The other day was disturbing for me.
For a brief moment, I allowed myself to feel inadequate, diminished, less-than-worthy because I do not "work at a real job." I let myself absorb the stress that someone who does answer the corporate grind feels and found myself very uncomfortable and defensive, yep, said it, defensive. It was like an escalated version of the mommy wars and I had to put it to a stop.
I did the corporate grind of driving through traffic, sitting through meetings where real work didn't get accomplished, working lunch hours, long evenings, taking work home, and answering to a rigid corporate culture. That world for me ended in May 2003 when I was one of many laid others during the early years of the now infamous Great Recession.
My work-at-home status has opened up doors of opportunity that would otherwise have been closed. Not all the doors were financial and all of them have been rewarding and part of my purpose.
Had I continued in my write-my-own-ticket M.B.A. salary that I obtained in 2000 when I started with my last company, I would have missed out on teaching M.B.A. candidates as an Adjunct Professor, I would have surely been visiting my daughter at a gravesite instead of her kindergarten classroom because I would not have been able to drive her to doctor-after-doctor for days until one finally listened and she was scheduled for major surgery the following week. This same girl who battles not one but four chronic, life-altering, heavily-medicated, illnesses that leave both of us exhausted when the sun rises in the morning. I would have missed out on homeschooling my children, being at all my son's musical performances, assisting in his classroom, sitting with dying relatives, tutoring kids, mentoring kids, writing a children's book, writing book reviews for my blog and a local independent bookstore, writing over 300 Internet articles, performing my poetry, campaigning for the first Black President of the United States, starting a summer reading program, and directing an educational summer program as well as leading a community educational group, participating in the racial healing of a community, book clubs, serving as chapter president of a national moms group, and did consulting with a girl scouting organization. Whew, where have the seven years (come May 8th) gone.
My worth and value is more than a paycheck. But to those who like to value people only by dollar signs, Salary.com said that the amount of work, long hours, and contributions of Mom-in-Chiefs rivals that M.B.A. salary that was part of my life almost a decade ago. Some of my corporate moms tell me they would not trade being at home for anything and it wasn't about the lunches or the salary, it was because they knew the work of a full-time mom is self-sacrificing and never-ending. There is no lunch hour, guaranteed two breaks, two weeks vacation, sick pay, or corporate travel. No adult conversations to stimulate the mind, no validation of your work by a rapt audience of colleagues listening to your presentation on a new model line.
Then I realized something, I am exactly where I am supposed to me. Lucky? No, very, very fortunate and blessed that my husband is in a position to allow me to focus on our most valuable treasures - our home and our children. As the mother of six children, ranging from one who would've been 28 down to one who is 6, I know that the time is fleeting and adulthood comes faster than morning. They are only small for a moment.
I am a recycling, bohemian, vegetarian, latte-loving at home mom who has come to find the greatest things about myself and my family. The treasures that I often missed by my late evenings outside the home and restaurant dinners, hour of "quality" time with three sons who all very much tried to get our attention.
My life is not perfect and there are times I wish I could put on a designer power suit and strut my stuff in stiletto heels just one more time. Then I stop myself, the grass is not greener on the other side. Just as my daughter looks up at me with her apple dumpling cheeks, sparkling eyes, and kilowatt smile and says, "mama, I love you!"