home with my children, etc. etc. Weeeeellll, I’m not going to do that after all. I am not going to do the leaving my job part of it.

I’m still writing my novel and looking for freelance work, but I made the hard decision to stay at my full time job.

Why? Well, mostly this article: Regrets of a Stay-at-home Mom

Now, there are a lot of differences between the woman in this article and me. The biggest and most important difference is our career choice. I am in a career that, with the right experience and education, is completely recession proof. No one is fighting over engineering jobs. I have watched over half of my colleagues being courted by firms and moving on to bigger and better jobs in our industry. It’s a good place to be. It’s stable and it’s in demand.

This woman in the article is a writer. I envy her that. And she seems to have a fine resume full of accomplishments and clout. But it appears that her career path would have gone into a valley regardless of whether or not she had stayed at home with her children. Unfortunately, no one is really getting paid to write anymore.

She also stayed home for over a decade and experienced a divorce. While divorce is a variable no one can control, as I modern career woman I do not think I could stay home that long. I love my children, but once they are in school and pursuing their own interests, I want to devote more time to mine. And the number one interest is my career. Would I stay home through those first few years of school? Maybe. Middle School? No way. Not when I could contribute to our household.

But, that last bit, contributing to the household, that’s the kicker. That’s why I decided not to quit my job. We have bills and debt and financial goals just like everyone else. But I bring in half of our income, which also includes insurance for me and the children, as well as a company matching retirement plan and life insurance plan. I would lose all of it.

The stress of going to work each day would go away only to be replaced by the financial stress of making ends meet. My husband and I argue from time to time, but one thing we never have to argue about is finances, and for that I am grateful.

Plus, there is that nasty ‘re-entry’ process to the workforce that I imagine is worse than re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere. At least the atmosphere doesn’t scrutinize the gap in your employment history.

So right now, I am still working the daily grind, dropping my kids off at daycare, and just trying to keep my cape straight. Will I continue doing this next year, or even next month? Who knows, but for now, I have to do what is best for me and my family.

But if my husband invents something and sells it for a billion dollars, then its SEEYA!

The Color of My Mood is Tired

Today is one of those ‘highly productive days’ where I make list after list and then sit and stare at baby socks on Zulily while I eat yogurt. I did finish reading Tina Fey‘s Bossypants, which makes me think these two thoughts:

1. – ‘I can totally be that funny’

2. ‘Tina Fey and I would be friends if we lived in the same city.’

If I’m honest, I’m only funny when I’m a little drunk and simultaneously a little sick. Give me a few glasses of Pinot during flu season, and you will laugh your guts out. Guts will just be everywhere. And it will be hilarious.

Tina Fey and I probably wouldn’t even be friends if we lived in the same building. Likely because I would be an indentured servant of some type and everyone knows I don’t  ‘do well’ with ‘authority figures’.

But still, it’s a nice thought. Because you know, I think she gets me. She probably gets you too. And that’s all we really want, right? Is somebody to get us. Yep, we are all just a bunch of lonely snowflakes desperate to be understood.

No one at work gets me. But to be fair, my appearance these days may have a little to do with that.

I come in looking like Smee everyday. I don’t know why this is my outfit of choice, but it probably has something to do with these tan cargo ankle pants being the only maternity pants I can wear right now. I have also purchased some large, tortoise cat-eye glasses that I wear everywhere.  I typically top off this ensemble with a dirty pony tale.

I am the poster child for Xanax. I have become a stereotype.

Which is why her book was a nice warm fuzzy.

But look she’s not really trying to relate to anybody, she’s just a funny, self-deprecating woman who made a name for herself.

It’s encouraging. It’s relatable. It’s familiar. The way good comedy should be.

I didn’t intend for this to be a book review, but I guess we are there. Go read Bossypants! Now!

Now back to me. I am a tad bit of a mess. I mostly blame Panda, who has kept me up the past few nights screaming bloody murder. I have narrowed down the causes to either allergy-related drainage and sore throat or Game of Thrones withdrawal. I might be projecting.

But regardless, it is a problem. I am dragging in to work clearly dressed unprofessionally for anyone but a cartoon pirate. Then I zombie eat at my desk while I aimlessly examine the internet.

I’m too exhausted. I’m too exhausted to even hide under my desk and take a nap. I am beyond that. I am William Hurt, regressing back to a single cell organism.

I had weirdo dreams about William Hurt for years, actually. Not sex dreams. Like weird, May-November romance dreams where he was always checking on me to make sure my self-destructive 20-year-old self was ok then he would leave sad because he was JUST TOO CLOSE. I am melodramatic and awkward even when I dream.

So what is an unproductive, sleep-deprived feminist to do? That’s not rhetorical, I need an answer. I just spent the last five minutes staring out my office window thinking about donuts.

I think maybe we call this one a loss and try again tomorrow. Now back to those socks.

 

 

Poll: Do You Regret Becoming a Stay-At-Home Mom?

