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Monday, 5 February 2018

Things I Didn't Do, And The One Big Thing I Did

My friend Chicken commented on my last post that I was self-aware to realize at a young age what work did and did not suit my introverted personality. While that was a very kind way to describe what was really just self-preservation on my part, her comment did make me pause and think about the careers I considered entering before ending up where I am.

I mentioned a few of them in that post - nurse, teacher, and secretary, the triad of jobs most likely to be filled by women in those days.

Many of the girls in my high school became nurses, and they all seemed to know they were born to do so. I, on the other hand, had a real aversion to being around sick people because I didn't like being sick myself and there are a whole list of sicknesses that are highly contagious. And there was the hat thing. Back then nurses wore those little caps held in place with hairpins, and I knew there was no way one of those was going to stay on my slippery hair for more than two minutes without the use of glue or nails. All in all, nursing wasn't given serious consideration.

The thought of teaching gave me longer pause. My mother was a teacher, I grew up knowing teachers as neighbour and family friends, and when I was little I went through a period of teaching my dolls and stuffed animals. I'm pretty sure a lot of kids do that. It doesn't mean they all become teachers, or that they should. I wasn't one of those kids who was good at helping my classmates if they were having problems. I could explain it once, and if they didn't get it, I was happy to explain it again, but only in the same way all over again. Coming at a problem in a variety of ways is not my strong suit. I understand it one way and you get the explanation one way. No, teaching was not a good choice.

For a few years I thought about becoming an archeologist. Stories about Pompeii, and the pyramids with their hidden treasures, and excavations of all kinds --  these were things I found fascinating. Unfortunately, I wasn't really keen on working outside, I truly don't like getting dirty, and I don't do well in the heat (I pictured myself working in the desert) . . . so I reluctantly struck that career path off my list.

For awhile I considered becoming a librarian. I liked books, I liked the library because BOOKS, I liked sorting and bringing order to things (including books), and I loved the thought of stamping things with the little date stamp and ink pad. Obvious choice, right? Wrong. Turns out librarians do a lot more than sort, arrange, and stamp. You have to know how to research stuff and help people, at a minimum. (Fellow blogger and librarian Steve could elaborate on this.) Researching stuff and helping people did not sound like fun to me. I feel I am making you think I don't like people, which isn't true; it is just that I knew spending eight hours a day interacting with people was something I would find draining, and I would not be happy in my job. (Footnote: I did get to play check-out lady when our kids were in elementary school, because parents could volunteer to help the real librarian with simple duties. And sometimes I get to use stamps and an ink pad at my current job. Dreams CAN come true.)

Studying to be an Administrative Assistant (what you call a secretary who takes three years of university instead of a one year high school commercial course) was the suggestion of my older brother's friend who barely knew me. With no alternative ideas in mind I decided to give it a try, although it turned out to be only a brief stop on the way to a business degree, as my Friday post described.

One of my business courses was a management course, and while writing a paper on the topic of Human Resources, I thought about becoming an HR person in a big business. Here is all I know about Human Resources: you hire people and you fire people. You are working with people, lots of people, all the time. That is your JOB. I actually thought I could do this, until I realized I didn't know the first thing about people. I was only eighteen years old and a true country bumpkin when the possibility of being an HR person flitted - mercifully briefly - through my naive little head. There are a whole lot of people out there who don't know how lucky they are that I didn't pursue this career, because I would have been in a position to impact their careers and that would not have been good.

There was also that brief period of time when I considered switching from business to home economics - either nutrition or sewing - but there was a lot of science involved in nutrition, and science and me never really clicked, and while I liked to sew, I didn't want to do it every working day of my life. (I hear you saying "Fussy, fussy, fussy!" because even my older self is tempted to say it to my younger self, but it would be pointless without a time travel machine at this stage of the game, wouldn't it?)

