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How I Simplified
At 35, I have two kids, one born on Mother's
Day 1990, the second born on Halloween 1997. At 26, I was promoted
to Manager of Marketing Communications for Computer Associates
Int'l (recently voted one of the best companies for working mothers).
Within a month of my promotion, I was pregnant (surprise!)
I commuted over 90 miles a day
while my first was an infant, lugging with me a 16 lb. medela
double breast pump. (I nursed him until he was 3.5 years old).
To make a long story short, about five years ago, I looked for
a job closer to home in order to simplify my life and to leave
the "rat race." I found a job in a similar field, but
it turned out to be more work for less money, though it was indeed
closer to home. Then my father became ill with a horrible disease,
very similar to Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS), called Progressive
Supranuclear Palsy (PSP). He lived in Maryland, where I grew
up, and I still live in the suburbs of New York (Long Island).
I commuted over 300 miles many, many times as his disease progressed,
often with my then-toddler son (who will be 9 in May).
In 1996, I was laid off from
my job, a stressful event for me and my family. About the same
time, my father was in what seemed to be the last stages of his
illness (fall 1996). I was in deep despair. I felt I was falling,
with nothing to support me. I knew ahead of time I was being
laid off, due to budget cuts but chose not to take a higher paying
job back in the software industry that would have put me right
back in the rat race; instead, I wanted the freedom to visit
my father as often as possible. I felt I was making the right
choice at the time, but it was not necessarily the best choice
financially or career-wise.
My father died in May, 1997;
five months later, I delivered my second child, Julia, on Halloween.
It hasn't been easy without my own father; I also have taken
a long time to overcome the feelings of social isolation of losing
my job, income and social status. I believe women need to be
self-sufficient, but at this time in my life, I am choosing to
be dependent (financially speaking) on my husband.
I have a new view of life due
to the loss of my father and of my job so close together. My
father's illness (he was completely bedridden and helpless at
the end) have made me appreciate things that normally annoy us:
waiting in line for example. He would have done anything in order
to walk again, or talk again, feed himself, or even read (he
lost vision and concentration). Yet, he did not lose his personality
or his mental faculties, so through him, I saw that life was
worth living and even in the worst of circumstances, one can
find some joy.
So that you don't think I'm a
complete pollyanna -- ha ha, I have had a very difficult transition
to being a "stay at home mother" --
in fact, I loathe this term. I have tried to make a go of it
at a business (financial services), but the situation did not
work out. Right now, I am trying to figure out what to do next,
if in fact, I need to be "doing" anything at all, other
than taking care of my family's day-to-day needs.
One thing I don't miss about
the conventional working world is trying to juggle my children's
schedules with a corporate work week and worrying about sick
child days, or snow days.
By way of background, I have
a B.A. in English (with honors) from University of Maryland (College
Park, MD); an M.S. in Rhetoric & Communication from Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY), and was working toward a Ph.D.
when I moved to L.I., and took a job with Computer Associates.
I've been married 13 years this
May to a man I met hen I was just 18. He was a naval officer
who now works in New York and is working part-time toward his
PhD in Mathematics Education at Columbia University, Teachers
My husband, Nick, is also trying
to make a major change to a simpler lifestyle. He recently retired
from the Naval Reserves after receiving a promotion to Commander;
he left the reserves to spend more time with his family. This
is the same reason he left the regular Navy in 1987, too. (The
Naval Reserves required him to spend one weekend each month on
duty, along with two or three weeks a year away from home -- he had been to Korea, Australia, etc. in order
to fulfill his obligation -- this in
addition to graduate school and a grinding 4-hour daily commute
Like many families, we are constantly
trying to simplify things. We have kept our boat, but drive two
older cars, take simple vacations, and make sure to stay in touch
with our large families (we're both from families of five kids).
Colleen O'Toole is a Marketing Communications Professional and
an aspiring EP, and can be reached by Email: [email protected], or by Phone: