My children are asleep and dreaming of the thrills and chills that await them tomorrow on All Hallow's Eve. I am on the eve of my last day as a stay-at-home mom, wondering what thrills and chills await me tomorrow on my first day at work after a 5-year hiatus. The lunches are packed, the costumes for tomorrow's class parties laid out, and a list of reminders for Mr. Mom made. Now, it's time for me. How do I prepare for such a big transition?
Quite a few moms I talk to lately are either in the midst of a job search or have recently gone back to work. Whether it be for financial reasons given our current economy, personal reasons, or a mix of both, I am seeing an increasing number of women re-launching their careers after having "opted out" of the workforce.
There seems to be a common theme underlying many of these recent conversations I've had - anxious anticipation. Anxiousness about the unknown. Will I be good at my job? Will I remember anything that I used to do before having kids? How will my kids get to school, to daycare, to soccer practice while I am working? Anticipation of the possibilities. Financial reward. Learning new skills. Gratification and appreciation from others for a job well done. This last one can often times be much delayed when raising kids. A British market survey found that kids don't appreciate their parents until age 22!
I remember early on in my stay-at-home-momhood trying to manage my then toddler and infant at a swimming pool. A mother sympathetically watched from poolside as the tantrums unfolded and said to me "Honey, these are the longest days but the shortest years." She was right. The past 5 years at home did fly by. Although certainly not without their challenges, I've had the opportunity to get more involved in my children's growth and development, find ways to give back to the community, and take time to get my health on track after my celiac diagnosis. For us, it was the right choice.
Now, the right choice is to return to work. So, as Polly Pockets are replaced with PowerPoint presentations and Legos with lunch meetings, I am going to try to keep the following things in mind tomorrow to help get back my working-woman mojo while avoiding any mommy guilt.
Take a deep breath. There is a reason yoga classes are so popular at the gym. A deep, cleansing breath often helps to quiet the mind as the thoughts of to-do lists, client deadlines, and looming home projects overwhelm your thoughts.
No woman is an island. The old adage about it taking a village to raise a child is especially true when trying to manage children's schedules with work responsibilities. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Having friends that can do preschool drop-off and pick-up and a few reliable, neighborhood sitters to cover in a pinch can ease the stress of transitioning back to work. Having a husband with a flexible schedule is a bonus!
You can have it all, maybe just not all at once. If you are working 8-10 hours a day out of the home, it is not going to be physically possible to prepare a home cooked meal, clean the kitchen, fold laundry, spend time with the husband, cuddle and read 3 bedtime stories each to the kids, and get a full night's sleep. Some things are going to have to give. Rather than try to kill yourself doing it all, identify what is most important for the short-term, and the rest will happen over time. Delegation is key too, which ties back to the "No woman is an island" point above. I'm amazed at the pride my kids take in emptying the dishwasher and collecting the garbage from around the house.
You're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you! Stuart Smalley, in all his cheesiness, has a point here. It is easy for self-doubt to creep in after having been gone from the workforce for a long time. Technology and corporate culture have changed considerably over the past few years. That being said, all those skills that you brought to the table before having kids are still there. Dust off those cobwebs and put them to good use. After having kids, you can most certainly add multitasking and conflict resolution to your skill set too :)