Today, a reader told me how much she enjoyed my blog, and it reminded me that I'm way overdue to write something. Truth be told, it's been hard to pull myself together lately, for I've made a big decision: I'm going back to work outside the home. AKA: Show me the money!
For a host of reasons, now is the right time for me to become a wage-earner again. I could list those reasons, but they're as long as my life as a mother. In truth, the list of reasons start with "I never intended to be an at-home parent," has something trite like "but I'm grateful for the time I've been able to spend at home with my children" in the middle, and ends with something to the effect of "now get me the $#@% back out of here."
Here's what's in between: within mere weeks of Petunia's birth, I went back to work out of necessity. It was my husband's second year in an MBA program, and this Mama had to bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. But I had the most flexible job on earth: Ivy League graduate program admissions. I could bring my work home, tailor my in-office schedule around breastfeeding/ pumping obligations (it certainly helped that Petunia was the most regimented baby ever, all of her own accord) and was surrounded by really supportive co-workers, many of whom were also relatively young parents. When I needed help with the baby, there were hundreds of willing graduate students, not to mention hundreds of their spouses, who would take the baby at a moment's notice; I could walk into the student lounge and hand her off for hours, and I often did. That was perhaps my favorite year of life: new mom, making the working-thing happen, with free babysitting. It just doesn't get much better than that.
The year flew by, and we relocated, close enough that I could "telecommute," which is short for "drive three hours each way once per month to sit in on a day-long meeting then bring a month of work home." I excelled at making that look easy. Then I started graduate school, first part-time, and then full-time, and that was the beginning of the (temporary) end. Working full-time during admissions season, attending graduate school full-time by commuting over an hour each way from my home, and trying to mother a two or three year-old pretty much full-time just wasn't working for me, especially coupled with my new-MBA grad, newly-employed husband's insane travel schedule. Babysitting was no longer free, and I was exhausted and paying out way more than I earned. So, I stopped. I finished graduate school and conceived baby #2, who, from the moment he was conceived, was nothing. but. trouble. Not that kind of trouble -- medical trouble. He had reflux, then would never eat, then there was the year of chronic ear infections ... Somehow, life had gone from the one-baby, working-mom, graduate-student, I can-do-it-all-easily phase and shifted into the dear-God-I-haven't-showered-for-days phase. With a lot of screaming. And vomit. (Not mine -- the baby's!)
Years have passed -- six, to be precise -- and I've found my way. I've worked here and there in social media, sometimes being paid for blogging and editing, sometimes consulting ... mostly, "just" mom-ing. Which is short for driving to soccer. And to baseball. And to guitarbasketballbaseballnewspaper churchcommunityservicegroceriesdoggroomer.
It has been a wonderful six-plus years, and, fortunately, my son's health is now on the mend. He starts first grade next year and absolutely loves the school's on-site aftercare program, in which he spends an afternoon per week already. Petunia is headed off to private middle school (another reason for having a second income), where she'll spend her days into the evening hours.
Everything's on track. Except for one thing: I need to work.
But first, I need to set a few things straight.
I do not believe that being an at-home parent is a bad thing at all, or a waste of a college or graduate education, or lazy, or anything negative. I truly have loved being at home, and I will never disparage anyone's choice to do so -- not my own daughter's, not my son's, not anyone's.
I also do not think that my mind has rotted at all, that my skills have weakened (that would be part of the reason I've dabbled in social media all of these years -- have to keep it fresh!), or that I'm somehow "less than" others in the work force because I've stopped out. Rather, I could list the skills I've gained during my stop-out (I will not call it "time off," because boy, is it ever not "off"!), including fundraising, community leadership, advocacy, coaching/mentoring skills, and all sorts of other assets that were not on my resume before I became a mom-on-the-scene.
I am doing this in part because I want to enhance my social "set," but not because I'm unhappy with lunching with the girls -- for really, the mom-friends I've made have made my life rich and purpose-filled in ways that work never would, just like work-friends will make my life rich and purpose-filled in different ways. They're not incompatible; they're also not incomplete without the other. Some people truly don't need both. I feel like I do. I miss "lingo," and "outcomes," and "water cooler conversations," and "a paycheck." I can get some of those things from life in the Valley -- but that last one, not so much.
And lastly, I am doing this for my kids. I want them to see the full array of life choices in how I've lived. I want them to know that, as a parent, one can work, one can attend grad school, and one can stay at home. Even, if you're me, all at the same time. At the end of the day, my story isn't complete without a return to work, and I won't say just for my daughter's sake -- for my son's, too. Ultimately, it's not just about a paycheck -- it's about crafting a life that works for a whole family and which shows my kids that the world is full of possibility: that one can make one's own opportunities, fulfill one's own dreams, remain a fantastic parent, and forge a path that may not be common but may be the right way to go anyway.
Thus, duty has called, but this story is still being written, for I am missing one piece to this puzzle: an actual job. Stay tuned, for I am nothing but hopeful!