Back To Work: What I've Learned After Over A Decade At Home
August 2003. That was the last time I'd been employed. After eloping and moving from Arizona to San Diego, I was given the opportunity to focus completely on my education, so I stopped working. I didn't intend to remain unemployed, but after graduation I floundered a bit, unsure whether I wanted to continue my studies or take a break. As luck would have it, I became pregnant while attempting to figure out my next step, so I decided to stay home with my sweet boy, Asher. As the years went on, two more precious babies—Isaac first, then Joy—arrived, and the thought of jumping back into the workforce seemed to move further away. I knew I would return at some point, I simply wasn't sure how to make the transition.
Fast forward to the summer of 2016. Financially, we were doing okay, but we had some short- and long-term goals we wanted to achieve. While this blog was bringing in much-needed income, it wasn't steady. Once again, the Divine stepped in. Within a month of discussing—and praying about—my return to work, my husband and I both found ourselves employed for decent pay and schedules that allowed us to avoid putting our children in daycare. Did I mention the location is walking distance from our home? Such a blessing!
Now, coming up on a year of employment, I've been reflecting on what I've learned from heading back to work after over a decade at home. The transition from stay-at-home-mom to working parent has taught me seven valuable lessons about myself, my family, and the world around me.
1. The Importance of Missing My Kids
Because I spent just about every day with the kiddos, I never really had the opportunity to miss them; if anything, I experienced the opposite feeling most days! As an introvert, I treasured my space and alone time, so I struggled to be engaged all day, every day. Now, I can't wait to come home and see their shining faces, ask them about their day, and truly connect. My job has brought nuance to our relationship, and I cherish that.
2. The Value of Teamwork
Raising kids and blogging can be very solitary activities, so I wondered if I could still function as part of team. Turns out, I'm a natural at it! I adore working with my colleagues and pushing towards a common goal. I thrive in an environment where I'm able to support and be supported. The atmosphere couldn't be more healthy, honestly. However...
3. The Politics of High School Are Alive and Well 😬
Let me preface this by saying my workplace is wonderful. I have very few complaints, and the ones I do have are relatively minor. Still, there are echoes of high school that make me shake my head. I suppose that's to be expected wherever humans are gathered and a hierarchy created. Unlike my adolescent self, I stay away from gossip and oversharing. My goal is to have a friendly, yet professional relationship with everyone. Why certain people aren't getting along is none of my business.
4. There's No Shame In A Regular Paycheck + Benefits
I struggled with this notion at first. I felt like a failure because I couldn't make enough money from my online presence. Now that I've had a chance to get comfortable in my job, I love the dependability! Entrepreneurial life suits many folks to a T, but I actually feel more free knowing when (and how much!) I'll be paid every month. Plus, we have insurance coverage, 401k contributions, paid time off, and other perks. Making the blog my side hustle has been one of the most empowering decisions I've made in the last year!
5. It's Okay to Let (Some) People In
Because of what we went through a couple years ago, it's difficult for me to let people in, but I'm slowly opening myself up to the possibility of having a few close friends again. Platonic relationships are important, y'know?
6. I Am My Own Advocate
I cannot stress how important this point is, especially for women in the workplace. When I was last employed, I was barely in my twenties and I hadn't yet found my voice. Now that I'm 35 and the stakes are much higher, I can't afford to be passive. My job is not a hobby or placeholder until something better comes along; I am trying to showcase my abilities and present myself as an integral part of the team. That also means speaking up for what I believe in. As an introvert, this is highly uncomfortable, but again, I am committed to interceding on my own behalf because no one else will (or should). I may have temporarily ruffled a few feathers, but I've also positioned myself as someone to be taken seriously.
7. I Understand My Partner Better
Now that I'm working, I have a better idea of some of the workplace demands my husband endured over the years. This insight has allowed me to be more supportive and compassionate towards him when we're together. And, because he's home with our daughter while I'm at work, he's been able to comprehend the challenges I've faced as a stay-at-home-mom. It's deepened our relationship in a way I never expected, but I like it. Also, quality time has become even more important! For that reason, I find myself unplugging from the digital world in favor of connecting with my husband and children. I'm less productive online, but the tradeoff is more than worth it.
Heading back to work after all these years wasn't easy, but I'm grateful for all I've learned. I was anxious at first because so much has changed. I've changed. How I view work has changed. I am starting completely over in a new field, and it's daunting. But you know what? I dove in, partly out of necessity, but also because I was ready for a new challenge. My children are still fairly young, but they won't always be, and this job is an important step in the process of letting go of the reins (a little). The transition has allowed me to remove some of the financial burden from my husband so that he can take over some of the caregiving duties. There were some rough moments, but we've found a new rhythm in our adaptability.
Have you ever had a gap in your employment? If so, how did you handle it? I'd love to read your thoughts or tips on the subject!
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