Wednesday, April 07, 2010

mental chatter and conflicts


We're GOING.


We're NOT going.


We're GOING.


We're NOT going.




We're so totally GOING.


We're NOT going.


We're GOING.


We're NOT going.


This is how it's been for the past several days at our house and I've been so conflicted.


Just yesterday, I was cursing my college education. For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a mother. So why in the world did I go to college and earn a degree that would one day put me in a position where I'd need to chose between my career and my family?

Yep. I really had those thoughts.

Wait. Did you hear that?

It was the sound of feminists smacking their heads as they fell from their chairs.

My husband should work. I should be home. We should simplify our lives to the point that we can easily survive off one income. I can plant crops and trap small animals for fur and skin. I'll make clothes and shoes and soap and candles. We will live as primitive as primitive can be.

Until I totally crack because my crops are being consumed by bugs, I have to touch a dead animal, and there is no way I could ever cut the skin or fur off one.

! HELP!! Where are you?)

The possibility of Charlie securing a full time job is very real. As is the possibility of me securing a part time job as a consultant. But the salary and benefits of my current employer cannot be surpassed. And the fact that in just a few years, I will be eligible for a pension and lifetime medical benefits cannot be ignored.

Well, they can.

But they're not.

Because whenever I try, someone reminds me.

So we've made advantage versus disadvantage lists. We've prayed over those lists. We've sipped an entire bottle of wine while contemplating our future. We've sipped another entire bottle of wine while praying over lists. We've spun around in circles and drawn straws and flipped coins.

We've looked for signs.

We've received signs.

On Easter Sunday, with our friends and families serving witness, we gave ourselves until 3:30 to make a decision about whether or not we would stay in California or move to Virginia. We made our decision to stay. Twelve minutes later, at 3:42 PM, there was a magnitude 7.2 earthquake 125 miles away in Mexico that rocked our house.

This was a sign to leave.

The very next day, Charlie was very safely changing lanes and a car at least 50 feet back laid on it's horn and flipped him the bird. I launched in to how much I despise traffic and rude drivers and if we move, I'll be faced with a commute everyday and that's when I noticed the offending car was from Virginia. Surely this was just an indication of what's to come.

This was a sign to stay.

We've got a great thing here. I work from home. I'm with the children. I've got INCREDIBLE job flexibility. We're in a great area. The family comes with me on almost all big business trips. The weather in San Diego is nearly perfect, year round. We've got an amazing network of friends. We attend a great church. We love our little house.

Our life is incredibly good.

And we are clearly at a cross roads.

If we go right we move to Virginia. If we go left Charlie accepts a full time job. (I struggled for several minutes debating if Virginia was going "left" or "right.") If we stay straight, we can continue on this path for maybe two more years. But it is clearly evident that this road will soon reach a dead end.

It feels like if I take this job and have to work in an office, I'll be sacrificing my motherhood for my careerhood and that defies my maternal instinct.

But. Then.

Change is awesome. Being close to my family on the east coast is something I've always desired. The change of seasons will be wonderful at least for the first snowfall. We need a larger house. But then again, do we really? No, of course not. We could stay in this small house forever. We don't need much space to survive and I like embracing a simple life. Then again, a walk in pantry sure would be swell. And once the children are in school, what will I do during the day?

Twiddle my thumbs?

After spending the past few days with my 17-year old niece and hearing how much tuition will be - despite academic and athletic scholarships - I suddenly believe that it is necessary for us to spend at least two weekends a month rummaging through dumpsters and collecting cans and maybe then, we'll have enough for BOOKS. If I take this job, I could be working and making money for their college educations, which they will desperately need.

Did I mention we'll have FOUR children in college at the SAME TIME?!

Where are the smelling salts and lottery tickets??

The fact is, the next 20 years represent my best window of opportunity to grow in my career and tuck money away for our future. Unfortunately, the next 20 years also represent my best window of opportunity to raise our children.

How is it possible to do both?

Which is more important?

Why must I feel like I'm choosing one over the other?

Does every working mother face this kind of conflict?

Or am I alone?

Echo. Echo. ECHOoooooo....

