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: