Last week, I was driving along VT Route 30 towards my house, like I do multiple times every day.
One would think I was engrossed in whatever informative topic was on Vermont Edition that day, as loud voices were blaring through the stereo speakers. I’d bet you could hear it clearly from outside the car.
The sound reached my ears; but not one detail seemed to register.
Instead my mind was preoccupied with a jumble of incoherent thoughts. When at one point, out of nowhere, I snapped. Tears welled up in my eyes, and streamed down my cheeks, as they are now while I write this post, remembering the exact moment in the car when the meaning of those jumbled thoughts finally came to light.
I had started to reminisce in my mind about my current life, like it was already gone.
Why I did this?
It all stemmed from a decision made a few weeks ago.
A decision I thought was an easy, no-brainer, positive decision, because it is something I’m excited about, and ready for:
To go back to work part-time.
But what struck me while I was driving just then is that:
One very important chapter in my life ended: The stay-at-home mom years
And another chapter has just begun…
I thought I was a strong person; this weird feeling I couldn’t seem to shake last week took me by surprise because my whole life has been all about change. I have moved multiple times, held many jobs. Met so many different people. I thought I was the queen of coping strategies. Always just fine in the end.
But what’s clear to me now?
Transitions are hard for all of us, at any age.
I don’t recall ever thinking about my life as a book. And each major change, a chapter.
But that day in the car, thoughts moved from the excitement of starting a new challenge, to the fact that this chunk of time I had home with my son, fully dedicated to him, is now over.
And I’m a bit in mourning.
These past few years were certainly not perfect. It was hard actually. There are so many good things about being there for your kids all the time. But for someone like me, who had always been career-minded, in control, and aware of my strengths, parenting full-time has this sneaky way of zapping any level of confidence you ever thought you had.
Strangely enough, while I never thought about my own life in chapters, I have always looked at my mother’s life this way, and that has given me hope throughout my stay-at-home years, because she has gone through many reinventions. I have watched her morph before my eyes from a stay-at-home mom, to a student going back to get her MBA, and then to a computer sales-woman in the early 80s, selling beastly-large systems in a mostly male-dominated industry. She owned a retail business when we lived in the Newport RI area, and then became a whiz in the technology field in Silicon Valley. And just last month, she retired, and who knows what the next chapter will bring for her, no doubt there will be more.
Whenever I felt down about my worth, or productivity, or satisfaction at this stage of my life, as a woman, home with her child, reflecting back on my mom’s evolution through the years taught me:
Life today is not what it’ll be forever.
There’s still a long way to go.
Perhaps finally having the ability to visualize these chapters for myself is a sign of aging long enough to see when life patterns emerge, and also, visualize them in hindsight.
I started writing last year, because I love communicating with all of you on challenging topics, and this has been an amazing creative outlet, and has also helped combat the lack-of-positive feedback I sometimes feel when parenting, or managing the household. Making the commitment to write has also been instrumental in gearing me up for schedules and deadlines again, because I knew the day would come soon, where I would want to baby-step back into a career.
And so when I was offered this new opportunity, one I know will allow me to use some now-dormant talents but on a part-time schedule, I barely hesitated to sign that contract. I am ready to get those brain muscles working again, restore confidence I once had, but most importantly, make these positive changes without abandoning the much more balanced life I have now, or my hands-on parenting style in the process.
Is that too much to ask? I’m not sure…
This decision to return to work part-time will be a good one in the long run. It’s just a little bittersweet.
I have to think more about prioritizing everything that’s important; this will be the hardest part.
I’m scared as I think about my life now, and how it has evolved over the last few years. I hardly recognize the old me, the full-time career mom. I was so out-of-balance then, only concerned with my son and work. Today, my world has expanded. Along with family obligations and career aspirations, I have hobbies, I have likes and dislikes, and non-work issues that are so important to me.
I now also know it’s essential to look after myself; a priority that wasn’t even on my radar back then.
Regressing back is not an option.
As a perfectionist, with the desire to be great at everything I do. I worry, with one more priority in the mix:
What if I can never be great at anything…will I need to settle for just being good?
I want to be a great, present mom. One who is patient, and actively participates in activities.
I want to be a committed spouse, who is not just one/half of a parenting tag-team, we need to be supportive to each other as individuals, and as a couple.
I need to continue taking care of myself. You better believe I won’t be slacking off with exercise, or eating well.
I love to write, think about health, and motivate others. Will I still have the time?
I have to figure out how to do great in my new job.
