It’s Not All Mary Poppins

I am where I belong

(This post was inspired by this one.)

For a time, I was not satisfied with my career. For a period of several years, I was restless. I’d enjoyed it hugely at first, but after a few years, I began to wonder. Maybe this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. Maybe I could be doing something else, something more. More lucrative, more professional, more… recognized. I explored a few options, for a time working a job and a half, testing out that other possibility.

Which remains a possibility but, I discovered, not yet. And at first that bothered me. I was stuck here because I couldn’t afford to be elsewhere. I was stuck here because I’d wasted years when I could have been pursuing a Career, and now, to step out into that world, I’d be so far behind…

But then I began to look at my work, to look at my days, to see the match between who I am and what I do, and I realized this is what I should be doing. This is where I belong. That the career that I chose at a friend’s suggestion at a very difficult time of my life, is perfect. That my life is pretty much 100% as I’d have it be. Sure, I’d like more money (or perhaps more accurately, freedom from worry about the damned stuff). There are details that I’d like to tweak, I have my worries and there are always those things I strive to improve, but the basic, fundamental shape of my life? It is who I am, and me, I am content.

Being content in your life comes more readily to some people than others, and it certainly isn’t something encouraged by our culture. Strivers are valued. Contentment is equated with complacency, with settling for second-best, with inertia. Even if you feel that it’s a worthy place to be, it’s hard to achieve in a risk-phobic culture, where everything is potentially dangerous, where toxins are lurking in the most unlikely places, where psychological damage is a virtual certainty, where you are encouraged (particularly in parenting) to second-guess every tiny thing you do, think, and feel.

Bah, humbug, say I.

I am content. Except for my teens and the truly miserable years preceding my divorce, I have been content most of my life.

But the contentment I feel now is deeper and richer than anything I’ve experienced before. I think that had I been married to a different man, I’d have been this satisfied during my SAHM years, which I loved, loved, loved… except for the increasingly unavoidable fact that I was with the wrong man. That’ll take the glow off a girl…

But now?

I’m happy in my marriage. My husband (of two years; together for twelve or so) is absolutely perfect for me. We fit together seamlessly, we resolve conflict the same way, we view conversation the same way (and love it), we’re emotionally aware and communicative, we understand each other. Goodbye kisses at the door still take a good five or ten or even fifteen seconds. Every morning. (If that doesn’t sound like much, try it next time you have occasion to kiss your significant other.)

I’m happy with the way my kids are turning out. I have three: one a fully-fledged adult, one a fledgling adult, and one a teen living at home. All three have caused me no end of worry from time to time, have kept me up at night (as infants and as teens!), have made me cry tears of misery and of rage… and all three have made me laugh, have made me cry tears of joy, have challenged and stimulated me, have increased the depth and richness of the tapestry of my life in a way I just can’t see getting from anything else.

I am happy with my career. No, I’m not burning my way up some corporate heirarchy, I’m not raking in the impressive salary, I don’t have the job title that makes people’s eyes light up.

I’m not even going to say that I have an Important Job, and that I Make a Difference (though I believe both those things are absolutely, inarguably true).

It is just that this job, this career, it suits me down to the ground. It allows me to express and explore my strengths, it challenges me where I need it, it causes me to grow as a person. These small people fill my life with laughter and love, their parents (when they’re not driving me crazy) have brought friendship and variety into my life.

This is how I feel. Others may not. I can recall more than one social event, when answering the question of what I did for a living, having the other person say, “Oh,” pause… and walk away.

Really.

I have had people close to me suggest — meaning only the best — that I am not making the best use of my talents, that I am wasting my education (a couple of bachelor’s degrees), that I should think of doing something different, more professional.

And sometimes I have wanted to have the job title that would get a different reaction from strangers, that would reassure my well-intentioned but concerned well-wishers… until I consider that if I had the title, I’d have to have the job… and it woudn’t be this one.

I like working with these little people.
I like seeing them grow, learn, develop and mature.
I like knowing that their lives are richer because of me.
I like the challenge presented by developmental quirks and downright wretched behaviour.
I like that my job demands creativity — creative thinking, creative hands.
I like being my own boss.
I like working from my own home.
I like the level of job security I have.
I like having the time to cook dinner for my family.
I like organizing my home.
I like being on the spot for those times when my kids need to spill something crucial.
I like being the hub and fulcrum of my family.

This is where I belong. I am grateful. I am content.

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January 12, 2010 - Posted by | daycare | ,

13 Comments »

  1. amen!

    Thank you!

    Comment by Dana | January 12, 2010 | Reply

  2. I second Dana’s Amen…which is exactly what I thought after reading this post.

    My greatest joys in this life have come from being there for children…as a mother, an aunt and a teacher.

    “I like being the hub and fulcrum of my family.”

    Me too! Why is that so undervalued in today’s society?

    I suspect the role’s devaluation is, in part, because, for many, many years, this was women’s only option, and it just doesn’t suit everyone. So you had thousands upon thousands of dissatisfied women, resenting the role. With a history like that, is it any surprise that the general attitude to it is “Anyone could do that — but who’d want to? And if you do, what’s wrong with you?”

    But for all those it doesn’t suit, there are those of us it does, and to them I say (as I recently did in an email exchange with one such), if you actively enjoy things domestic, the cooking and the organizing, the creating of a safe haven for your family, the decorating and the tangible expressions of love… that, too, is a valid career. Why would you, if you had a choice, choose a different one than what suits your passions?

    And that last question applies to everyone, male or female, whatever your abilities and interests: “If you have the choice, why not follow your passion?