What is the real purpose for me working? Our children don't need more money (at least not for the next 12 years.) Our children need their mother. So the biggest hangup for me is that if we move and if I accept this job, I need to maintain a large degree of flexibility. I want to be able to work hours that allow me to see the children off to school and be there when they come home. I want the option of working from home at night. I don't want to be stuck in a commute. I don't want for WORK to get in the way of my FAMILY. But I'm sure it will, sometimes.

And I have to be OK with that.

At this moment, I'm not.

Because I will NEVER get these years back again.

My company can replace me.

My children can't.

Charlie has been extremely supportive and has told me so long as we're together, it doesn't matter where we are. But boy, it sure would be awesome if we moved in to a house with a basement so that he could get an air hockey table and have ample space for his guitar collection!


My husband believes that he can just as easily grow his business from the east coast. He assures me that I'll be just as great of a mother if I'm working in an office. And he has assured me that on the days when I can't be there to shuttle the children to and from school, he will. He'll be there to coach soccer and baseball and make cookies for bake sales. He's extremely excited to do it. Which makes me feel a little better about the fact that it won't always be me.

We'll rent our house so if we don't like it and want to come back, we can. And if we like it and decide to stay, we'll have a great tax deduction. Provided an earthquake doesn't shake our house clear off the foundation. That reminds me, we should probably invest in earthquake insurance.

There certainly seems to be a lot of seismic activity these days.


And not just in my mind.


  1. Yes, that was a big one! As soon as a I saw Mexicali, we thought of you guys! Glad the TV didn't come crashing down! WTG, Charlie! It was so great to talk with you and we can't wait to see you all on the 15th and introduce you to "Cheeks" oh, I mean William!
    Oh, and I vote that you guys should stay put!

  2. I find myself clicking on your blog 10 times a day to see what you have finally decided. I am sure you will do what's best for you at the time... And if it doesn't turn out to be the right decision some day, you can always change your mind and start over. You've already got great tents and sleeping bags, remember? When we had the choice of choosing between three continents to live on, we avoided making a decision, which in itself was a decision, I guess. We can always retire somewhere exotic, right?
    Good luck!

  3. change is good, but scary. After reading your post, it sounds like you know what you need to do but are frightened (understandably so) about making the move.

    I hope you find peace in your decision and that it is the best thing for your family.

  4. I wish I knew what to tell you. This is a decision that only you guys can make. And you make valid points - what'll you do when the kids are in school? College costs? (4 at once???). How you'll never get these years back. I'm not envying you of this decision.

    Thought of you when I heard about the earthquake - glad you are all okay.

  5. Not sure I have all the details for each option right, but here goes....I think you should move to VA to be closer to your family. Family is so important and time is precious. Take the job. Make it clear that you'd like to be home when your children are home, and you'd be glad to work from home when you are not in the office. Charlie should continue to pursue his new business and be thre to help with the kids when you can't. If you try it out and the job isn't the right fit for you, maybe Charlie could look for a full time job in VA and you could do consulting. Don't worry about twiddling your thumbs. After reading your blog for the past 2-3 years, I've come to the conclusion that you couldn't be that inactive if you tried. Same with being the mother you want to be. Don't worry - you'll make it work.

    Go for the change. The indecision and the what if's are going to kill you!

    Living some place new will be fun and exciting. Think of all the new places you can explore with the kids. Also, being close to family is priceless. Nothing like spending holidays and birthdays with close relatives. Great memories for the kids! and you, too!

  6. This is so tough. I have no idea how you make these decisions. The only thing I can say is that once they are in full time school, they are gone all day anyway. My biggest hang-up would be the commute. That will absolutely SUCK. Plus, the cold winters too. SUCK. I don't know, Jen. This is truly a tough one.

    I think we should go up to Alaska together and learn how to skin animals. Screw working.

  7. Jen,
    We HAVE to be a 2 income family..... God opened a wonderful door for my husband to work at our church and our son to go to school there for FREE..... I have the same feelings as you do DAILY, but then I'm DAILY reminded of one very important thing that I cannot be there 100% of the time, but when I'm not the other most important person in our son's life, his DADDY is!!!! Yesterday my son hurt his leg (just a bruise) and his teacher sent an aid to find daddy for a hug! Not many people get that!!!! There are positives and negatives on both sides. It's a tough decision and I'm right there with you!

