Thursday, July 24, 2008

42

I have nothing to blog, I just wanted a post with my birthday on it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Might Like My Job

Has it been 12 days since I last blogged? That's terrible.

I don't know why working 37.5 hours a week as a waitress left me so much more time to blog than working 37.5 hours a week as an office worker, but I guess it did. Or maybe my level of unhappiness kept me writing more often. Whatever the reason, I really don't have a lot of free time these days.

But it's not bad because I'm beginning to suspect that I might genuinely enjoy my new job. I mean, it's possible that I've managed to not only be in the right place at the right time, but to actually be in the right place for me, at the right time. Here are the things I like best about my job:

1. Being in charge of the department email box - the polio eradication division of the not-for-profit that I work for has its own email box. I answer emails asking for statistics on global polio cases, PowerPoint presentations, fact sheets, bumper stickers/pins/buttons, information on donating and fundraising, etc. I get to check and answer emails all day long! It's great. And this is in addition to my own email box, which is where all my real work comes from.

2. Interacting with others - I talk to people all day long because I need stuff from them or they need stuff from me, and, so far, they're all pretty cool people. I have a great boss for whom I don't mind doing things (another big part of my job). I love people. I need to be around people all day long.

3. Typing - Today my supervisor needed a document that was undownloadable from the Internet (any suggestions anyone? I could not copy any part of it). So I had to sit there and type four pages of highly formatted text from online. It took about two hours and I worked through lunch (for the first time) because she needed it urgently. I love typing.

4. Breaks - I always eat away from my desk (except for today). This has always been a strong rule for me. I hate eating at my desk and you'll rarely see me do it. We also get two 15-minute breaks a day. I actually take those, too.

5. Words - I enjoy updating documents, editing information so it's clearer, explaining a detailed conversation in an email, etc. If I'm working with words, life isn't bad.

6. Cupcakes - I've been baking cupcakes or cookies or brownies and bringing them in. I love baking and I didn't have anyone to bake for before (Bob doesn't eat sweets). People seem to like it.

7. Committees - I'm on the Coordinator's Professional Development Training committee and the Picnic committee and I'm also in the Book Club, although that isn't a committee and is just for fun (we meet at lunch). I love being on committees because they lead to --

8. Meetings - I think being in a room with a bunch of other people focused on one conversation is the next best thing to a dinner party. And they're even better with snacks.

9. Training - There are so many classes and training sessions I can take! I'm learning to be an expert at Word, Outlook, email, Excel. I'm also taking a Fred Pryor seminar on Document Retention and Destruction (Arthur Andersen jokes are appropriate, since I worked there when it went down). In the future, I'll be taking training in time management, business writing, "managing up" (I think that's when you actually know better than your supervisors, but have to manage how to convey that to them), conflict management. Oh, it'll go on and on!

10. Saying "good morning" - I'm surrounded by all these nice people who act like they like me. Maybe I'll never be lonely again!

I have little free time for blogging because on weekdays I get up at 6:00 a.m to go to the gym and be at my desk by 9:00. Some days I go to a book club or writing group or discussion group after work and get home around 8:30 or 9:30. At that point I just go into the kitchen, pack my breakfast and lunch for the next day, talk to my husband a little and go to bed (I rarely buy food when I'm at work). If I come straight home after work, I usually don't feel like sitting in front of another computer screen. Oh! That's probably the real reason right there: as a waitress, blogging was totally different from work. Now my body wants OUT of the sitting down position by day's end. So, I'm not blogging a lot.

But I really want to. Maybe I can work on it. The last time I had a desk-with-computer job, it was 2004 and I was working at a job that required me to do so little that I surfed and blogged and wrote emails all day. My blogging took place on the job, no problem. This job is not like that at all, but I like it so much more.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Having Kids Does Not Make You Happy

My favorite part of Lorraine Ali's Newsweek article (July 14, 2008) about the effects of children on happiness is this:

In Daniel Gilbert's 2006 book "Stumbling on Happiness," the Harvard professor of psychology looks at several studies and concludes that marital satisfaction decreases dramatically after the birth of the first child -- and increases only when the last child has left home. He also ascertains that parents are happier grocery shopping and even sleeping than spending time with their kids. Other data cited by 2008's "Gross National Happiness" author, Arthur C. Brooks, finds that parents are about 7 percentage points less likely to report being happy than the childless.

