Wednesday, May 5, 2010

To CLO or not to CLO?

One of the questions I get all the time is, "What do you do all day?" That question generally drives me crazy. I have 4 kids and a house to run, I stay plenty busy thank you very much! I even managed to stay busy in Jakarta where I had a full time maid. She allowed me to spend more time volunteering at the school and taking my kids to lessons without resorting to eating out frequently or living in a messy house.

Now we are heading to Malawi where I have already arranged for a house staff and gardeners. Hey, there are advantages to hardship posts! A new version of that same question keeps coming up, "What are you going to do all day? You are going to have STAFF to cook and clean, so what are YOU going to do?" Aside from murder the next person to ask me that question, mostly I had planned to allow myself a year to follow my own interests: writing, learning to play my pretty blue guitar,volunteering, other things. I say "had" because sitting in my in-box is an application for the CLO position. If you are not FS (foreign service) the CLO is the Community Liaison Officer. That is the person who arranges for community events, helps out incoming staff, liaises with the schools, is a busy, important job.

Now I am asking myself if I should apply for this position. After all, all my kids are finally in school. It has been nine years since I last worked full time outside the house. Wow! Where did the time go? I was pregnant with Colin the last time I walked out of a classroom, he will be nine and in third grade this next school year.

Maybe it is time for me to go back to work and start bringing home some money. We don't really NEED extra money but it sure would be nice. And the CLO is the perfect position to get to know everyone at a new post. A way to jump right in with both feet.

On the other hand there are so many things I want to do. For the last nine years the kids have had to come first. Now I can take some time to pursue my own interests. I have an opportunity that all too few of us have, time for me. Maybe I can finally learn to play that pretty blue guitar Dave bought me for my birthday 3 years ago. There is a quilting group in Lilongwe, I have always wanted to make a full size quilt. So far I have only done baby quilts, really basic baby quilts. There are volunteer opportunities I would like to check out, particularly at the Lilongwe Wildlife Center. And most importantly I can finally have a block of time to sit down and write everyday, without constant interruptions.

For years I have wanted to try writing, not to be published, although that would be a nice bonus, but just to see if I can do it. I read voraciously. Seriously, at least 5 books a week. (I will not discuss what my book addiction is doing to our HHE weight, but I am thinking maybe the time has come for an e-reader.) Sometimes when I am out of things to read I write my own stories, I enjoy the writing and would like to see if I could actually go somewhere with it but for me that takes time alone, without kids yelling "MOMMY" every other sentence.

So my question is this: Is it selfish to want to take a year or two to explore my own interests? Is it financially irresponsible to stay home a while longer? Should I apply for the CLO position? I think I know what I am going to do, but I have changed my mind about applying every 20 minutes or so all day. What would you do?


Anonymous said...

Oh wow ~

I wish I had some advice for you, but I simply do not! But I know that there are a ton of seriously wise ladies with a lot more knowledge and experience that I have... hopefully they'll have some great advice for you! But I see where it's a tough decision for you.

Can I just say that I have ALWAYS wanted to get seriously into both quilting and guitar playing? I have a gorgeous guitar that a family friend gave to me at least 10 years ago, and I have yet to learn to play the darned thing! So I would totally understand if you tossed the CLO thing in the trash, however, it's not like I'm saying that's my advice or anything. It's a tough call, girl!

Alex said...

I say trust your gut. If what you really want right now is some time to yourself, take it! You deserve it after focusing on kids for so long.

Donna said...

You sound like me. Should I? Shouldn't I? Should I? One thing to remember: there is no right answer. Of course, the down side of that is that any answer you choose is wrong.

CLO is a hard job - I'm a former CLO. But you're right - it's a great way to meet people and really get involved in the community.

Sigh. No answers here. I'm also trying to decide whether to work at the next post. I think it best for me to wait til I hit the ground, give myself 6 months to adjust, and then apply for something. But what'll be right for you? Good luck.

Connie said...

My first impulse is to say do NOT do it because once you are in, that's it, you're in. Very hard to get out again. Take your year. But I think Alex is right, you have to trust your instincts. oh, btw, THANK YOU for pointing out that SAHMs, when they do it right, do NOT get bored!! What is up with that? I get the 'Don't you get bored?' question all the time too! Sometimes, I hear it from other SAHMs... ladies, if this is you, you're doing it wrong. I don't have enough time (or energy) in the day, to do everything I want to do, for my kids (both in school), house, family, or self. When I worked, life was easy. As a SAHM, I had to buy, and use the hell out of, my first ever PDA. So far this morning, I'm up, kids are off to school, coffee's brewing, and it's not even 8am... I'm feeling lazy for sitting down to goof off, but the cat needed (NEEDED) cuddles and I gave in. Not. Bored. Thank you!