Sounds like I’ll need to make some amendments to those goals I set earlier this year, take inventory as I go, and decide what stays, what might go, and where I need to manage my time more efficiently.
Those watercolor classes I took last month were so fun, but I’ll have to hold off for now.
Perhaps I won’t learn Spanish this year.
Maybe my blog posts will be shorter and less frequent. I hope not, but it’s an option.
What about volunteering at the school? That’s so important too.
Will have to see how it all goes…
I was talking to my friend Tienne at Silverleaf Journal about this new challenge a few weeks ago, when she alerted me to the fact that I’m going to be living the dream of most women.
Really? I had no idea.
According to a Pew Research poll, most working mothers today wish they could work part-time.
But sadly, 74% of moms who work outside the home hold full-time jobs instead; only 26% are able to get their wish and work part-time, because the opportunities are just not there for them.
So I will consider myself lucky.
While I may still be in mourning over the abrupt end of the most significant chapter of my life so far.
And deep in thought about the changes I need to make.
I’m hopeful I can make it all work.
I’ll still strive to be great at whatever I choose to focus on; not just good.
As I turn the page and begin this next new chapter…
How do you handle your work life balance? Do you work full-time, part-time?
Or are you at home, but seeking something more? What options do you think are ideal?
Here is some additional research on work/life/mom balance I found useful, you might too:
Robin, as always, your post hit on a subject that I think affects so many women. I’m still a stay at home mom even though the kids are gone. Every time I think I’d like to get a part time job I pull back from acting on it because I’m worried about how it will affect my workouts, my golf game, our ability to travel to see our kids and go to all the meetings me husband has. I also know that I wouldn’t want to return to what I did pre-kids (accounting). The thought of being in an office and doing that type of work just makes me cringe! So what would I do? I’d maybe like to do something fitness related or work at the incredibly cool hotel that just opened near us. But those aren’t going to pay much and I will still be the household CEO with all the work that entails so I don’t do anything. I’m sure though that you will be great at all your things. As far as the school volunteering goes-you can pick the things that sound fun and to the others JUST SAY NO!
Angie, thank you so much! As always we are so on the same wavelength! I have been so non-committal to a fault over the last few years. I think in my old full-time work life, it was so overwhelming, I was very protective of my new-found time. But now, it seems right but it is still so scary! When you think more about this for yourself, please keep me posted and we can talk through it and support each other!
Robin, I love reading your blogs, and this one is particularly poignant and powerful. You will be great in the next chapter! Cheering you on.
Cheryl, thank you so much– I’m so glad you like reading my blog and am thankful for the feedback and encouragement. Part of why this is so hard is I keep envisioning playing outside on those carefree nice days…without a concept of time…and I don’t want that to change!
This is great Robin! You will find a way to make it work
Thanks Brooke…yeah, in time! But I’m learning it takes a lot of thought and support and thankfully I have that on all sides 🙂
The good news is that it sounds like you want to be present in a balanced life – that you are aware of that and owning it likely means the next chapter is your presence chapter, full of boundaries to what time and emotional/other energies are dedicated to what as you really live what you are present in. Funny enough, the chapters that have brought you to this one have matured you enough to land at this doorstep of presence with a spirit of embracing this next chapter. Funny how that works and good on you. We don’t know each other but I do know Tom and I’ve read several of your posts. In my own past year we’ve undergone a lot of changes, career, perspective, relational… and they are every bit applicable to yours. The one thing that has really driven home my perspective is a good friend who is now approaching his palliative slope, which serves as a reminder to own a lot of the things you wrote of so that we live our lives fully, presently. Thanks for the post.
Dave,thank you so much for your thoughtful insight, and I’m so glad you have been following my posts…you are so right. I never thought I would have been home, without a career, with a child ever! I think it took me about 2 years to get used to it! But I have learned so much and think it’ll be just fine (after the mourning period of course…). The most important step is really in identifying what’s important, and what needs to be fought for…because it’s worth it.So many people do not do this…I didn’t many years ago and thank goodness I see it now. I’m glad you have learned the same and are taking the steps with your family too. Again, thanks for reading and participating in the conversation!
Great blog post Robin! One that really hits home to so many of us. My children are now grown, and I am working FT, however, for much of my children’s lives while they were home, I did work part time. Working PT allowed me some time away to nurture my social self, while husband and kids were at work / school, and time enough at home to be there for them when they came home from school, meal times and for their sports practices and games.
You will find your groove in how to make it work for you. I love how you prioritized all those things that are still so important to you and you do not want to sacrifice any of it – the mom, the wife, the athlete, the volunteer. Maybe some of the things you did for your family, now may become a family activity? Whatever the case, make sure you ask for help when needed and / or as your friend Angie said “Just say NO!”
