Thursday, March 22, 2007

Work, family and guilt

The CPD and I moved my office this morning. University extension offices are a low-budget affair in nearly all states so this generally means moving from one corner walled off by file cabinets and boxes to another. In my case it was to a different room, walled off by shelves. However, because of an odd structural left-over from a previous occupant, I actually have a door that closes. I also have a window with a window sill (small but pleasant features).

Anyway, it took all day to put things away, but it was looking pretty good when I walked out. My job requires keeping all sorts of odd things handy-ranging from arts and crafts to six-foot long foam noodles to stuffed animals to all kinds of books and educational tools. I've barely had room to turn around for sometime now. Frankly, my suspicion is that our extremely nice but perfectionistic CPD moved me because my clutter has a way of creeping across the office (so does his, but it "looks" more important).

I confess I'm feeling terribly guilty. I'm planning to give my notice in July and actually leave the position at the end of August. That's the end of the 4-H year and the end of my third year in the position as well. No one there knows it yet and there's no point in saying anything at this stage. I almost said no to the move because I didn't see much point in it, but the new nutritionist needs my corner and I didn't want to explain myself.

I've enjoyed most of my time in the position, but the erratic schedule is hard on my family and trying to homeschool around it has been a huge headache. I'm only paid for twenty hours, but regularly work more than that. Then there's all the travel-time, the overnight trips and staffing camps and regional events and the fact that the office is 34 miles from home. I am constantly pulled in two directions and never feel like I'm doing justice to anything I take on. Nor do I ever feel like I'm off work. As I type this I'm aware of a handwritten rough draft of a fairbook that I have to type up tonight so I can ask my collegues tomorrow whether it will work or not.

In order to do everything the job requires plus homeschool, plus work with the teens at church, I've had to give up some passions--hiking, dog training, gardening (I miss the dirt . . ) and I rarely visit with or call friends because the idea of picking up the phone or going anywhere but home in my off-time doesn't appeal to me. I've gained weight (and am terribly depressed about it--I haven't looked this bad since my early twenties. I will lose it again after I quit, but meanwhile I feel and look awful). My blood pressure is up and my back is frequently out. This is not me, not me at all. I've never been particularly vain (am a jeans, sweatshirt and tennis shoe sort) but this is too much.

I hate the idea of letting my collegues, the kids and the volunteers down. It's actually kept me from giving my notice sooner. However, as my sometimes wise husband said, "This isnt' a marriage. It's a job. Do you really think these all people expect you to stay in this position forever?"

Frighteningly, the answer to that is "yes"--you have to know the mindset. My husband (once again the wise guy) said that there are people with jobs who just happen to also have families and there are people with families who just happen to have jobs. We're the latter. Again, they are great people--there's not one of them that I don't like and respect and enjoy. I just don't relate to the the passion they have for their jobs.

I've continued writing because it can be done late at night or in the pre-dawn hours and because I see it as a way out. It's not about fame and fortune; it's about making a living doing what I do anyway. I am not planning a best seller, but I am planning to sell enough books to pay for habit.

Oh yeah. Speaking of books . . . the fairbook. Best get it done . . .


Scotty said...

Don't feel guilty just because your priorities differ to those around you, Mary. A job that pays the bills can be important. A job that pays the bills and leaves you with something left over to enjoy can be nice. But a job (in this context anyway) is not the be-all and end-all of everything.

There are other, more important jobs, such as raising a family, taking care of one's health and sanity and marriage and sense of humour that rate just as high.

Some employers, and indeed some employees, should keep that in mind.

Mary O. Paddock said...

Thank you Scotty. I really wasn't looking for a new religion when I took this position, and sometimes that's how it feels.