“When they are babies they need to be fed and changed. Anyone can do that. But when they become teens, that’s when you need to be around”
After lamenting how I wished I could stay home with my baby, a colleague and fellow mother reassured me with that memorable statement. It seemed so harsh. Don’t I need to bond by reading stories and interacting all day with my infant. Surely no one else could do that as well as me.
But then it did make me feel a little better. I could set up good routines for the rest of the day and put housework aside on the weekends so we could make memories and bond as a family. I trusted the day care to feed and change the boys and besides, my husband was in law school so someone had to work.
I rinsed out my Tupperware container and headed back to the classroom – feeling just a tad less guilty than I had 40 minutes earlier.
Fast forward to the morning of September 11, 2001. I was sitting around a table when the secretary interrupted an early morning meeting to inform us that a plane had hit one of the twin towers, located 40 miles from our school. Since we didn’t have internet, smart phones or even TVs in the building I turned on the radio in my reading room before the students arrived and was shocked to hear that a second plane had just hit the second tower.
As the morning unraveled parents scurried to the school to take home their children. When my afternoon kindergarten class walked in, several 5 year olds told me what they had seen a plane crash into a building on TV. I still had not seen those unforgettable images yet.
I wanted to go home.
We tried to keep the day normal for the children, but I needed my kids in my arms. It was that scary!
I believe that day was a turning point for many of us. Mike and I started to look for homes near my work place and within 6 months my children were safely nestled in my school district. When my youngest started kindergarten that next September, I was in the room next door.
So, while it may have been nice to spend all those early days with my babies, all day long, I am glad that I worked. As they got older I was able to participate in many of their school activities. My home was just minutes from work so my commute was no longer an issue.
As the boys got older I was available in the afternoons to transport them to various lessons and sports. I chose a job that coincided with my children’s hours and that made a big difference during the years before they could drive.
In the past 2 years I have read the accounts of so many women who became unexpected widows like myself. Many of the women are now struggling financially. Going back to school later in life or looking for jobs. Many have to sell their home. Some are forced to work a couple of low paying jobs to pay the bills. It is a rude awakening.
My dad gave me the best advice when I went away to college. I had high hopes of working a glamorous job in the travel field so that I would have great adventures and see the world. I believed I could do whatever I wanted, and I wanted a job like Julie McCoy’s position as a cruise director on the Love Boat.
My dad thought that sounded lovely, but since I was at college I may as well get a teaching degree. I always loved kids and had been playing school in my house since I was 6 years old. He reassured me that I didn’t have to teach right away but it would be a great thing to have in my back pocket. Lucky for me I listened to my dear old dad on that one.
I did spend a few years in my 20s exploring the travel field. I worked for the airlines, hotels, restaurants, reservations, and even lived in the resort type areas of Aspen, Colorado and San Diego, California. The jobs were fun. I worked with people my age and we took advantage of some great benefits.
Ski lift tickets, discounted hotel and dining costs and even a complimentary ride on a hot air balloon over San Diego were some of the perks of working in the travel field.
The best memory was one evening when I was working as a ticket agent for American Airlines at JFK airport in New York. A flight had just arrived from Korea and I was asked to board the aircraft and carry one of the 20 babies on the plane out to meet her new parents. The excitement and tears were contagious. I’m sure my big smile is on someone’s home movie. What a joyful moment.
After I got married and started a family I settled into the regular hours of a school teacher. Mike reassured me that since I would make more money as a teacher so we could now afford to do all those fun perks of working in the travel field. That didn’t really happen but we became experts at finding buy one get one free meals and taking advantage of time share specials. He was always firm with his “no” answer to those 90 minute sessions.
Mike always encouraged me to work and bringing in income to the household made us equals. I never had to answer to him about my spending. It was a team effort.
Those 29 years of my hard work teaching children, and a good teacher’s union, have earned me a stable salary and my own pension. So as I look back on those early years when I felt guilty, I now feel thankful that I chose the working path. I never could have predicted that Mike would die so young and leave me a widow. That was not our plan. I hadn’t considered what to do with only one income.
If I didn’t work back when my kids were little, I may never have been able to find a job teaching in this area later on since well paid teaching jobs are limited.
We all make choices in life. At the time we do the best we can and make the best decisions we can. Looking back I think I made a good choice.
My kids turned out all right. I’m doing Ok today because I have that good job my dad told me to put in my back pocket.
What if one day you were widowed or divorced? Are you prepared for that? Will your daughters be prepared? What can/will you do to make your future secure for you?