Over the past year, I have been humbled, surprised and honestly downright flabbergasted to see this blog continue to accumulate followers in spite of the radio silence. I’m thrilled if anything I’ve written here has resonated with you, and I appreciate you taking the time to read. I am admittedly not great at being disciplined and organized. I manage my life sufficiently well most of the time, but I look at bloggers who are churning out new posts several times a week with awe and amazement. I’m not sure how they accomplish that. I like a sporadic but steady rhythm of writing—as inspiration comes to me, and it feels really good to be writing here again after my long hiatus. I have a lot of ideas (always), but today I thought I’d share about what I’ve been doing this past year. I wrote this about two weeks ago when it was fresh on my mind…
This morning, I did the token walk out of an office building carrying a single box of picture frames and notebooks—the walk that indicates to passersby that your job has just ended. In this case, it was amicable, but I still felt a little sad. I left my full-time social work practice when my son was born. When he turned one, I started casually looking around for something part-time and remote. This job fell into my lap, and I am truly grateful for the almost year I was able to contribute to an organization I believe in AND be a stay-at-home mom.
When I found a job working fifteen hours a week, mostly from home, at a nonprofit (working in my field?!), I thought it was too good to be true. Social work doesn’t lend itself to remote work where I could log on during my toddler’s nap each day. I was literally going from MOPS, story time and playdates in yoga pants in the morning to serious, professional woman in the afternoon. I was living the dream, until they asked if I could increase my hours significantly. Turns out it was too good to be true, after all.
This is complicated road for women to navigate, and I think we each have to figure out what works best for our family dynamic, individual personalities, etc. I’ve known families with almost every possible combination of work and childcare divisions, and I’m glad to be parenting in this era when we are able to think outside of the box. What a gift to have choices! This is not something that I take for granted. For my little family, my very supportive husband and I both wanted me to be the primary care giver for our kids while they are small. Part of what makes this work for us is that we have a team mentality—when he gets home from work he changes diapers and entertains the child while I cook. We share household chores. He also works in the tech industry and has a lot of flexibility with his job.
I have loved getting to be there for my son. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It was a big adjustment to become a mom and leave my job at the same time, and I was glad to have the opportunity to process all my big feelings about this at home like the introvert that I am. However, when we hit the one year mark, and my little angel was consistently napping three hours a day, I began to wonder if there might be a way for me to use my professional skills during this time. It sounded way more appealing than cleaning, and I could contribute financially to our household and feel good about that, too.
I had only just started looking when I got this job through some accidental networking, and I found myself swept up in a pleasantly busy rhythm of putting the baby down for his nap and opening my work laptop to correspond with volunteers, write grant applications and post agency happenings on various social media channels. One afternoon a week, I would meet my dad, who is semi-retired, for lunch, and he would transfer my son’s carseat to his car. Off they would go to play together until dinner. I would go to an office in professional clothes and fill my water bottle in the break room. I had meetings and planning sessions with my supervisor. I wrote the newsletter and negotiated for advertising and donations for events. In direct opposition to my mothering job, I felt productive and appreciated in concrete ways. When you accomplish something in your house, it’s likely that your toddler will soon destroy it. Also, they don’t give you performance reviews, no matter how much you nailed it this quarter. At my job, I conversed with adults and had a fancy title on my business cards. I had the opportunity to learn new skills and make some friends along the way.
I learned a lot about motherhood and about myself by dipping my toe back into the fast-flowing waters of the working world. Based on my experience and many, many conversations with friends, I’ve realized that becoming a mother instigates an identity crisis of sorts for most of us. This job lifted my professional confidence and got me out of that aimless funk. That is not to say that I have it all figured out. Oh, no, no…no. But I needed to be reminded that I can still be a professional woman. Working part-time suited me, and I relished the challenge of learning new skills—dusting off a part of my brain that hadn’t been used as much recently. I know myself well enough to know that three days in the office would have been too much, but I will look for something else. Being with my son brings me more joy than I can describe, but I like knowing that there are still other parts of me, too. After all, he won’t be this small forever.