I figured it out today: work is like going to the mall. Let me explain.
We lead a relatively low-consumption (for the average American, not for the rest of the world) life. We buy a lot of things used and there are many things we simply don’t buy at all; we don’t frequent the mall. But with Christmas and the baby needing some fleece sleepers (which I cannot find at Goodwill – I’ve tried) so that he doesn’t freeze into a Henrysicle, I’ve been to the mall several times during the past month. Despite my anti-consumer stance I rather like the mall: I enjoy window shopping and people watching, it’s fun to take Thomas on the carousel, and I do so love those mall pretzels soaked in butter. But the mall is insidious too. I don’t typically think about Kate Spade shoes or consider $300 a sane price for footwear, but if you walk past a pair of those pretty, shiny red flats enough you start to want them, and surrounded by all the other shoes and handbags costing hundreds of dollars they start to look almost reasonable. Honestly, if I don’t want to consume then it’s better not to go to the mall, the temple of American consumerism, at all.
I’ve written before about how I sometimes detest my job and it’s lack of challenging and interesting projects, however, it’s not that simple. There are somewhat interesting things for me to do in my current position and there are other, full-time, positions within my company that would be a great fit for me. I would be engaged, challenged, respected, and great what I did. Those projects and positions would all require returning to full-time status, frequent travel, and/or much longer hours than my current work arrangement. I just wrote about how that is not an acceptable trade-off to me. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting those new assignments – from wishing there was a way to have both a fulfilling career and enough time with my children to be their primary caregiver.
You see, it’s like those Kate Spade shoes – I want them – even though I know that the sacrifices they would entail (blowing our budget and guilt over spending so much money on an imported consumer product) are not worth it in the end. Like I said, typically I wouldn’t even think of those patent leather beauties at all but for my trips to the mall to remind me. And I wouldn’t even think of taking a Monday through Friday job with frequent travel and the expectation to work late, if I didn’t go to work at all. This past week has been particularly tough. I found out about a couple of opportunities which would be perfect for my current career; which a vice-president at our corporation encouraged me to apply for. It’s like the saleslady at the store is enticing me to try on the shoes, telling me how good I would look in them.
I didn’t miss working during my two maternity leaves and I think that if I quit my job tomorrow I would be happy and fulfilled without it. In some ways, it would be so much easier if I just didn’t have to set foot at work, didn’t have to interact with the people there. For the foreseeable future, I have to work and so or the foreseeable future I continue to be tempted by my ambition. I think that the struggle between my professional abilities and ambitions and my passion for my children is one that is going to define the next few years (or more) of my life. I don’t know yet how it will all play out in the end; if my children reach an age where I feel more comfortable spending more time focusing on my career, if there one job that I just can’t pass up. The real truth is I want those shoes and I want that job in Washington D.C.