The thing I really wanted to be - always - was a full-time mom. For me this was not just a biological role, something to do in addition to a career. It was the coveted job, the one I dreamed of from the time I was old enough to hold and tenderly care for my dollies. I felt capable and confident when I pictured raising kids, even though I was the baby of my family and had only a minimum of babysitting experience. I didn't feel capable and confident in any other role I could think of. I guess you could say raising a family was my calling. It was only because I hadn't yet met the person I could picture having a family with that I kept struggling to find a job I might need to work at for the rest of my life.

The irony, and maybe the true test of parenthood as the right job for me, is that as a mom I have dealt successfully with sickness, finding different ways to teach the same concept, being outdoors when I'd rather not, getting dirty while working, dealing with the heat (and the cold) while doing my job, helping with research and finding books, advising on careers, interacting with my kids' friends and their parents and teachers and healthcare givers and a multitude of other people . . . and I wouldn't have had it any other way. I think being a stay-at-home mother is somewhat of an archaic notion these days, and to be honest it was already seen that way when I became one, but for me it was the right choice, and I was fortunate to be in a position to do it. It was also the right choice to get training so that when the time came I could go back to work. In other words, I wouldn't change a thing. 

Question of the day:  How did you choose your life's work? Or did it choose you?


"Mom? Mom? Are you awake, Mom? Mo-o-o-om?" One of the more dubious pleasures of parenthood. But look how cute that little one is! Babies suck us in with their cuteness. By the time the cuteness wears off, we are bonded with them so strongly it makes Crazy Glue seem like water.



 

46 comments:

River said...

"...spending eight hours a day interacting with people was something I would find draining."
ME TOO! and my younger daughter who is now quite happy as an IT Tech with her own office away from the rest of the staff.
Anyway, being a stay at home mum was my choice too, although I didn't really have much idea of how to do it. I wasn't a "hands-on" mum, apart from teaching them as toddlers left from right, colours, numbers and basic spelling along with how to write their names. I remember leaving them to play by themselves a lot, four of them, while I read books and cooked, did the general housework, which I also taught them. But for money making jobs, I ended up being a factory worker, where I had my table and tasks and was left alone (Yay) to do my part and send the work on to the next station. Trouble was, I got good and fast at it, so when I was caught up, I had to go and help the people behind or in front of me, wherever the bottle neck was.
It does seem to me that being a mum was definitely your calling, since you then happily did all those other things you hadn't wanted to do as a paid job.

kylie said...

My life's work? I have had jobs but my life's work was raising a family. It's a long story. Maybe I'll tell it on my blog

kylie said...

Congratulations on your choice and your success. I have only worked part-time since having children and I often felt like an under achiever. Then a neighbour told me her son had been in a Gifted and Talented Class for three full years and she hadn't even known because she was so rushed off her feet trying to get through life with full time work. That made me feel better!
She was so shocked at what she was missing that she left work altogether

Marie Smith said...

What a wonderful journey, Jenny! You made great decisions and enjoyed the journey and the process. It took a wealth of self knowlege which you had in abundance. Your children was blessed to have such a mom.

Sandi said...

I can so relate to this. I wanted to be a rock star. An ice skater. A spy. Mostly, I wanted to be fabulous. I love being a stay-at-home mom. I am even able to homeschool. I have friends who do this too. We are so odd these days. Freaks of nature. Rock stars in our own way. It is glorious. I am grateful and amazed and so, so thankful I get to do this.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I was destined to become a teacher. My father was the headmaster of our village school and we lived in the school house next door. At eighteen I joined Voluntary Service Overseas and taught in The Fiji Islands for a year. At university I took a joint honours degree in English Studies with education and in those days there was a widespread feeling that teaching could help to change the world and re-balance sociological inequities. Sadly, this was a delusion.

Red said...

Now this is an awesome post. It had a surprise ending where you combined all your dislikes into one position that you really likes. Yes, some people make great stay at home Moms and some working Moms also make great moms. As you describe in your post it depends on who you are. On the other hand, my daughter is manager in an HR department in a large company. She heads the training dept. She doesn't have any kids and is an extreme extrovert.