I also like the part that says that Florida State University's Robin Simon, a sociology professor who's conducted several recent parenting studies and has drawn similar conclusions, has "received plenty of hate mail in response to her research." I'm sure people who are raising kids hate being told that they have walked into a less happy life than those who have avoided the responsibilities of parenthood. But maybe spreading such news far and wide ("Good morning, Mrs. Hernandez. Did you know that parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childress peers?") can start to make up for all the judgement that the childless have had to take.

I know that I'm a a bit odd for having made a decision to never have kids. I'm especially odd for having specifically chosen, at the age of 41, a husband who also doesn't want to have kids. And I'm even odder for being a Mexican American woman who doesn't want kids.

Actually, I spent my 20's giving not a single consideration to marriage or children, but then at the age of 30 (imagine) I suddenly panicked. I began to worry that if I didn't get on with the process of marriage and children, I'd miss out. I began to think about motherhood in a very focused way. Then I took a job as a part-time nanny to an infant.

My first day on the job, the little boy was seven weeks old and it was the mother's first baby. Along with her, I figured out how to discern his needs, distinguish his cries, handle his little body, keep him entertained. Oh, he needed a LOT of entertaining. How do you engage with a tiny human? I did a lot of carrying, a lot of walking and a lot of singing.

My hours eventually settled at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He was mine all day long. At six months of age he began regularly having fits for no reason. Had he suddenly realized that his mother was leaving him with a stranger three days a week? Maybe. I was at my wits end and often wanted to quit. This wasn't MY kid. Why should I put up with this screaming stress? But I hung in there.

I took care of that child until he was three and a half years old and began pre-school. I was pretty good at feeding him, keeping him safe, keeping him engaged, making sure he had everything he needed for those 24 hours a week he was in my care. I even spent the night with him one weekend when his parents had to be in two different cities. That really taught me why parents are so sleep-deprived!

With that experience, the strong desire to have children left me. My maternal instinct had been exercised and satisfied and I moved on to other interests. I wasn't against having kids, but the baby fever was gone. I dated men who were uncertain about having kids, but I also dated men who definitely wanted them because at that point I was on the fence about it. Did I want to be a mother one day? Uh, sure, maybe. I wasn't really certain.

I spent the rest of my 30's in that state. I figured if I wasn't sure about the children question, I'd better stay uncommitted. In the meantime I gathered anecdotal evidence from family and friends that having kids didn't have a net positive effect on your life. In fact, one friend was award-winningly candid when she said that having kids had brought an equal amount of positives and negatives into her life. Really, the hundreds of day-to-day changes that kids brought, added up to a big push. But when she considered the overall, gestault, big picture, she was glad she had kids.

Okay.

It wasn't until I reached my late 30's that I looked motherhood square in the face and decided to pass. I knew that the extremely high maintenance of infant-care was not for me. Nor was the extremely high energy of toddler care. Nor was the discipline and patience of childcare. Nor the - well, you get the idea (Ali's Newsweek article estimates that raising a child from birth to age 17 costs between $134,370 and $237,520. And that's without school or college tuition).

Early in our dating, I made absolutely sure Bob didn't want kids either. Unlike me, he had grown up imagining himself with a family one day. His dreams of fatherhood had died some time during his 30's, as his search for a life partner dragged on and on. By the time he met me, in his 40's, he knew he no longer had the energy and patience for raising children. This was good news for me. No baby discussion for this couple, although I did make absolutely sure Bob really didn't harbor any remaining fatherhood-longing. Nope. He insists (at the age of almost 46) he's fine with DINK-hood ("dual income, no kids").

I shared this article with him and he found it interesting. We know we've made the right choice.