I grew up in a household where you worked. You had a job- most often one that you didn’t really like. My father- like so many others of his generation growing up in the Detroit area, went to Ford after his time in the service. For as long as I can remember he worked hard in a dirty, hot, physically intense factory pouring steel. He worked all hour shifts which rotated from days, afternoons and midnights. The phone often rang in the middle of the night or early morning hours and my father always went in. Holidays were a crapshoot- I remember one Christmas we got up at 2am to open presents so he could see us do so before he went to work.
So when I hit my teen years, I knew that working was the only way that I was going to make any money. If I wanted spending money, a car, a spring break- I had to work. And I did, actually. I worked at the same fast food restaurant in high school and then again for the first part of college. It wasn’t fun- in fact at times it was physically stressful. And I was working in the early 90s before child labor laws forbade teens from working past a certain time at night or a number of hours a week. I remember well-being a 16-year-old at work around 1am and my parents calling asking what the hell was I still doing there?
Yeah, I worked hard. I liked making my own money and as I grew older I kept working throughout school. In my twenties I landed a job as an office manager while going to grad school at night. I don’t think I was ever so tired in my life. BUT- I did it, whilst paying off an obscene amount of credit card debt I had accumulated (or tried to pay it off anyhow) before I met my husband.
When we decided to join forces I was working as a student teacher and bartending. Sometimes 12 hour shifts into the wee hours of the morning- coming home stinking like an ashtray. I saved and scrimped- but I knew that soon I was going to be teaching and taking a huge pay cut compared to my office job days. But that was ok- because I was finally going to be doing what I had always wanted to do—- teach.
A few years later the disillusionment of teaching sank in and I knew it was over. My teaching career that I thought I wanted since I was 9, was indeed, finished. I was about to have my first child and the cost of daycare offset any income I could make. Besides- teaching left a really bad taste in my mouth and I wasn’t exactly crying over the prospect of leaving the demoralizing job that I had had. Thus, in 2009 I worked my last day and that was that.
Of course the multiple babies that followed left me too delirious to even think about working. My husband and I did ok financially- lived too dependent on credit- but for the most part weren’t living TOO far beyond our means. Of course now older and wiser we see mistakes that we made along the way and purchases that were impulsive- not to mention the thousands upon thousands of dollars we spent on our dogs with their miscellaneous medical surgeries and whatnot. Bottom line- I was too distracted to think about working and we were in a place where it would have been helpful if I did, but not exactly realistic.
Fast forward to today- I haven’t worked in 7 years. I feel that in my heart if I was in the US I would be working today. The days when the boys are in school I have enough time to work part-time doing something. And that’s fine for when they’re actually IN school- but what about the two half days a week- the holidays and the school breaks? How could I be at the beck and call of helping in the classroom, on a field trip or pick up someone who is sick? I think I’m teetering on the edge of feeling ready to work but caught in the in-between of can I really?
On top of this throw in the whole expat thing. It would be really difficult for me to get a job here with my limited Dutch language knowledge. True, I bet if I really threw myself into the effort of job hunting though I could find something with relation to tutoring in English. I *could*. But the truth is, I don’t want to. Not yet. I still kind of like the not working thing but I’ll admit that I’m starting to teeter.
With the knowledge that eventually this period in my life will come to an end, I think about what it would be like to job hunt. To find something that my outdated degree would actually qualify for. Thinking about what a job interview would be like. What would I say to someone who asks me ‘So, what have you been doing the past, ah, 10 years?’
I like to think that I’ll be honest and say things like ‘Well, taking care of my kids while they were little and quite frankly enjoying not working. I took time to enjoy each day and glean a sense of gratitude out of it. I grew to appreciate my community and its differences, as well as its challenges. I was learning that there was more to life than working every second of every day making more money to buy more things. I liked having the freedom to go on holidays with my kids and am extremely fortunate to have been able to do that.’
But how crappy of a statement is that, even if it’s the truth? I have no idea what’s going to happen. I really, really don’t. I have no idea what I want to do when the time comes.