I've found myself very confused lately. A lot of things are happening all at once, all of them are good, and they're all things I want, but I'm still not truly sure how I feel about everything as a whole. If you've read anything I've written, you know that I put a high priority on obtaining a greater level of self-sufficiency. We were on a mission to fix up our home, put it on the market by next spring, and then either build or buy our forever home on 5+ acres of land.

One of the ideas we have toyed with was buying fairly inexpensive land, building our own home from as much salvage as possible, and then quitting work to stay at home with our kid(s). We only have one now, but we wanted one more. I am interested in homeschooling and it's important to me to "free-range" our kids. I want them to grow up playing in the woods, not playgrounds. I want livestock and to garden. I want us to eat humanely raised, home-grown food, and for my kids to participate in that. Because of the high cost of land in our area, building our own home is the only way that we could own acreage and still afford for me to quit my job.

But I like my job. I work with a great group of people, and I find a lot of fulfillment through helping people. I don't kid myself that I'm super-cop or anything, but I DO make a difference in people's lives. Recently, our department began a hiring process for K-9 handlers. Having a working dog is something I've always been interested in. I'm a dog person, and I enjoy training and working with our family dog. I also like patrol work, so having a dog to assist with drug detection and tracking is pretty much everything I ever wanted out of my career. I went through the process, did very well, and am in line to get a K-9 partner next spring (which will be the next dog our department adds). I'd have gotten one sooner, except that...

I found out I'm pregnant.

This wasn't a complete surprise. We weren't doing anything to prevent pregnancy, but we didn't expect it so quickly. But obviously I'm very excited about the new addition to our family, and I can't wait for Ethan to have a little brother or sister.

And I guess what it all boils down to is that my priorities for family and career are conflicting in a way I never imagined they would. If I get a dog, it's an 8 to 10 year commitment to the department. Obviously they can't keep me from quitting if I decide to, but I take that commitment very seriously. I'd be making a deal, and I would make good on it. I'm also in a position to realize one of my dreams. They're willing to work around my pregnancy and maternity leave, which I think is awesome. This is a chance I may never have again.

But I feel like I'm giving up my dreams for our family. Obviously we can still move to a new home with more property, and we'd be able to afford more property and/or a nicer house (or just more savings and a greater financial cushion) if I was still contributing a paycheck. But the possibility of staying home, farming, and raising children would be taken off the table. I could do some of it, some of the time. I know I could homeschool in the mornings and work in the afternoon. We could still have animals, a garden, and learn to be more self-sufficient. But we'd need to hire a nanny. Our current sitters have a home business and cannot take care of a super-busy toddler and an infant. Having a dog means I wouldn't be able to switch shifts at work. I'd be on afternoons for the foreseeable future. Eating dinner at home every night would not be a reality. Shayne and I would almost certainly stay on separate shifts in order to maximize the amount of time our kids spend with us instead of a caregiver.

I'm not sure if I'm okay with this. But I'm not sure I want to give up my career goals. Right now, it doesn't seem like there's a compromise. I was planning on working another 4 years anyways, because we are vested in the retirement program after 8 years. It seems silly to give up a pension. But before the K-9 position opened up, I had also contemplated switching to first shift so that DH and I could have more family time. Ethan would spend more time with a caregiver, but DH and I would see each other more. We could have dinner together every night.

I don't know how to figure out what is best for our family. I don't know how to figure out what is best for me! I feel like I would forever regret not realizing my career dream, but I don't want to achieve my personal goals at the expense of my family. I was raised by a single mom, and I know it doesn't damage kids to have a caregiver instead of mom or dad 24 hours per day. But I also never imagined I'd want to give up my job to stay home and raise babies. There are so many ways to look at this equation that it makes my head spin.

I don't know if I'm looking for advice, BTDT stories, or what. But if you've read this entire "book", I'd appreciate hearing from you!


Jessie said...

These are tough decisions, don't you wish you could just look in the crystal ball and see what the future holds?
I worked with a woman years ago who told me she worked full-time while her kids were little and then part-time when they got into school, b/c they needed her more when they got older.
I'm starting to see the same thing with my eldest (1st grade!). The emotional support she requires is greater now than when she was little and content to just be carried everywhere.
The main thing- whatever you decide is the right thing, that's the right thing. Sometimes opportunity looks different than you'd expect. Hang in there! -Jessie
P.S. I'm not normally a commenter, but the openness of your post really spoke to me. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

You are right that there are many ways to look at this - are you giving up your career for your family, or giving up your family for your career? You are right that you can probably do both, as I did. But I didn't want to farm, too. Maybe your career is your family? I never had the challenge to make these decisions. Mine were kind of handed to me. But I always knew what my priority was. And I never regretted it. I guess that's the key - what is your priority and what needs to be done to keep it that way. Love you!