Friday, August 19, 2011

Fantasy Bidding, Fantasy Motherhood

Every now and then Husband and I sit out back, glass of something boozy in hand, and fantasize out loud about the life we'd lead if we did something more...normal. We'd live in some lovely city with no humidity, we'd send our kids to a fantastic school, and we wouldn't hemorrhage money every few years moving from country to country. Maybe I'd work, maybe I wouldn't. Maybe I'd teach at a private school and get free tuition for the kids. Husband would do some morally-respectable job not for the defense industry.

Then late summer rolls around, and bid lists come out. Every bidding season, a list comes out with every job that will be available in the coming years (usually in one year, sometimes in two or more, if language is required), at every rank, at every domestic and international post.

If it's your bidding season, you have been doing early research on this for months, finding out what positions will be on the list, emailing incumbents, doing some general sleuthing. Once the Official List is out, it's frantic emailing, calling, dropping in some decision-maker's office. What will work for your timing, your speciality, your career, your spouse's career, your kids, your pets, etc. etc. You want Job A, but do Job A's decision-makers want you? It will be months until you find out officially, but sometimes someone will say *wink wink* and sometimes they'll say, "Yeeaaaah. It's not you. It's us." And sometimes they'll be silent until handshakes (yes, "handshakes") can be offered. It's awful and nerve-wracking and even worse when you are a tandem couple, each going through the process with no guarantee that a bureau is going to offer you each a job at the same place.

But when it's not your bidding season, you forget how awful it is. You peek at the list and see the entire world--literally--as options you can't bid on, because it's not your season. You sit outside with something boozy and fantasize about moving to Kiev, or to Manila, or to Bangkok.

That's how we know this job is probably for us.

The current fantasy is that Husband would bid on War College in Kansas and that I would take a year of LWOP. Terrible, terrible move for my career, but oh! a year at home with my kids, meeting their teachers at the end of the day and taking them to soccer practice. Kansas isn't expensive. We could live in Lawrence. I could be a SAHM without forfeiting my career. Fabulous. Or we could go to Tel Aviv, and Husband could learn Hebrew while I worked, then start a position and I could either extend a year or take LWOP at the end of that. Or, or, or. The options--although they aren't really options until someone has decided you are a good candidate--appear to be endless.

Estonian women receive two years paid maternity leave for each child. Before someone starts fretting about the European welfare state--not an unfounded fret, in some instances--let me assure you that Estonia has the fastest growth and the lowest debt portfolio in the EU. Their population is shrinking, and will disappear if they don't put social and economic weight into their birth rate. At any rate, a colleague remarked how hard it is for American mothers receiving, more often than not, no maternity leave. I responded that the sentiment is often "This is what you [women] get for wanting equality in the workplace." Or at least that's the impression I get. The reality is working mothers pull the load of anyone else in the workplace and then the extra social burden of raising children and, in most cases, the physical burden of bearing and nursing them. For working fathers, it's the same, minus bearing and nursing. It's not unreasonable that society would provide some structure and support to make that extra responsibility easier to bear. Yes, children are often a choice, but it's necessary that at least some of the folks in the world decide to do it, either biologically or via adoption. I don't think I'd be good at two years at home per child, but I'd take 3 or 6 months.

Or one year, unpaid, in Kansas.

1 comment:

-w said...

morally-respectable was never one of the criteria. i'll do evil for money, so long as the weather and the real estate market are decent.