Martha said...

I was all over the map when I was young and when I got older. I've had different jobs and at times I've spent time at home taking care of my kids. I think it's difficult for young people to make a decision on what they want to do for the rest of their life.

37paddington said...

I, too, wanted to me a mom, and I decided really early on that it did not depend on me getting married, because that I could not control, but having a child, well, I could always see how to wrangle that. Luckily I did marry a wonderful man for whom raising a family was just as much a dream. As for work, I always wanted to write, and my parents, good civil servants, instilled that I must, above all, be able to support myself, and so it just seemed that the profession that would allow me to write and support myself was journalism. It chose me, I think. Really I am in publishing these days, and I am one of the lucky ones who actually does work that feeds my spirit. If only it were more predictable and paid somewhat better. But we make a life however we can. Great post!

Steve Reed said...

I think a lot of women might choose to be a stay-at-home mom even nowadays, but sadly, the economics of raising a family have changed so that it's hard to make ends meet without both parents working. (As I understand it, though admittedly I am a childless man and that statement is based solely on conversations with others and on reading!)

Why DID nurses wear those little caps? What was up with that?!

Steve Reed said...

Oh, and I should add that YES, dealing with people is a HUGE part of library work! In fact it's the dominant feature of my days. I sit at a desk out on the main floor of the library, and so many people think that's just an open invitation to wander by and chat with me. The actual organizing and stamping doesn't take NEARLY as much time or energy as the chatting!

only slightly confused said...

I never did figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.....

jenny_o said...

There is a balance between being too hands-on and too hands-off, but it sounds like you did pretty well at finding that. Kids need room to figure things out, too.

jenny_o said...

I'd read that, happily!

jenny_o said...

Wow - to leave work completely, she really had to have been taken aback. Well, good for her for making what must have been a rather difficult choice for her child's sake.

jenny_o said...

Thank you for saying so, Marie, although I don't think it was self-knowledge as much as not wanting to be unhappy. I didn't choose my current work as much as I fell into it!

jenny_o said...

Oh, I can remember thinking about being a rock star and an ice skater, too! I never got around to the spy thing, though :) And yes, whatever we are best at doing, we are rock stars in a different way. I'm glad you got to do it!

jenny_o said...

But where would we be without teachers? Surely we would be further into the inequities pit. It seems to me that teaching is one of the few professions that are still actively trying to change the future of mankind.

jenny_o said...

I'm glad there are all kinds of people in the world. We need different talents and skills and outlooks!

The funny thing about this post was that I didn't start out with the ending in mind. I realized when I got to the end that as a parent I had happily done all the things I avoided in a job! ha ha

jenny_o said...

In full agreement - and the decision is perhaps harder these days than ever before, because jobs are not so secure as they used to be, and technology jobs, at least, are constantly changing.

jenny_o said...

Now that's interesting, that you were set to raise kids regardless of whether you had a partner or not - that was unusual for the time, although less so now. I love your point that we make a life however we can. So true.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

When you are a teacher you spend thousands of hours speaking clearly, being very patient, telling kids what to do and dumbing down your vocabulary. Over a working lifetime this all takes its toll on the person you end up becoming.

jenny_o said...

I think it's true that, economically, both parents have to work at least in some families, but sometimes people don't want to make the choice between two incomes and one. We lived modestly to allow me to stay at home. But my husband earned enough that it was possible, and for some families it just isn't.

Why did nurses wear those caps? I hadn't thought about that question until you asked it! I went searching and found that originally it was larger, to contain a woman's long hair, but over time it changed to a more symbolic cap that was awarded only after completion of training, and thus signified the hard work, dedication, training and knowledge of the nurse.

jenny_o said...

Who would think that chatting would take so much energy? But it does! Do you find it taxing or energizing, or a bit of both?

jenny_o said...