Hi Moms, I am doing a survey to collect data on working moms that either became stay-at-home moms or worked part-time when they had their children, and if they had difficulty re-entering the workforce later in life. This is what I want to know:

1. what your profession was/is
2. if you went back to work full-time after having children
3. how long it took you to secure a job once you began your search
4. whether or not your salary was comparable to your previous salary

Please leave your info in the comment section, and anything additional you want to add is welcomed. Thanks Moms!

Meta Mommy Advice

Look, we’ve all done it. We are pleasantly chatting with another Mommy about our children and then before we can reach out and pull them back in, those ‘words of wisdom’ come out.

“Just wait until you have another baby! (you’ll never carry around that much stuff anymore.)”

“We never let Junior have anything that isn’t organic. (because we don’t want him to be fat and sick like your kid.)”

“We don’t believe in spanking (because we don’t want him to be a violent hate monger like your child.)

“Better get sleep while you are pregnant! (because as soon as baby get’s here, you won’t sleep again because BABIES NEVER SLEEP.)”

I am sure everyone could add a few more to this.

While being offended when other mothers give me some of this unsolicited advice, I am ashamed to say that I occasionally dish some of it out myself.

And so I had to ask myself why? Why do I do the very thing that I find so annoying/rage-inducing about other moms? Is it revenge? Indifference? sadism?

But my answer was much less nefarious. I do it because parenting is intrinsically a loner sport. And that gets really lonely.

It is the one solitary thing you do in your life that no one can relate to. No one.Yeah, everybody has kids, but no one has your kids.

You are a beautifully complicated snowflake just like your child is a beautifully complicated snowflake. Furthermore, without a rule book, you are both teaching to and learning from each other, and it all happens in a very ephemeral and visceral way.

So you scored a big parenting win today? Don’t get to excited, because tomorrow it all resets back to 0.

Basically, we are predisposed for failure. No one is going to get a 100 on this test, we can only hope for a passing grade.

I think I second guess myself at least 10 times a day when it comes to my parenting. Should I feed them that? Are they getting too much/too little sleep? Is my disciplining technique effective, or am I just making things worse?

That is why they say being a parent is the hardest job. It is, because it is constantly changing, and no one can tell you how to do it right.

But still we search for a way to connect with other parents. We reach out to ask for advice, find a shoulder to cry on, or share in our triumphs.

Then we are P.O.ed when a parent shares their experience with us. It’s a vicious cycle. But we need to connect with each other, we need to find common ground. It’s important because no one can do this solitary, highly specialized job alone. We all need some support.

I guess if I think about it, the support and the camaraderie are so much more important to me than sheltering myself from the ‘advice’.

My advice on giving advice? Don’t do it.  Most people just want you to listen. occasionally someone will ask you how to change a baby’s diaper or is it ok to leave them alone with the dog for a few hours, which you should have quick and direct answers for. But what kind of formula do you use? Keep it simple. Using Brand B instead of Brand A is not going to compromise the health of their child, but ticking them off will jeopardize your friendship.

And when you inevitably get advice back don’t be offended. Save that for political discussions with your family.

 

I Have Adult ADHD

I haven’t been diagnosed yet, but I know I am a copay away from ADHD. I even stopped after writing the first sentence of this post to go to the kitchen. I get distracted by anything and everything.

Food is my main problem. Anything with sugar will pull me away from writing in a split second.

But I am also distracted by blog related things, like marketing and whatnot. Instead of adding content, I’m like, ‘do I need a Tumblr for my blog?’ who knows, but I’ll just sign up for it anyway.

Focusing on my real work is even more difficult. I do all kinds of mental pep talks in the morning to get me motivated and ready.

‘Ok, today you are going to get that review done and then spend an hour writing your novel! you can do it!’

and

‘spend just thirty minutes working on your presentation, then you can take a break. Just thirty minutes, that’s all.’

See, I even bargain with myself. It’s useless, though, I am the last person I am going to listen to.

What’s amazing about my Adult ADHD, though, is my ability to make lists. No kidding, I can make a dozen lists a day, no problem. I even spend time thinking and formulating those lists, drafting and redrafting until I have the perfect list.

Only to totally disregard them and make another list.

I wonder if they are going to give me Ritalin, do they still do that? That might actually be awesome, because then I could finish my novel in one night.

I have a very low pill tolerance. I get sleepy after taking a Tylenol.

I just imagine myself lounging around the house in an apron, popping Ritalin and drinking martinis while my kids run around tearing the house apart.

It sounds fun, really, but I guess I don’t want to end up in rehab while some other soccer mom takes my kids to practice.

kid: Why doesn’t Squishy Bug’s mom ever take us to soccer?

Judgey Soccer Mom: Because honey, Squishy Bug’s mom is at a camp for adults that have no self-control.

kid: What’s self-control?

Judgey and Angry Soccer Mom: It’s what Mommy uses when Daddy doesn’t put a garbage bag in the garbage can even though Mommy has told him every single day since they got married.

kid who will probably need therapy: oh.