  8. Good luck with your new adventure!

    FYI - the more kids you have in college at the same time, the more financial aid you'll get.

    And the word verification is "rentanin" - is that another sign?

  9. Sweet Maria Jen, I think I need an Advil. You need to work to take care of your family, because without work, you'd be writing your blog while living in a refrigerator box under the freeway. There is no perfect situation for one is a perfect parent...unless of course you're June and Ward Cleaver. What's most important is that everyone in your family is healthy. If you have this, trust me, you don't have any problems. Period. Now go make some O'Henry Bars.


  10. BlackOrchid4/7/10, 10:47 AM

    Okay, here's the thing. You go to VA, take this transfer, yes you're with the same company (gov't?) but you're now "the new person."

    The flexibility you want will be a tough sell for at least the first year. You'll need to make a good impression.

    That said, if you stay in CA and go to consulting, you will be starting at square one with that also and will also have to "put your best foot forward" as it were. However, if Charlie has a FT gig that might take some of the pressure off.

    Unless you work in govt (my guess is you probably do), things are very stressy out here in the East Coast. You might be surprised how different the culture is -- I don't mean politically, I mean lifestyle-wise. There's a REASON I dream of moving West and away from here. Our lives are like -- like living with a giant boulder on your shoulders while running at full speed. The weight of history, or something. No room to breathe.

    I'm glad you can come back easily (via renting your place). I'm not telling you what to do, just that moving to VA will be a hella adjustment. It's good to have that failsafe in place there.

    Good luck!

  11. It is a big deal and a huge change .. I don't envy your having to stress out over this. I am sure that you will do what is best for your family.

    the answer is yes. all working moms think of those things. However time is made ... and we are able to spend ample time with our kids.

    You would too!

  12. Black Orchid: I don't work in government. I work for a (very) large oil company. I don't think my job in VA would be quite as stressful as a government job, but the office thing every day will certainly be an adjustment.

    As will wearing snow boots, coat and hat in winter.

  13. Jen, I feel for you in having to make this difficult decision. I voted "stay" in the poll, but that was before the earthquake [I live in So.Cal. too]. You and Charlie are such a great team. I really wish you could make a living with your blog - it is so much better than many of the "famous" ones out there. I can see why you have such a good job because you have such a sharp mind!

  14. BlackOrchid4/7/10, 11:53 AM

    LOL I don't think the winters will be all that, this winter was such an aberration!

    And re: the field you're in - whether private or in the public sphere doesn't matter as much as, I was trying to say there is no "honeymoon period" with even a job transfer, nowadays. You will need to be on your toes.

    And the culture shift - well, I'm not trying to scare you. Just prepare you a little bit, since it seems the move is your decision. The "road rage" you see is just a symptom of the overall vibe.

    San Diego is heaven on earth. I can't honestly imagine leaving it, unless it were to a houseboat off the coast of Sausalito, or something out of a dream!

  15. If it helps at all, we're a one income family and though things are really tight and sometimes stressful, I have never had to skin an animal! :)

  16. I say drink some more wine, revisit your lists and it will eventually become clear.

    Although I vote for the stay here option especially if you can do consulting. And the way things work you'll probably be consulting for your old company.

    Yes you will have 4 kids in college at once but that is way in the future. In the present you'll have the trips in kindergarden this year and Henry a couple of years down the line. Once Henry hits 1st grade you'll be able to dedicate more of your time to consulting.

  17. Tough one. OK, let me tell you why I live where I live. Which happens to be 30 miles above the Arctic Circle, where there are no trees, we have winter 8 months out of the year, and I pay about $2000 per month in stove oil in Dec, Jan, Feb. And really, there's not too much to do unless you're outdoorsey and can kill animals and then tan them, and then sew them.

