I want a divorce!
Some friends of mine – we’ll call them Lucy and Fred – are divorced. They live in the same town and share equal custody of their two children, friends to my kids. Lucy is in charge of all things child-related 50% of the time; Fred handles everything the other 50% of the time. It’s like co-parenting in which the other has to tow an equal load and in which someone always gets me-time. After watching their custody arrangement in action over the last few months, I’ve decided that it works well – so I, too, want a divorce.
It’s not that I don’t love my husband, the Guv – he’s my high school sweetheart, and I’ve loved him madly for nearly twenty years. The reason for my divorce petition is that I’m overworked and not at all paid, and I can’t think of any other way to garner the time I need to plot a return to my own career. With our first child, I worked outside of the home because our family situation both necessitated and allowed it. Petunia was the quintessential “easy” baby, and the Guv could step in where needed; he was a graduate student and did not have long work hours and travel that interfered with my career. But just before the arrival of our second child, Dash, five years later, the tables had turned. The Guv had grown in his career, suddenly becoming a Big Shot. Big Shots work long hours, travel extensively, and make about a gazillion dollars more than I make; Big Shots bring home the Big Bacon. Big Shots don’t step in when kids get sick, or when the wife needs to travel for her penny-ante job. Big Shots’ bosses wouldn’t allow them that time. Since our second child had high needs, our family situation required a parent being available to him for care; it made financial sense for me to be that parent. Suddenly, I became a stay-at-home mom.
I won’t lie; I never intended to be an at-home mom. My career is in higher education administration, most recently in Ivy League graduate admissions. Higher education, even in the Ivy League, pays squat compared to my husband’s job in the financial arena. At the top of my career, I’ll be lucky to make six figures; my husband cleared that his first year out of business school. He is “worth” more in the work force than I am, and he could offer a detailed, took-too-many-economics classes explanation for why that is, actually, fair. Of course, I took too many sociology classes, and I could tell him why our pay inequality is crap. The fact remains, though, even if I don’t like it, that it costs more for the Guv to miss a day of work than it would cost for me to miss a month. Thus my dilemma: how can I swing a return to my career? I see how other moms do it with nannies, but I’m not sure that would be okay for my high-needs child. With apologies to moms out there who rely on their nannies for everything, I am not okay with a nanny taking my kid to the doctor. Nannies come and go, but I’m Dash’s mom. And Dash has been to the doctor eight times in the last two months. Is there a job out there that would really give me the flexibility to take time out for his last-minute medical appointments at the rate of sometimes five per month? Because of the demands of my son’s care, a return to work at this time probably would not be fair to him, to my employer, or to me. I think we’d all lose. Yes, I know that I’m lucky – I can afford to stay home. We all win by my doing so… except, perhaps, for me.Continued on the next page