I have a really difficult decision to make, and I have to make it soon. This is an unusual position for me, as my personal struggles generally tend to involve errors resulting from impulsivity rather than ambivalence. I don't normally have trouble making decisions, but this one has me awake at night, weighing my options, making lists of positives and negatives, spacing out on the job and at home and consulting nearly everyone who crosses my path, including the incredibly sweet and surprisingly insightful young woman who cleaned my teeth this morning.
It's about a job. Last Friday I interviewed for a great position at a highly respected agency, where I would spend the bulk of my working days seeing clients. My salary would double, I could devote all of my time to doing therapy and would not have to bother with all of the administrative stuff that I generally despise. Sure, I'd have to work in Metairie, but that seems a small price to pay for the afore-mentioned benefits and oh, that's right, the four weeks paid vacation that I could look forward to every year.
It is, in many respects, a dream job--or at the very least, an extremely attractive opportunity. It should be a no-brainer, but it somehow doesn't feel right, and I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the last fews days trying to pinpoint the source of this distressing ambivalence. Is this my lifelong fear of change asserting itself? Am I afraid I won't be up to the challenge? Do I really hate Metairie that much? Am I reluctant to lose the connection to the academic community that Trinity provides? Does this feel too much like a grown-up job? Is this ambivalence actually a form of rebellion?
I can't sort it out. But I do know that this job would mean longer hours, more pressure, a longer commute, less flexibility. I'm on the cusp of an important choice, one that's more about self-definition than money or ambition. Can I be a good mother and a good therapist? And what about a good wife? A good daughter? A responsible citizen? This choice, this seemingly impossible choice, unveils the tension that until now I have been able to manage with relative ease. Taking this job might mean greater professional--and subsequently personal--fulfillment but would take away precious time with my daughter. Should she suffer for my professional ambitions? Of course not. But isn't it also possible, or probable, that my own personal (or professional) fulfillment has a tremendous impact on my relationship with her? In other words, if I'm happy, won't we all be happier as a result?
I just don't know, and I've started to understand why so many women choose to stay at home with their children. While I feel truly fortunate to have the opportunity to make choices, I don't want to make the mistake of striking too many Faustian bargains. Twenty years from now, will Sydney sit on her shrink's couch and complain that I was always at work, or will she bemoan the fact that I never took the opportunity to better myself?
The dental hygienist would make a good therapist: she was empathic, and listened, and did not give her opinion. That is so goddamn frustrating! But she did say--and I don't think this was an accident--as we discussed the much-delayed extraction of an ailing tooth, that "Good mothers always make sacrifices for their children." She was talking about the tooth, of course, and the fact that I've had to delay the extraction for lack of time, but I know what she really meant. It's just not clear what that sacrifice looks like.