Saturday, May 26, 2012

Working Parent's Conundrum

To live, we must work. We don't aspire to live beyond our means but do enjoy the occasional night out. We could live on one paycheck and never do anything outside of the house, but my daughter is more than ready for preschool. We don't even need a bigger home, now or in the immediate future, but it would be nice to save up for a down payment on something we can own. So we work.

And honestly, I like to work. Sure, every now and then I have to content with a grumpy guest, crazy kitchen, or shooting myself in the foot with my own fallibility. Still, the nature of the food and beverage industry is that it's unpredictable, very dynamic, and - let's admit it - not for the sanest of people. I like the challenges of working in that kind of environment, and I never claimed to be of 100% sound mind, so really, it's quite a good fit.

But I can't do it forever.

First, let's backtrack to what got me here to begin with.

I started college a year after graduating high school. I was a bit lost after graduation so I gave myself a "float year" to just work and be an irresponsible teenager. I wanted to date, go out, drink coffee into the wee hours of the morning, and go to open mics. There was a bit of drinking, too. Sometime during this period I eventually calmed down and found myself drawn to the field of child care. I honestly don't remember what made me gravitate toward letting screaming toddlers run around me eight hours a day, five days a week, but that's what I ended up doing for five years. I took classes on program design and early childhood development to be able to demand a higher hourly salary (which, compared to a "real" job, is still laughable pay... just so you know, whoever is watching your kids isn't making shit) and to better understand the little hellions I was in charge of. But eventually, I was burnt out.

When I moved to South Carolina to start my family life as my husband's wife, I knew I needed some more credits under my belt but was unsure what I wanted to do. I had recently undergone my own kind of fitness and wellness revival, having realized that to do everything I wanted to do - which in NY, was work, go to school, and play in a band - I needed to treat myself better to have more energy. So I wanted to take this new-found passion and switch gears entirely. I decided to start taking classes in general sciences and start waiting tables for its flexible scheduling. Four semesters and one terrible restaurant job later, I was no closer to my goal, but DID know that if I was going to wait tables, it needed to be in a respectable establishment.

I took another half year or so just to work and run. I trained for and ran some races and worked. I was getting in the best shape of my life but there wasn't a formula behind my methods, or a method to my madness. I wanted to learn more about the physiological changes I was seeing to better develop my own training regimen and maybe, someday, help others. So I went back to school, again, entering a one-year personal trainer program.

I wasn't convinced initially that I wanted to enter the field full-time until I learned of the need for qualified professionals. I'm sure you've all seen the creatine-chugging meat heads that pose as trainers at big box gyms. It was the goal of my instructors, and many other influential trainers in the industry, to make personal training equivalent to other licensed health trades, such as massage therapy, chiropractics, and physical therapy. Their passion really woke me up and I knew I wanted to be a part of this fitness revolution.

Then, I got pregnant.

Granted, this was *somewhat* planned. I was ready to have a child and we hadn't exactly prevented it from happening. Ideally, I would have finished my program beforehand and maybe even landed a job in a gym. But my Little Miss came along the summer following my completion of the program and while I possessed some skills necessary to train in certain gyms, it would be a while for me to truly complete all necessary steps to the process to get all the qualifications most reputable gyms require. When I learned I would need to shell out another several hundred dollars for a certification from one the top-four accredited certifying bodies (ACE, NASM, ACSM, or NSCA), I put the brakes on my goals yet again.

Truthfully, I didn't have to. I could have plugged away and probably started training before my little girl even turned one. I had set up my own roadblocks though: Not enough time, not enough money, I didn't want to put her in daycare, nor did I want to call on her grandparents to watch her every day of the week (as much as I'm sure they would have). In hindsight, I don't really regret staying a server, as it afforded me the opportunity to raise my daughter and be her primary caregiver. We bonded better than I had even imagined on that first day that I got to see her face to face. And with all the changes we encountered within that first year after her birth, with my husbands job changes and eventually, moving to Georgia, I'm glad I waited.

Which brings me today. Well, yesterday. I had gone into the gym simply to run (as it was 5:00PM and 92 degrees). I checked in at the front desk with my employee ID when a man standing up front said "Oh, where do you work?" I explained that I was a spinning instructor at another nearby location. "Cool. Do you want to be a trainer?" Yes, eventually, I said. "Why not now? When would you be ready?"

Granted, this job offer was more about the gym's desperate need to have female trainers, but this is now the third time I've been asked to start training where I already teach group fitness. At first, I started putting up roadblocks again, especially knowing they wanted at least 20 hours a week and I did not have regular child care arrangements. But yesterday, the man I spoke with basically said that he'd be willing to go with whatever availability I had. No more roadblocks. Now, I can only say yes or no.

The conclusion to this long-winded post seems clear, but it's something I'm still feeling some trepidation about. I want to do this. I need to do this. Of course, I'm apprehensive about some of the costs associated with working, as you typically want to net more than you pay to work to begin with. But if I don't say I will do this today, then I might not tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. I can't keep myself caught in this holding pattern. Just as I tell my classes: "Don't think about yesterday or tomorrow- they have nothing to do with the effort that you put forth right here and right now."

Time for me to take my own advice.

What are your ultimate goals? How did you get there - or how are you getting there?

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