This year on my birthday, I wrote about how I don’t mind being 37, that I’m happy with my life right now, and the number feels right. But I’m having some second thoughts now about aging, and what it all means.
The other day Sir Monkeypants and I were having a casual conversation about me going back to work. We’re both happy with me being at home right now, so it was a very no-pressure kind of talk, but we both think I’ll go back to work someday, and every so often we discuss when that might happen, and what I might do when I get there.
This time, pointed out that if I wait until the Wee One is in Grade One, as is our plan, the year will be 2013.
I’ll be 43 years old.
And I won’t have worked in 12 years.
The last time I had a regular full-time job was in the fall of 2001, when I was a software developer at Nortel. I was laid off from that job along with about half the company when it ran into trouble at the turn of the century. I didn’t take it too personally and I got a great severance package, so I took a few months off to just bum around and finish up our Christmas shopping and decorate our house.
In the new year I started to poke around for a new job and took one working for an old manager of mine, who I had liked very much. The job itself, though, was not a good fit for me, and I was unhappy there. When I had a miscarriage after I’d worked there for only three weeks, a small, irrational part of myself blamed the stress of the new position, and I quit.
(Aside: Public apology to RheostaticsFan, who asked me point blank at this time if this was the reason why I quit, and I denied it. I just was not ready to talk about it all, and I’ve always felt bad about it, but it was what I had to do at the time. I’m sorry, and hope you understand!)
I spent the next few months getting myself back in order, and then in the fall, when I was already pregnant with Captain Jelly Belly, a friend of mine called and said that her small development company was looking for programmers with my skillset. So I went to work there, and then, five weeks later, the company was bought out and they laid off half the employees, so that was the end of that job (but the beginning of another nice severance package).
By that time I was already big and round with the pregnancy, so I had a few job interviews but they did not pan out. They always ended with the interviewer looking pointedly at my big belly and saying, “Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself???” and I’d say, “Um, no,” and they’d be all, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” So that was the end of my working career to date.
And maybe the end of my working career, altogether.
I always kind of thought that I could go back to work whenever I wanted, just throw together a resume and within a week or two, I’d have a few offers. But that forty-three/12 years thing has thrown me for a loop. The software industry changes so quickly, that after 12 years, I’ll have very few skills on my resume that are of interest to employers. Even if I upgrade with a little training…why would you hire a 43 year old with no job experience, when you can hire a new grad at half the cost, and for a longer term investment?
Back in 2001, I had lots of contacts, people who knew me and liked my work, who would hire me in a heartbeat even if I didn’t have the right skillset, because they knew I was a hard worker and a quick learner and a good team player. These days, those kinds of people have moved on and I haven’t kept in touch. These days, I might still be a hard worker but I have to get home at the end of the day to my three kids; I might still be able to learn but not as quick as I used to be. And are these kinds of soft skills enough to win me a job over someone just coming into the workforce as a swinging single 20-something?
I also used to say that this was a great time to try a new career. I was a good developer but it was never something I was passionate about, and this break in my job path seemed like a good time to consider my options. A year or two of retraining, and I could be something new and exciting…a midwife! A radio producer! A journalist! Governor-General of Canada! The world was my oyster.
But again…I’ll be 43. At least. Trying to break into a new field. I remember when I first started working, and if someone on my team was 43, they were totally old school. Set in their ways. Outdated skills. Good for leading, not for making innovative breakthroughs. Not the kind of person you’d give an entry level position to, not the kind of person you’d expect to be happy at the low end of the totem pole, not the kind of person who will hang out with the other interns and newbies at lunchtime and become a happy part of their team.
So is that it for me? I’ve never regretted my decision to stay home with the kids, and I’m not going to rush back to work now. But for the first time, it really feels like I have given something up to stay home, like I have chosen one path, and in doing so, have closed off another path. My mom says all the time that my staying home with the kids is a “waste” of my talent, of my intelligence, of my university degree. I’ve always pooh-poohed that, but now I can see her point. It’s not just that I’m not doing anything with my brains now. It’s that I might not be able to do anything with them ever again.
I’ll always be proudest in my life of being a mom, and it’s a much more fulfilling job than programming ever was. But I guess this is what they mean when they say that parents have to sacrifice for their children. You really can’t have it all.
Like I said, I’m not going to rush back to work in a panic, and I’m still going to stay home for at least a few more years. But maybe it’s time to start thinking about what I really want to do with my life, and what is actually possible. I feel like I need to make some real decisions, make a real plan, and get cracking.
In the meantime, it’s time to make breakfast for the kiddies.