Ha ha! I was wondering what your answer would be, Delores! I'm still like that when it comes to paid work. I just kind of fell into what I do now, although it seems a good fit for me.

jenny_o said...

Maybe that depends on where and who you are teaching, though. My mother feels her years teaching were the best of her life, and still misses it. She had a range of abilities in her classes, from top students all the way to special classes for those who had failed to pass into the next grade for one, two or even three years. But the atmosphere in the schools where she taught was one of general respect for the teaching profession.

Or do you think it's possible you had more impact on your students than you realize? There are likely those you don't know about but who took away with them what you taught and made their lives better than they would have been. You may not be aware of it but it might have been the case. I know I didn't even see most of my teachers after I left school, and I don't remember ever telling them they made my life better, although they certainly did.

dinthebeast said...

When I was in school, all I wanted to do was race motorcycles and play guitar, neither of which could I see a realistic earning potential in.
So I took machining, welding, and metalworking classes, thinking that they would at least keep me close to motorcycles in my working life (and I felt like I should take advantage of the opportunity to learn how to do something real in school, as it seemed odd to me that they would let kids do things like weld, or run large machines, and I'm not sure whether they still do that).
I had an enlightening conversation with Dr. Morgan, the hand surgeon for the area where I lived, one day. I was at his house visiting his daughter who played bass, and playing his electric guitar while she played her bass, and he came over to see who was making time with his daughter, and we struck up a conversation. When he found out that I was in the industrial arts program, he said "OK, give me back my guitar."
When I asked him why, he asked me "Have you ever met anyone who has worked as a machinist for ten years and still has all of his fingers?"
And "All of that safety you're learning is actually effective, but it is based on statistics, procedures that keep the maximum amount of workers the safest with the least reduction in their productivity. When you actually get a job, you'll learn where the real immediate safety zones are and work to them instead, and then the law of averages will get you sooner or later. You seem like a good kid, so I feel like I have to tell you this."
I thanked him at the time, but not nearly enough.
For entirely different reasons, I never did much machining as a job, but I don't regret learning it at all.
What I did instead was become a musician-with-a-day-job-to-pay-the-bills for 32 years until my stroke, after which I haven't worked. Still haven't given up hope, though, I get a little better every day.
The list of day jobs is entertaining sometimes, janitor, cook, truck driver, hand sewing fine carpets, home delivery for a department store, warehouse manager, and supervisor for an organic foods delivery service are a few. I've never worked in an office, and based on what my abilities are now, that may be the next one I do.
It did have the desired effect, though, and supported my music habit all these years while keeping me close enough to venues where music is performed as to make attending them affordable.

-Doug in Oakland

Chicken said...

Hi Jenny-I still say you were/are self aware. I, on the other hand, was not. I spent my early years wishing I was a. an Indian and b. a boy. By high school, I had given up that dream and I thought a career in advertising might suit me because I was creative and I liked that television show, "30 Something", where the two lead characters sat around thinking up good taglines and throwing a basketball at a hoop on their office door. Naturally, I went to school for Fashion Merchandising. How I ended up on that path instead of in marketing, I'm not sure, but I suspect a bad guidance counselor might have had something to do with it. I quickly realized my mistake, left school and lived on my own in a tourist town for awhile, which is how I fell into hospitality. I started to think about owning a restaurant. Then I moved back to my hometown and went back to school. This time for Computer Science. It was really hard. I was very confused. I changed to a business major. Then I transferred to another school, and changed majors yet again to some kind of business degree with an emphasis on restaurant management. Then I got married and had three kids. Then I got divorced and went back to school, finally graduating with a degree in hospitality management at the grand old age of 37. And through it all, I wanted to be a writer:-) But that hardly seemed sensible.

jenny_o said...

How interesting! Your plan took a sharp turn toward what you really wanted to do, thanks to a chance conversation. DOUG YOU NEED TO START A BLOG. PLEASE. You probably have a year of stories in each one of those jobs.