    I live here because my children go to schools that have about 15-18 kids per class. We have "migrant education" so when I feel like taking a week to go to camp to snare rabbits with my kids and teaching them the biology they'll NEED growing up here, they're not counted as absent, only "alternative learning." I live here because even though there's not much to do, there's A LOT TO DO. (Again, only if you're outdoorsey) And if you want to do things, INSIDE, then do them, start a club, etc. I live here because I never, EVER worry about my kids being abducted, or killed, or run over by a rouge Virginian. When someone "picks up my 6 yr old daughter off the street" they're doing that cause its cold and she looked like she needed a ride home. I live here because if I don't like the education at school, I can do supplemental stuff at home. And I do. And if my children graduate in the top 10% of their class, which is like top 4 students, they get a FULL RIDE scholarship to school. Not only that, but the corporations and businesses here shell out dough for college like we're not in a recession. I got approximately $15 THOUSAND PER SEMESTER to go to college. :)

    Would I live somewhere else? SURE. I could make more money, I could be in a better job, I could be the owner of a grand elegant coffee shop. I could go to a movie in a MOVIE theater. I could eat OUT at a restaurant. But I'm not. I work here in Kotzebue, I play city league basketball, softball and I ski-jor with my Lab. I make dinner every night. We hunt, pick blueberries so tart you won't believe it. We make ptarmigan belly rattles and play with duck feet.

    It's your tough decision. But we DO have a LOT of positions open for environmental geologists up here, just FYI! You seem like a teachable person. You'd never notice the blood spatter after a while! ;)

    Good luck!

  18. P.S. we have sunshine 24 hours a day here. Right now, we're getting about 15-16 hours of daylight, and a few hours of twilight...and then an hour or so of dark.

    Its awesome.

    REI has some GREAT winter gear too! hahaha.

  19. already know what to do...if you didn't, you wouldn't be in so much pain.

    If and when you realize that you made a mistake, you 1) accept that you have indeed made a mistake, and 2) have the courage to correct it. Don't let guilt or regrets fog your mind.

  20. Think carefully about renting out your house, too. Being a long-distance landlord isn't easy. Is there a management company you could use to handle the rental for you? We had friends/neighbors move away and rent out their house because they were unable to sell it. It turned into a nightmare that involved eviction, tearing out and replacing all the carpeting in the home, repainting, shoveling (literally - shoveling) dog sh*t out of the basement, etc.

  21. Whether you stay or go, your lives are about to be very different simply because of school. I never had relatives that lived close, and it was hard. I wish I could have been closer. In my mind, family is very important. To me, this would be a no brainer, because the opportunity to be closer to extended family (that you seem to adore!) is wonderful. No matter where you end up, your children will have wonderful opportunities. Your children will have an amazing family support unit, because you and Charlie find a way to make it work, no matter what. I have no doubt in my mind that even with the triplets in school full time, and an office job, you will still find time to cherish and love your babies and make memories with them. You are already so good at it. We don't always get these opportunities to pick up and go, especially in this time and with this economy. San Diego is lovely. LOVELY. I used to live there. But good times, good memories are still to be had whether you have to bundle up or not. It doesn't matter where you are, it matters that you are together. That could be even sweeter with family somewhat closer.

    My father just unexpectedly passed away, so maybe I'm feeling more sentimental, but the fact is that life is short. We need to cherish the time we have with our loved ones. I know this is a very difficult choice to make, and that your life, either way, is about to be very different, but you will do it, and do it well.

  22. I think that the reason you're conflicted, is because in your heart, you know the choice to spend as much time with your kids, is the right one.In 10 years, what will they remember, the extra money, or the extra time with they're mom?


    Your kids are only little once. Also, CA offers FAR MORE than an east coast city or town. CA is where it's AT! :D Your children will have far more opportunities in CA for fun and jobs when they are older. The culture is much different and laid back there, tooh.

    You would hate the commuting in VA. I guarantee you you would tire of snow VERY quickly. It is really hard to drive in. Road Rage and ANGER is so PREVLENT in the east coast. I live here, I know! :O

    Renting out your house isn't as easy as it looks. Once people get in there, it is VERY hard to get them out. And when they DO get out, they destroy the property. I have been there and done that (RENTED the house, I mean, not destroyed one! :O I life a life of peace and humble servitude.) It's true there are nice renters, but you're still taking a BIG chance.

    You would have to be totally crazy to leave such a paradise! You're settled there, stay there! :D

    ~Cindy! :)

  24. Jen, I read you every day and seldom ever comment. Maybe once. Now twice.

    I am speaking as a way-older-than-you mom who agrees you are SO right about the limited time with your children. You need to take advantage of that time whether in an office, or at home.

