Well, here it is. The long-ago promised navel-gazing post where I wax on about my choices for next year. Ready? Hold on tight.
I want to continue to be home with the kids. I'll say that right out of the gate. It would be an easy decision but for one thing: my French language training.
For you non-Canadian federal government employees out there, let me give you the low-down. Most jobs in the Canadian federal government are classified as bilingual imperative. This means that when you're hired you are expected to be able to read, write and speak a certain level of the other official language (specified in the job ad as level A, B, C or a mixture thereof). Okay, if you REALLY know nothing about Canada: that would be French and English. For example, a job like mine is rated CCC English/French. This means you need to read, write, and speak both French and English at a very high level. The only level higher is E for exempt, which most native English and French speakers would be given for their mother tongue. First paragraph and I'm already going into WAY too much detail.
There are a few jobs in the federal government that have another, highly sought after classification: bilingual non-imperative. Bilingual non-imperative is the holy grail of federal government job classification and becoming very scarce, I might add. Bilingual non-imperative means that you can be hired even if you are unilingual and the government will pay you your regular salary while they train you to become bilingual to whatever the level is for your job.
My director went to the wall for me to get my position re-classified (lots of Canadian federal government lingo being thrown around here - sorry about that. However, being that I work for the Department of Foreign Affairs, where creating symbols and acronyms is actually a hobby, even a career in itself - I'm not kidding - I'm being rather reserved.) to bilingual non-imperative. It is nearly impossible, in the current political climate in Ottawa (Stephen Harper and his brutal excuse for a government), to find an advertised non-imperative position.
Okay, so you now have the background of my dilemma. I've done all the required testing so that those who need to know now know my current levels for French (sad state, I'm afraid) and how long it will take for me to get my C levels (39 weeks, full-time language school). My director, Gisele, was supposed to find out during this year (while I'm on maternity leave) when I would start my French. (Typically, there is a big waiting list.) The idea was that I would come right off leave and into French training.
About two weeks ago, I inquired for the umpteenth time with her to see if she'd heard anything. Without going into great minutiae, she hadn't heard anything but she had a name. I left a voicemail. Nuttin'. I sent an email, copying relevant others and finally got a response. Yadda, yadda, yadda, after providing a bunch of information that my director could have provided herself, it looks like I can probably get into my French training in November sometime, which is what I wanted.
Or so I thought.
When I got this news this past week, my first response was a sigh of relief. I'd been hoping for this for a long time. But as the day went on, I felt more and more anxiety about it and the reason is, I want to be with Emily and Hope. Period.
But... Again, the buts. To pass up this training is tantamount to stupid in a lot of circles. If I don't take it now, well, that ship has sailed, my friends. I have great daycare lined up for both kids - Emily at a wonderful French preschool where she'll re-master the language, and Hope at a French home daycare with a friend of mine who I know is excellent. We'd all be learning French together. But, they won't be with me, and as egotistic as it sounds, nothing will ever be as good as being at home with me. In my oh-so-humble opinion.
Last year, when Emily was in daycare and I was back to work, was one of the hardest years I've had. I was badly pulled between two things I really loved - my family and my job. Okay, so yes, of course I love my family more but most days, I also really liked my job. I never felt I played either role perfectly last year because I couldn't give either pursuit the time it deserved. Also, weekends were not great - I played with Emily and spent time with John but while Emily slept, I cooked and cleaned and had pretty much no time to myself except when I was at work. And then, I was working. It was really hard. But not in a fun way like being at home with the kids. Being a stay-at-home-mom is definitely harder than working outside the home, but the rewards are way bigger and for me, there's a lot more satisfaction knowing that I'm doing one thing REALLY well. I can only imagine that it will be even more difficult to balance it all when I have two kids to think about, oh yeah, and learning another language to boot.
So, what do I do? Yes, money will be very tight if I'm not earning a salary, but I'll be happy. However, in a few years, when the kids are both in school full-time and I'm figuring out what to do job-wise, will I regret not getting my French while I had the chance to have it paid for? Especially being that so many jobs in Ottawa, even outside the public service, require bilingualism. Or will I regret more missing this year with my kids? (Regardless of my decision for this year, I will be staying home with them after this year while they get through the kindergarten years. At least, that's my plan.)
John has been very careful to ensure that this decision is mine. He's also helped me see all the angles. He said this: I can always take French another time, but I will never get this particular year back with my kids and I should consider that along with everything else. This is very true. But it's also unlikely that I'll have the opportunity again to take full-time French training while earning my full salary.
This is one of the hardest decisions I've had to make, if not the hardest. I need to decide within a week or so because I need to inform the daycares what I'm going to do. I could tell them yes and then bag off if I change my mind (and lose some down payment money). I could tell them no and then if I change my mind find other daycare. Not the best option as good daycare takes a lot of time to find. It's out there but it takes a lot of looking. Or I could start the French, and if I hate the training (a common sentiment from people I know who have taken it. This is not a romantic, foreign-language school, self-indulgent ritual that you see in some movies) just quit and pull the kids out of daycare. An option, but a very disruptive one for everyone involved.
Clearly, I'm heavily conflicted. I'd like to know, what would you do?