I'm glad you're still noticing improvement. That is awesome. I wish my dad hadn't suffered cognitive problems along with his stroke. He couldn't concentrate on making improvements; his brain was a bit too scattered. And the therapist at the nursing home didn't have enough scheduled time to do anything but the basics with the residents. I'm happy to hear that if a person keeps working at it, it's possible to continue to make changes.

jenny_o said...

"Naturally, I went to school for Fashion Merchandising." LOL!

We had terrible guidance counselors also.

You've done and studied a lot of different things so far in a relatively short time. Are you fairly comfortable in the hospitality industry now?

Blogger 37paddington (in my blog list on the right) is a published writer and sometimes lets us peek into her process as well as the unnerving aspects of being a freelancer. But also see Doug's comment above. Don't give up your dream, just keep your eyes open and watch for opportunities that might move you toward it.

Geo. said...

When I was 20, after 2 years in college, I decided I'd get my B.A. in English then go to a seminary in the Bay Area and become a minister. As usual, I became a gardener. I quit in 2009 and found gardening had provided me with a comfortable retirement. There comes a point at which we must consider a trade that not only satisfies conscience, but also settles an income on our senior citizenship. This epiphany came to me in my 3rd college year, which was when I discovered, to my horror, that I was an idiot. That was nearly a half century ago and I have never regretted it.

Terry said...

One thing I didn’t want to do was to have kids. Unlike you, I didn’t find them appealing at all. I just fumbled my way from job to job. Only when I a camera did I discover something that I wanted to do. I went to soccer matches where i’d photograph the game. The Bedworth Echo saw the pictures and liked them and asked me to do some for them. Then the Hinckley Times got me to photograph some games for them. I became interested in wedding photography when my brother asked me to photograph his daughter’s wedding. I bought an additional camera and lens. I got a few jobs doing weddings in 2012. I had my stroke in 2013.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I have no doubt that I had a positive impact on hundreds of children's lives and I am very clear about it all - having given a huge amount of reflection to matters surrounding teaching. Please don't seek to defuse or re-direct my thoughts and feelings. I know that I gave the job so very much but when all is said and done the "returns" I received were minimal. It was mostly one way traffic. And this is the unvarnished truth.

jenny_o said...

I didn't mean to offend, and I'm sorry I did so. Everyone's truth is theirs to speak.

jenny_o said...

Certainly, people have to eat - even when they get to be seniors!

It is a funny truth, isn't it - the more we know, the more we know how much we don't know.

jenny_o said...

That's interesting, Terry, and must have made the stroke doubly hard on you. Do you, or can you, still use your cameras?

Terry said...

No I can’t.

jenny_o said...

I'm sorry to hear that.

Diane Henders said...

I don't have kids of my own, and I consider moms to be superheroes. As you probably know from my blog, I've had several very different careers, but I'm thrilled to have settled on writing novels - it's my dream job! :-)

Cherie said...

All my life I have enjoyed crafting. I kind of bumbled along through life/work learning a different craft every year. Now I can put all those years of crafting to work for me. I thoroughly enjoy giving talks about crafting with trash. I show people how to see the usefulness in something thst they might have put in the recycle bin. I will never be rich but oh boy I am happy.

jenny_o said...

It's wonderful to see someone able to make a living doing what they love! Usually they have worked hard to get there, though :)

jenny_o said...

That is excellent, Cherie! And sharing that knowledge is important. I'm looking forward to checking out your blog as I too like to craft with things that might otherwise be discarded. Thank you for visiting and commenting :)

Diane Henders said...

Well, I won't say it was easy... ;-)

jenny_o said...

:)

Steve Reed said...

Interesting! I figured it had something to do with hair containment, but you'd think a simple hair net would do the trick. I didn't think of the symbolism involved!

Steve Reed said...

More taxing than energizing, I must admit. I need quiet time to recharge!