    After reading this blog entry, the thing that occurred to me is this: when you and Charlie made your list, did you consider there is also a limited time to be with your extended family as well? You know that your children's experiences with their grandparents and older relatives are priceless. I just thought you should consider, if you haven’t already, the window of opportunity for those relationships as well. Like, “if something happens to those [older folks] we love on the east coast, will we regret that we did not live there so the kids could know them?”

    By the way, I voted STAY in CA. I personally loathe winter and would move somewhere warm and sunny in a heartbeat - but only if the warm and sunny place did not include the risk of earthquakes. All I wanted to do here was to ask if you’d considered the ‘other window of time’.

    I know that you and Charlie are grounded in love, faith, and common sense. I know you will choose well for your family.

  25. I think you should stay. I don't mean to sound cold when it comes to seeing family, but unless you are living within a couple of hours of them, you are not likely going to see them but occasionally anyway. I'm just saying this because my husband and I have been through the decision about where to live more than once, and we are not done moving yet. Obviously only you know whats right for your family. BUT, I think one of the biggest factors to weigh is what your day to day life will be like. Traffic stinks. Period. Will your kids need to get financial aid for college anyway? I'm not sure killing yourself (which is what sitting in traffic does to me-speaking for myself) for the next 20 years is worth it. I say do your best to make a reasonably solid financial future but live for today. And I used to think you should leave. If you pretended this was happening to a friend, what would you advise them to do?

  26. Whatever you do, it will work out. There is no right or wrong answer. Will your life look different if you decide to stay than if you left? Sure it will, but with your spirit, you will no doubt succeed at whatever you do and find a way to make it work-that's part of the beauty in life. My favorite way to decide is to flip a coin. Heads-going to VA, Tails-staying. Now flip!

    Ok, what was your knee jerk reaction to whatever showed up on the coin? I think on some level you know what you want to's just a matter of accepting that within yourself and going for it with no regrets.

  27. Ok...How close will you be to your family if you make this (silly) move? Remember, you'll be working full time in an office, commuting on those terrible highways, well depending on where you live and how far you have to travel, the hour, etc... Leaving you tired at the end of the day, needing to do homework with your kids, baths, and bedtime stories. Then MAYBE have a glass of wine with your Darling before passing out. Then guess what, you wake up the next morning and the rat race begins again.

    Ok, so now you've made it thru a 5-day workweek. With four children you'll be running in four different directions one the weekends. One will have a Birthday party to attend, (oh yeah, did you pick up that gift last week for the Birthday party, no... because between work and commuting you were spent) then the other one has baseball practice, one has dance and one has gymnastics. Oh and don't forget all that laundry that you couldn't get to during the week, the vacuuming and the deep cleaning that has to be done on my point yet, when will you really have time to see your family? You can’t even find time to visit a neighbor with your flexible schedule now!

    For the average working family, the reality of quality time with extended family is when you plan vacations to visit your family, making it even more special! Of course, if you plan to move into your family’s neighborhood where the kids can walk over to a cousin’s house, then that changes the dynamics a little. If one of your reasons/decision/concerns is for your kids have more (visual) communication with your extended family get SKYPE.

    The following is a quote of yours:

    " I will NEVER get these years back again.

    My company can replace me.

    My children can't. "

    I remember that struggle in life. Should I work, should I stay home? My heart told me I needed to be home with my babies, my mind said I needed a career. So, for years I vacillated between Motherhood and career. I first decided to be home with my kids, but after a year, I would find myself looking at the want ads and returning to work.
    After six months back in the field I would feel so guilty that I would quit my job to be home with my kids, and then I'd feel like...Just a MOM and the desire to work would return. Those were probably the hardest years of my life and the loneliest years as well. No one really understood that internally struggle I was going thru. I loved my babies so much and if I had the chance to do it all again, I'd pick my kids and be “Just a Mom.” Being a Mom is one of life’s greatest honors. Nothing is worse or pulls at your heart when your little one needs you and you can’t be there for them. If you can, seize this moment in time with them.

    Now, as far as college education for four, if you were stay here, when the time is right, get a job at a University for example; Point Loma Nazarene and your kids get their education free!

    Lastly, if you do move renting can be a daunting experience unless you rent to the right people. As you know, we live in a nice part of town with a heavy military influence. You will never go wrong if you were to rent to someone in the military, (officer preferred.)