Thanks so much Silvana, I always love your perspective…since you are making time for your grandchildren too, you have a head start on me in trying to figure it all out. I still am a little shocked at how emotional I’m feeling right now but like you said, it will be a good mix once I get the hang of it, I know it will. I love your idea about the “family” activity. I spend a ton of time cooking, preparing homemade everything–and then the cleaning…sounds like that would be a great family activity!!
Life comes in stages and what is right for one stage is not right for another. Took me a long time to realize that. Priorities also change so life has to change with them. You will work through this and do the right thing Robin. And you don’t have to be perfect and GREAT at everything you do! Just do your best and you will be fine.
Have you seen the movie “Pleasantville”? The end of the movie was perfect. Your life is exactly what it should be at that moment in time.
Thanks Chris, I always love your wisdom…makes me smile! I haven’t seen that movie, or maybe a long time ago?? Will look into it, thanks for the suggestion!
Transition can be difficult no matter what it is — a new job, a new place to live, a new baby, whatever it may be. Don’t be hard on yourself for mourning the change, you are acknowledging it and moving forward! And for what it’s worth, I think working and being a mom at the same time can be so healthy. One gives balance and perspective to the other. Best of luck!
Hi Meg, thanks so much! I know you are going through a fair share of change too and although I’m in a different stage, you’ll probably be here in a few years. This mom/career juggle is so interesting. But like you said, the two together can be really great. Best of luck to you too and thanks so much for your input!
great post! i am trying to get a part-time job-it’s very hard! i am mourning that end of an era too-as zoey will be off to kindergarten next year! time moves on! but just think-there is no pressure to hold a job you don’t love-so if it doesn’t work don’t sweat the small stuff!
Hi Ilicia, it’s so great, you know what I’m feeling! It is so weird! I didn’t feel it when Brett went to kindergarten, because I wasn’t ready to go back yet, but am sure feeling it now. I hope it works out for you too, finding something part-time. Good luck, and thanks so much for your comment!
While I think it is natural for chapter-changing to sometimes be bittersweet, the biggest gift you can give to yourself and others is to be happy with the chapter you are in presently. Needs change with time and there is a season for everything. My mom always told me that everyone thinks they want their baby to stay a baby but no one wants to change diapers for 18 years, so enjoy each moment because time moves fast.
Being healthy is beyond what you eat and how much you move. It is also about personal growth and emotional well-being. Modeling health is also modeling healthy relationships and prioritizing your spouse by going on dates and spending time together that shows what a lifelong loving relationship looks like. Personal growth is modeled by a parent pursuing dreams whether that is going to college, learning new skills, or seeking advancement in a career. I internalized many things by watching my parents each hold down careers and talk about their days- struggles and rewards over the dinner table. Those conversations taught me about attitude, responsibility, confidentiality, and how to disagree while respecting another person.
A child learns a lot about his or her place in the world by parents setting limits AND by parents expecting personal responsibility. Being raised by parents who both worked full-time because they had careers they enjoyed, I understood that my parents had a life beyond our family and that was appropriate. Just as I had aspects of my life that my parents were not involved, especially as I grew up. My parents always told me that good parenting was raising a child so they would become an adult who was a friend. My parents have a success story and I’m sure that you will have one too.
What a beautiful viewpoint Kawookie, thank you! I love the values your parents showed you and especially love the fact you are aware of this gift of knowledge and understanding they were teaching you by example. I look at my son now, at 9 and he’s pretty oblivious to what we do, as I guess I was when I was that age too, with my parents. My parents certainly did the same, I can see that clearly in retrospect. I think the first time I realized it was when I first stopped working and had no clear idea of my future–and the story I mention above, about all my mom’s chapters and reinventions, really helped me see the big picture on life. But, saying all that, I certainly struggle in-the-moment in my role as a parent, it’s hard to separate what you know is true in the long run versus the emotions and guilt and struggles with tradeoffs you feel day to day….so appreciate your comment.
Once again my friend you written eloquently about the balancing of roles and transitions. Well done. You will be fabulous in this next endeavor.
Susi, thank you so much! You had a head start on me here and seem to have done so well with your transition back-to-work w/your business over the last few years. Will look to you as a shining example that it can be done. Thanks for your support!
I keep meaning to write to you about this post, and then things get in the way. How does that happen when I’m at home full time (I know, it’s because of ongoing renovations and because it’s now my turn to organize a suddenly complicated 9th birthday party)!? And how do you still get all the home things done if you start working again? As we have discussed, this is a fine balance.