    Comment by Zayna | January 12, 2010 | Reply

  3. I’m with you, here. Except for some of the scheduling that is just part and parcel of the job, I love it at least *most* of the time, which I think is more than a lot of people can say. mine is not a glamour job, either, and I get lots of those looks and stupid comments asking if I just read all day and shush people and so on, but hey, I’m not a big status-y kind of person. like you, I just want to be comfortable and do what I like.

    Yet again, I like the cut of your jib!

    Those of us who love our jobs most of the time are indeed lucky. “I want to be comfortable and do what I like,” is pretty much how I feel about my life — it’s not a burning-with-drive kind of ambition, but it suits me. When I get frustrated with others’ responses, it has to come down to “Who am I living my life for?”, and the answer is clearly NOT for the doofus at the party who only values the paycheque or the job title.

    Comment by kittenpie | January 12, 2010 | Reply

  4. I wouldn’t change my job for anything. It is a very important job! I had someone sub for me a few weeks ago and she sent me an email telling me I was a Childcare Rock Star Goddess! People just don’t understand how challenging it is. You definitly have a gift if you can spend your whole day helping create beautiful little people out of other peoples children.

    I haven’t been on your site for awhile, but through your writings I can tell you love what you do and you love the kiddos you care for. That is the most important part!

    Doesn’t feel good to know you are where you belong? 🙂

    I think it was you who wrote about the statement that people sometimes give…. ‘you are so lucky! your child behaves so well’…and your response, ‘it isn’t luck! I worked hard at this’ I love that. It really makes me smile when people tell me how great my boys are. Thank you for writing!

    “Rock Star Goddess!” 😀 Fun! Isn’t it nice to get sincere compliments from people who understand?

    Yes, it was me who wrote that post on ‘luck’. It tends to be well-received by caregivers, I’ve noticed! 🙂

    Comment by annie | January 12, 2010 | Reply

  5. You are awesome.

    Awesome? Gee…. I’m blushing.

    Comment by Sylvia | January 12, 2010 | Reply

  6. You rock!

    I love how you articulate your thoughts. This is what I believe and hope my nanny feels about taking care of children. She has a real gift for it, and I do my best to make sure she knows she is valued (and paid well).

    It’s how everyone should feel about their work, in a perfect world… Knowing you’re valued plays a huge role in job satisfaction. I’m sure your nanny is grateful for your support — and your kids will benefit from a happy nanny!

    Comment by Lady M | January 13, 2010 | Reply

  7. That rocked my soul. For which – thank you. I’m so happy you’re so content. And I am learning to be. As a SAHM just now, and will be as a teacher in the future. You’re exactly right. It’s not because the rest of the world thinks we should constantly strive to be recognised as – whatever – that we should go along. We are privileged, and necessary, and fine just where we are. Thank you.

    This post came out of a conversation with another woman having the same sorts of struggles with her desire to be acknowledged and esteemed for her chosen career of SAHM. The principle, though, applies to any work we can do: If we’re doing what suits us, if what we’re doing brings us satisfaction and challenges us… what does it matter where it fits on some arbitrary, external heirarchy of Importance generated by who-know-who? (Moreover, who-knows-who should mind their own freakin’ business and keep their opinions to themselves.) 😛

    Comment by Mwa | January 13, 2010 | Reply

  8. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you are in the right place for yourself. Every page of your writing shows that rightness. You can easily see that you have a joy and passion for your work that not many can match.

    Oh, thank you! I don’t feel blissfully happy every second of every day, but the “rightness” for this career for me is inarguable. I’m glad it shows.

    Comment by Dani | January 13, 2010 | Reply

  9. I completely agree with you! There are those moments (when a kid grabbed my t-shirt by the neck and then threw up down it, the time I sat in someone else’s pee, the recent lovely moment where a 1-year-old puked and the other 1-year-old walked through it and then sat down in it) that I have contemplated retirement, but they usually only last a few minutes.

    Yes, but don’t all those things make such terrific stories?? Way more interesting than a lot of jobs! (Snort. I can find the silver lining in just about anything…)

    Comment by Bev | January 13, 2010 | Reply

  10. Hi,
    I’m a nanny in London and tomorrow I leave a little boy I adore and have been with since he was born (he’s now 3 1/2) to go and work for his cousin.(His mummmy is having another in 2 weeks) I was searching for inspiration, (and if i’m honest, a bit of positivity to lighten my mood) and i found you blog.

    What a joy. You’re an inspiration. It’s really lovely to know that there is someone else out there that loves what they do with the same passion- and also has had the same flippant response to their job title!

    Inspiration? What a lovely thing to say. Thank you! Obviously you’ve forged some bonds of trust, respect, and affection with this family, since they’re keeping you within the family! I’m sure you’ll soon come to love your new charges just as well, and since you’re in the same family, perhaps you’ll see your old ones from time to time?

    Comment by charlpeace | January 13, 2010 | Reply

  11. Thank you, Mary. I was having a similar conversation as yours a few weeks ago, and you totally nailed it for me!!

    Comment by Hsiao-Ling Dawson | January 13, 2010 | Reply

  12. There’s no job more important than the one you are doing! Happy you are happy to be there. The children are lucky to have you and I hope the parents of those children know how lucky they are too!

    Comment by Brianna Popsickle | January 14, 2010 | Reply

  13. I dislike the competitive aspect of the apparently interested way that most people ask what someone does for a living, when all they want to do is evaluate whether you’re worth talking to and how much money you have. It’s not something I take into account when I’m meeting someone.

    You’ve summed up the objectionable nature of that question in one tidy sentence. Of course, the question, in and of itself, isn’t objectionable; the motivation of the questioner often is. Bah.

    Comment by Z | January 17, 2010 | Reply


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