Saturday, January 30, 2010

The problem of priorities

By the time you have kids you really should have picked a team in the chicken and egg conundrum. Clearly, the chicken came first or else the egg would not be there. Where the chicken came from is a mystery that parents need not worry about but that the chicken came and still comes first, that it should get enough sleep and have first dibs on the remote control, is no longer the question.

Quite a few things about my introduction to parenting were a bit unplanned. First, with Frost, I became pregnant while living on another continent from the rooster. This led to an abrupt truncation of my current domicile, high-flying career and ultimately citizenship. Secondly, Wren, who was disobliging enough to be born with a serious heart defect (thus making me feel bad about dumping him at a daycare and resuming said career) came at a time in which I was seriously planning a return to work. I had formed a LLC to use with my planned employment as a research consultant, had sent off some resumes and even had an interview with a local research company with the hope of being hired on a project basis. Having had three miscarriages in prior years I did not feel I was being overly optimistic while having a job interview in the first trimester. Bluntly put, I did not expect the egg to hatch.

Yet here I am again in the whole murky question of priorities. It is coming to a head because of the Franklin Covey Balanced Life Planner I bought a few weeks ago and have been dutifully filling in. You can scoff about them but having a paper system for keeping notes and plans and thoughts really works for me. Call it what you will - Josh calls these things part of my search for an external locus of control - I like to work with a list. My planner is the Boss.

This week my planner guide told me I had to set Priorities. I was supposed to have high level life categories and then to implement these categories into goals and next actions. So I started to pick goals from their list. I picked:




... and then I stalled. The next one was WORK. I sat there and thought about it. My current official status is "I want to work". If some survey company called and asked me if I was currently looking for work I would say YES and go into the ranks of the unemployed.

But I'm not.

But because I am an obedient planner-user if I pick WORK as a category does that mean I have to do something about?

I guess so.

Then, not a day after this awkward epiphany, a friend emailed asking whether I was interested in bidding on a focus group project she is outsourcing. I mentioned this to Josh and he said "when are you doing it?" I said that I was going to hear more about it. He asked "when". I started to get the feeling that I was going to be offered another external locus. I said that I would do so when I had the details.

He thinks I am procrastinating but I'm not.


I know I can do and manage part-time or contract work and would leap at any opportunity like that. However, there is not much of it out there and this is where I get to the chicken and the egg again.

Kids exist full time. So, if YOU - the full-time parent - want to work somewhere else then you have to find someone to look after your kids all that time. That costs lots of money and you don't have lots of money because you don't get paid to look after your kids. Also, while having your brain stabbed all day by shrieking children you are not in the confident and collected state of mind that finding work requires. It feels as if there are two, mutually exclusive states. State 1 is being a full-time parent. State 2 is being at work (and from the perspective of the brain-injured mother it looks like a meditative zone of contemplation and easy access to coffee although I know that is not true) but in reality those states overlap.

I wrote WORK as one of my categories. As an act of faith.

Anyhow. I could probably find some elegant way to bring this entry to a close but that would undermine the message which is that I am having a problem bringing this issue to a close. It is a work in progress. It's a chicken laying an egg while the egg writes its resume.

Get a part-time or contract position that allows some flexibility to meet family needs.
Watch Californication with a cup of tea.

Thus the world turns.


Erin said...

This is brilliant, Shannon. And I completely identify.

tamusana said...

hey Shannon,

I can totally relate. Things are a bit easier for me now that both the boys are at school (4 days/week), which means that theoretically I have some good stretches of time to myself. Other Life tasks get in the way, however, as you undoubtedly know.

Still, after 3 years of not working (for money, in a "job"), I'm about to start a teeny tiny consultancy which will total about 6 days' work (if my dayrate is $400, which apparently is not very high) over a couple of months. Garrett says that this is a Good Start, that it's better to be looking for work while currently employed.

I'm looking forward to it, although I know that (a) I will spend more than 6 days getting the work done... I'm a perfectionist, and thus slower than necessary; (b) we've already spent my "income" fixing the car. Bummer.