Monday, January 30, 2012

Work and Family

Last week, I was working for the MEAP Access helping to set the "cut scores" - basically deciding what it means to meet expectations on this test.  The process was actually very enlightening, and a great professional discussion helped clarify understanding for everyone in the room.  The meeting was four days long, and since I had a fairly long commute, the state offered to put me up in a hotel for the week.  I took advantage of this offer on Tuesday night, and had dinner (on my own dime) that night in the hotel bar.

I was dining with a colleague, and, after the woman next to us discovered we were teachers, she informed us of the ills of collective bargaining (Teachers in my district make more than I do!) and the audacity of the Assistant Principal in her district to have been out sick the past week.  I will spare the details of the conversation that followed, but let it be known that I did not once raise my voice, use any expletives, or resort to name calling.  Pat me on the back next time you see me:)

However, as I sit here with my sick little boy - missing my third day of school in a week and a half for this reason - I'm thinking back on the conversation and the assumptions of the woman.  A piece of her support for her opinion was that there was no way she could miss that much work, implying that if she did, she'd be out of a job.  I have no way of knowing if this is her perception, or her reality, but either way, it's a sad statement as to the value of the American workforce and the American family.

I love my job - I really do.  And I need my job; without it, our lifestyles would take a serious nosedive.  So my job is important - to me, to my family, to society - but not as important as my family.  Any professional commitment I make is weighed and decided by it's impact to my career, but first by it's impact to my family.  And if my family needs me at home, I will be at home. 

Life, including career and family, is a series of choices.  We always have a choice, and each of those choices have consequences.  I want to always make choices that reflect my core values. Finding the balance is what's hard, and the perception that a person's livelihood will be destroyed by taking care of his or her family is devastating to that balance.  Why has it become acceptable to the public that work should come first? This is exactly why we need that much vilified collective bargaining.

1 comment:

Bethany Rosselit said...

You're right...about the family and about collective bargaining.

First, the balancing act is so, so hard. Society makes sure we feel lots of guilt, no matter what we choose. There's the "mommy guilt" if we are working parents. Then there is the guilt for not being able to give more to our jobs. Women are just supposed to feel guilty. :-( Only this year, with my daughter being 4, do I feel like I've been able to work out how much of the pie everyone gets (and, yes, my family does get a slightly bigger piece).

As far as collective bargaining and that lady's comments, most of my friends have the same level of education as me--or less--and make more money. What we get, as teachers, is time with our families, and the chance to be with our families when they need us (such as the sick kid). For me, that is worth more than the extra pay my friends receive.