    I know I already said lastly BUT… I think I will add this to my blog so my Children can read what a struggle I had when they were young.

    The ramblings of a sleep deprived insomniac!

  28. Mmm. Quick question: If you move to Virgina - do "I" have to do "the walk" with you????

    (Just wondering) ;-) Love, Marg.

    PS Love Anne Marie's comment!

  29. Debra: you are making me think TOO hard. I'll come by later this week, promise. We've got presents for you guys!!

    Margaret: you better believe *IF* we move you'll be doing the walk with me. Are you KIDDING?

    Everyone else: your words are the very thoughts that echo through my mind every day. Extended family - considered that, how great to be closer. Even if it only means seeing them once or twice a year, it's more than I'm doing recently. Considering I haven't seen my father in TWO years. But, is seeing my extended family worth the effort of packing up and moving x-country and working in an office?? I'm not sure. The jury is still out.

    Honestly, every day I wake up with a new idea of what the right thing is to do for our family. Tuesday, we were going. Wednesday we were in flux. Today, we are staying. In fact, I'm heading out the door to go meet our children's kindergarten teacher because I have NO idea where we'll come July and I want to make sure I have all our options covered. Which is why I'm also scouring the relocation handbook.

    It sounds like a swarming beehive in my head.

  30. I went back to work full-time in an office job when my son was 14 mos because it appeared that my dh was imminently going to lose his job in a field that was very hard hit by the recession and we had depleted our savings due to IF. I am now looking for a part-time job because it is way too hard to be away as much as I am. Wherever you live, if you are away from your children five full days a week you will miss them terribly. They are only young once. When the time comes, they can get loans or scholarships for college or work to put themselves through.

    I would focus your decision on the next 2 years. Don't get too ahead of yourself.


  31. I am going through an eerily similar crossroads, and I only say that to help you understand that you are not alone, and that I personally think its a very common debate in general for families in this generation, with moms who have the ability to bring home a huge chunk of the bacon. That aside, in terms of your specific crossroads:
    You mention that if you take the job, you'd be eligible for a lifelong pension/medical benefits in a few short years. How many years specifically? And will you NOT be eligible for those benefits if you stay at your current job (my sense was that it was an internal transfer, in which case benefits would be the same)?
    I ask about the benefits b/c I really think those are the primary benefits of moving. The increase in pay, in my opinion, is not worth it to sacrifice you will be forced to make in terms of your kids, b/c I just believe that between you and your husband, you can find opptys to make good money in a more comfortable way. But the benefits are truly hard to ignore. And in terms of their value/worth, I think it hinges on how many years you would need to commit to the job, in order to get them.
    I don't mean to be pessimistic about the situation you would be moving to, but there truly is a world of difference between commuting (in NOVA no less!) and working in an office, and being at home- even if you are working fulltime. You will really feel it! I think, given what I've learned of your personality in this blog, you will push yourself to do everything you humanly can for both sides (kids plus job) and something will definitely pay the price- I feel it will be YOU. So if you choose to move, go in with eyes open on that front, and reset your own expectations in terms of how much you really will be able to.
    So anyway, I don't have the magic answer, but I do think you need to think through some of the reality of what you'll face in NOVA (I'm SURE you have a lot of course- don't mean to imply otherwise). But I guess I think it'll be a bigger sacrifice to you than you are articulating online. Having said that, I FIRMLY believe that in terms of impact on your kids- they will be FINE! They know you love them deeply and they can rely on you for anything- that will never change. And what you are doing if you choose to go for the job is frankly for their sakes, and is a very loving act of sacrifice.
    Anyway, my two cents. I wish you could stay in SD, personally! But I totally get the attraction of what is being offered...

  32. I have a very self-interested vote . . . it is STAY. But even if I wasn't self-interested at all. Even if I didn't know you from a hole in the wall . . . my vote would be stay for these reasons:

    1. QOL is #1. Weather, attitude, flexibility, community, non-stressy . . . everything that Debra said . . .

    2. #2 is the following axim by which I live my life: Moving to be close to family is never a good idea . . . move only because YOU WANT to move and it is objectively the RIGHT DECISION . . .

    More to come at ED - can you make it?

    Yours in the insanity - Jessica