I read up on adult ADHD last night and I think there is a slim case I have it probably. Which is a shame, I guess, because I think it would be really cool to finish my novel in a night. However, I probably would be a real drag the next day.

In any case, I should probably do what you should do with any type of illness, get more sleep (hahahahaha, NEXT), eat better, exercise, and organize my work into lists…….got that one down!

Now for some work. Or maybe I’ll make a list. Squirrel!

 

Legos for the Ladies

So Lego has finally put out a Lego set for girls to encourage interest in STEM.

Well, mainly the S part I think, but it’s a start.

What I like most is how normal the lady Lego people look. Normal clothes, normal hair, with just a touch of pink that seems to say ‘hey, I can be a brilliant scientist and still enjoy looking fashionable.’

When Panda is old enough to not swallow the parts, I am going to buy the set for her.

Some critics say ‘why do we need to make such a blatant point that we are marketing to girls? Does it even matter? Kids play with what they like.’

And as a woman in the engineering field my response to that is yes, it does matter. We do need blatant marketing targeted to girls. It matters because we need to move away from a distinction between ‘boy toys’ and ‘girl toys’.

My favorite toys as a child were barbies and Legos.

And I was also reminded often by adults and peers the distinction between the two. Luckily I had parents that really encouraged me to develop my mechanical skills and were thrilled that I preferred Legos to other ‘girl toys’.

Would girl targeted Legos have benefitted me at that tender age?

You bet your Lego brick it would.

I didn’t receive any nudges from the world outside my home telling me it was ok to pursue technical skills. Math seemed to be acceptable for girls, though, so I excelled at that. But when I went to college, there was an unspoken gender gap in the engineering department.

It was cold and icy and unsupportive. I HATED being there. If I wasn’t snubbed or ignored, I was being hit on and condescended to by both faculty and my peers. It seemed to be the same for my few female classmates as well.

I had terrible grades.

Now I am not going to blame my college performance completely on sexism. I partied and played more than I studied. I earned those grades. But there was no encouragement to excel. Telling anyone my major made them laugh.

Laugh!

Because there was a stigma associated with women pursuing technical professions. This was only 15 years ago. The internet and tech boom should have overshadowed the gender divide in technology, but not the good ole boys of solid engineering curriculum, no siree bob.

I hated it, was given very little support or encouragement, and left school with an engineering degree by the skin of my teeth.

Then I moved to Austin to do ANYTHING but be an engineer. And I did that for about 5 years, until I thought, hey, I LIKE tech. I want to build things and I am bored to tears without any challenges in these other industries.

So I lucked up and found a few design jobs until I ended up with the MEP firm I am with now. I am one of the oldest associates here that isn’t a Professional Engineer yet and I probably have a ways to go to catch up with everyone.

Especially now that I intend to pursue my writing career and put this career on the back burner until my kids are older.

But what do I write? Science Fiction. What do I read? Science and Tech articles. My next project will likely be writing an Android App.

I am a STEM girl. I always wanted to be  STEM girl. I have struggled and managed to find a place, but I wish the struggle hadn’t been so hard.

I don’t want it to be hard for my daughter. She may not excel in or enjoy STEM, but I am going to make sure she has every opportunity to. I will encourage her and provide her with all the resources I can.

And it’s super cool that I can now include Lego lady scientists to those resources.

Being Bitchy is Not Feminism

It seems somewhere along our struggle to gain equal rights and pay, we have given ourselves permission to be jerks, ladies.

Why are we taking internet quizzes to determine how bitchy we are, then proudly boasting our high scores on social network sites for friends, family and God knows who else to see?

Why has bitchiness become a badge of honor?

I often struggle with making my voice heard at work among my male colleagues, and it has even been said that women have to be bitches to excel in this industry.

Tina Fey even said famously on SNL ‘bitches get things done’ in response to a negative comment about Hilary Clinton.

It can be deduced that we as women have taken a negativity, or insult, and spun it to instead characterize our strength and resistance to common female stereotypes.

And I get it. And I like the idea.

But somehow we have forgotten that we were trying to redefine the word and have instead created a new stereotype.

That ‘bitches’ are the only women to get stuff done.

And we are proud to be hateful jerks.

That is not feminism.

So if you score high on a ridiculous internet quiz because you refuse to take crap from elderly people that cut line or children that are loud, please don’t brag about it.

Because that is one step back for us, ladies, not forward.

Feminism is helping the older person with the groceries and distracting a child with a funny face.

It is firmly and calmly standing your ground to make others respect your rights, not bullying or demanding that they be recognized.

I don’t want my coworkers to say I am ‘a bitch that gets stuff done’.I want them to say I am a talented hard worker that earns respect through my productivity and integrity. And pretty cool to hang out with, too.

Because You don’t have to be a bitch to be respected.

So don’t call me a bitch. And don’t call yourself one either. We are both better than that. We are strong, we are talented, we are wise. We deserve respect because we command it; not from our words, but from our productivity and from our good deeds. Which should be the same thing.