What am I going to wear? Should I bring or buy my lunch? What bag should I carry? Very typical "first day" questions, right? For sure… that is, for a kid starting school. But for me, a mom of two with nearly five years of "staying home" experience under my belt, I was entirely unsure of the answers as they related to me and going back to work.
First there was the issue of wardrobe. What are people wearing to the office these days? Do I opt for the red wrap dress with snakeskin heels and simple gold hoops; black pants with un-calculated white T-shirt and pinstriped blazer, or something a little simpler? Daunting, overwhelming (yes, really, clothing choices can feel overwhelming) and for the first time in a very, very, very long time – ALL MINE to make. Funny how the choice of what to wear to work seemed harder than the choice of going back to work in the first place!
Before becoming Mom (a period in my life I call BBM), I lived, breathed, ate, slept, dreamt and even, sometimes, nightmared my job. Sure, I had a family and, of course, always put them first (the husband, parents, siblings, closest friends). But in the day-to-day sense, it was all work, almost all of the time and – I have to admit – I loved it.
I loved my career as a beauty editor, living the dream and pursuing my passion. I was blessed. Or so I thought. Because once I had my first baby and we decided to relocate for my husband's job from New York City (homeland of fellow magazine editors and workaholics like myself) to Chicago, I realized what the word blessed truly meant.
I was suddenly a mommy, and this was a role I took (and still take) extremely seriously. But just because I wore a new title didn't mean I couldn't be a worker bee, too, right? So I toiled at building a successful freelancing business in Chicago and stayed true to my foundation: writing, editing and burning the poop out of my computer's keyboard.
Fast forward four years, and I found myself still fueling the freelancing fire, only now I had two little ones, feeling doubly blessed (and, err, busy) by the job of being Mom. And still, in many ways I had it all: I could work flexible hours and never miss a beat (or milestone, play group, birthday party, school meeting, kiddie class) with my tots. Yet, if I am being totally honest (which, clearly, I am), something small was missing.
I couldn't put my finger on it, exactly, but I knew it had something to do with my sense of self. As much as I adore my first- and second-born from infinity to beyond, I missed the "me" space of working in a team environment, outside my house. I longed for tight deadlines, tough projects, demanding assignments…in an office. And so, after very little debate, hesitation or wavering, I accepted a job with a company. Now, for the first time in nearly five years, I’m working in "real people" clothing, taking public transportation to and from the office, wearing heels (and not sneakers or ballet flats) on an almost-daily basis. How’s it going, you’d like to know? Let me tell you!
It's only been about a month, and while I only work three days in an office, I have to say: the experience has been awesome. To say I love it is to call fried peanut butter and jelly decent. Yes, it's that great. Truly, I feel more balanced, stable, happy and internally at peace. On days in the office, I chatter and banter with other adults about things that don't revolve around bowel movements, eating, school, ballet, tantrums (you get the point); on days at home, I spend time playing (yes, really, doing puzzles, painting, reading) with my kids, because that time suddenly feels more special to me. And with the exception of sending my daughter to school in a mismatched outfit once (ok, a few times), things have gone pretty smoothly at home and the kids seem to have transitioned well.
So, what did I end up wearing on that first day? Well, I called in the troops (husband, two year old son, four and half year old daughter) for a mock fashion show, showcasing my "first day" options. The responses were varied. I heard everything from, "Why do you want to look like daddy?" to "Oh, Mommy, you must be going to temple," to "Pretty Mommy," (a personal favorite) to "Honey, you look perfect. You are going to knock 'em dead," (ok, this one tied with the pretty comment from the kid who barely speaks).
But you know which comment mattered most? The one from inside my little head when I slipped into the red dress, saying "Wow. You still have it. Go You." And suddenly, the little butterflies in my tummy dissipated and the reinvented concept of Working Mom was born anew.
~ By Robin Immerman Gruen, FITL Writer Extraordinaire
P.S. And in case you’re wondering about what I had for lunch. I actually forgot mine the first day. Fortunately, it worked out fine because the boss took me out to celebrate.
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