Monica said...

won't there always be a CLO job opportunity? on the other hand, will there ALWAYS be a time to learn guitar, write, quilt??? i say skip the CLO job till there is nothing ELSE to do!!! i love your writing - am an avid reader and i would love to see you published. guitar and quilting are also worthy pursuits. i am sure someone else can do the CLO job, but can someone else play your blue guitar? make me a quilt (JK ;o), or write like you??? that's just my two cents. take it or leave it (apparently that's what everyone else in my house does ;o). love ya - m.

Z. Marie said...

I vote for no-CLO-ing. Not that I'm anti-CLO -- been there, done that -- but it can be an emotionally draining job, especially at a small post. And when might you have another good chance to write and quilt and learn to play guitar? I'm guessing you won't be in the developing world forever and will need to fund some college educations at some point. Take this chance while you have it.

Bfiles said...

I'm wondering how often the CLO jobs come open. Is this your only chance? Maybe apply, just to have the option, and decide if you want to take it if offered?

But yea, a SAHM of four? Are you kidding me? You do more in 2 hours than I do all day at work.

Some time for YOU is pretty important. Good luck deciding!

Bryn said...

For many, many, many years you have put your 'wants' aside to help your family. I say do something for yourself. If you want this job, then take it. If not, then do something else that YOU want to do. It's not selfish to finally be able to do something for yourself!

David L. said...

Being selfish is not always a bad thing. Who else is looking out for our best interests other than ourselves?

Of course, I know nothing of being a CLO, and maybe it would be a great experience.

That said, if you are in a position that you can explore your interests, then that sounds really hard to pass on.

And as to writing, I don't know you, but from following your blog, I know you are more than capable at writing. It is just matter of shelving the excuses and findinf the inspiration to sit down and do it, which is much easier said than done.

Stephanie said...

I've enjoyed my time as CLO, but it's hard and I'm ready to take that time for myself at our next post.

You can tailor the CLO job a bit to your own interests, at least I was able to here. I could keep my writing and publishing skills current by working on the newsletter (even wrote articles for real magazines!). If I wanted to check out a certain store, event, restaurant, etc., it could become a CLO activity and thus I essentially got paid to do sightseeing around town.

We didn't need the money either, so the CLO job became a very nice vacation fund for us.

I don't think the CLO job is always going to be available, considering how many people talk about how hard it is to find a job at post. But that doesn't mean you should take a job just for the sake of taking it if you don't really want one. There's no harm in applying though and putting off the "to work or not to work" decision until you've thought about it more.

Jill said...

I say it's a totally personal decision and there isn't a right or wrong answer... just shades of gray!

I think it's tough either way too - as a SAHM for the past 7 years, it's nice to get out of the house and do stuff just for you - but my fears of not being around and available to do the stuff with the kids whenever they want or need it far outweighs any job. But that's just me.

Good luck with your decision! And hope all is going well with your consumable preparation!

Unknown said...

You've got plenty of advice here, without me giving my two cents. However, I will anyhow (cuz I'm just a pain like that!) I'd stay at home, apply in a year or two. Everyone sez there will be plenty of time to do things like learn the guitar and such, yet I worry, will there? I mean, honestly, no one really knows how much time they have. And if you're blessed with such a great opportunity, then grab it with both hands and enrich yourself, and your family.

Anonymous said...

From a selfish point of view, I spent a good bit of time TDY in Malawi. It's a beautiful quiet place. They will need a good CLO. It's a small community, and you could make a really great positive addition to the community. Good luck!

Shannon said...

I have finally decided to give myself this year, quit making excuses and really try writing. David says the only reason I am even looking at the job right now is I am afraid to really try writing and then fail. He may have a point.

Jae you are totally right, we never know how long we have, a dear friend of ours, a younger than us friend, just underwent a triple bypass last month. It has really kinda shaken our view of mortality. He is the last person we would have ever expected this to happen to. Young, active, he seemed fine when he was here in Frankfurt earlier this spring.

To everyone else thank you so much for your opinions, especially those ex-CLOs that pointed out what a tough job it can be. Grayson is my youngest and is just starting kindergarten this year. I think I want to be available for him whenever for a little while longer. With Cody graduating and leaving home I am all too aware how fast kids grow up.

B-files the CLO job comes open only when a CLO resigns or leaves post, so not that often. In Malawi it is a co-CLO position, so there are two CLO's so twice the chance that it will come open again while we are there. The time just isn't right for me right now.

Amy said...

Have you read She has not updated in a while but is in Malawi. Not FS but had some lovely photos.

Shannon said...

Yes it was one of the first Malawi blogs I found. they look like a lovely family, I love all the pictures of nature and the kids hiking and playing outside. They are located in Blantyre about 4 hours from Lilongwe where we will be.