When I was thinking about taking stress leave, or even before that, when I was just struggling with the lack of balance my job gave me, I kept saying that work demands shouldn’t override one’s health and family. Because we don’t live to work and health and family are really what we’re all here for (well, most of us). But work is still part of it and I think that with the perspective you’ve gained from your time at home, you will be able to ensure you protect your time for yourself and for your family.
It’s something I have to still work on – saying no, not feeling guilty, not letting external factors push back my me time and my family time. I will probably come to you for all your sage wisdom and advice when I start back into work!
It was so sweet of you to give me credit for referencing that report – and thank you for taking the time to look it up and to link to it and the other useful resources. I’ll have to read through them. At some point 🙂
Thanks so much Tienne, you have provided me so much perspective since I’ve met you, and I can tell it’s going to be a nice back-and-forth as we both experience these changes. And yeah, when you told me about the part-time statistic, I love numbers…I had to look it up! I think with the Sheryl Sandburg book, Lean in, and the current debate about what’s best for women: Leaning in and ensuring we are a force in the workplace, like she is. Or settling for what works with balance…there’s so much to think about. I think depending on where we are in our life-stage, it’ll change. But the fact we need to opt out at times, or sit back and settle is a shame. There will always be tradeoffs.
It seems like change gets harder with time, especially if we have been away from something for awhile. The beginning is always a bit shaky but with time once again, we seem to adapt.
I loved your quote “Life today is not what it will be forever” thank God for that during some of the crazy sessions we all go thru!! There’s always hope!!!!!
Good luck with your part time career, you’ll do great I am sure!
Darlene, I think you are right, it took me about 2 years to get used to being a stay-at-home mom after spending my whole life working towards moving up in my career. That was a shocker! I don’t think this will take as long-I hope! what I am feeling now is more of an overall sadness and I need more of a mind-set adjustment now. Thanks so much for reading and your thoughtful comment!
You are quite welcome Robin! I will “guestimate” it will not take you as long to re-adjust to your new career status..let’s live dangerously and say 6 months to a year tops!!
Sometimes it is hard to realize the work that’s involved in raising kids..a 24 hr a day/365 days a year job for the duration of 18 years …. Wow..that’s one heck of a career in itself!!!
thanks so much! I think 6 months sounds good—I’ll keep you posted to see if your prediction comes true!
Very interesting post Robin, really enjoyed it. Sounds like your mom’s life and mine tracked very closely. I too was selling mainframe computers in the 80s when most people had no idea what a computer was. Then later I went to work for a Silicon Valley company in the networking business. I retired young because that was the age when the tech companies rewarded us with stock. Now I’m very happily retired and living outside of Charleston SC with so many creative outlets I haven’t got a spare moment ever!! Don’t stress over the changes (as I ALWAYS did) – they will all work out. My dad once told me (when I was agonizing over some decision or another), there is no such thing as a bad decision. You just make one and then you make it right. Words to live by 🙂 Go get ’em girl – you’re going to be great!!!
Tina, thank you so much for reading, I’m so glad you enjoyed and could relate and offer some good advice. I don’t want to stress….but do, you know how it is. How funny about the computers–now did the ones you sold have those punch cards? I remember we had stacks and stacks of them in our basement! And I love the advice from your dad–I will remember that, priceless advice–thank you so much for sharing!
My first class in sales training was programming with punch cards LOL! So mant trees died to make those silly things :-). Enjoyed your post!
Robin, congrats on this new step.
All our love.
Jeff (and Helen)
Thanks Jeff and Helen! So great to hear from you!!
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At first, I thought you meant returning part-time from being full-time! Because it is my case. The kids are now at high school and I’ve been working full time for 2 years… I mourn this period and I feel so distressed nowadays and disconnected and unfocused. Maybe I should go back to part-time work. But with the mortgage, the cars, the kids’activities, daughter’s orthopedic prothesis and son to be at college next year, money is an issue…Sigh!
Thank you so much for your comment Suzanne…totally get you! I guess it’s just an adjustment from any schedule master to something else! Esp. full time. That has certainly been on my mind, or at least stepping -up a little more as it has been 8 months since I started back and I wonder…can I take on more? Probably, but….but….what if I say I do and then I don’t want it anymore! We definitely had to learn to cut back as at first I was full-time and then stopped when my son was about 4…I was totally side-swiped by that! Anyway, good luck to you!! I hope you get what you need!