Finding the Right Job

When I decided to go back to work after a 17 year absence from the full time work force, I was positive I had nothing to offer. I didn’t have a degree and the last time I worked on a computer at a job I was using a DOS based wordprocessing program. While I had written many documents and created several spreadsheets using microsoft products at home, I wasn’t exactly sure how to put that on my resume. And I didn’t know how they were actually used in the workforce so I wasn’t sure I should admit to more than a passing knowledge of these programs anyway.

As I began to consider what job I might pursue I set my sights pretty low. Within a couple months of starting a job answering phones, I was all caught up on my work place skills and I was bored. If only I had seen this article before I started looking for a job, maybe I would have set my sights a little higher. Apparently I am not the first stay-at-home mom to undervalue herself as she returned to the workforce.

From the article:

As a result: these women are overqualified for their roles and underutilized by their companies. This cycle repeats itself constantly. It is a downfall for the women and a downfall for these companies. They actually want you in the right role. Because if you are in the wrong role, you are unhappy. Your productivity and performance falters. You may ask for flextime or leave altogether.

That was me. I was overqualified and underutilized. I believe I consistantly worked to be productive despite my boredom but eventually I did ask for flextime and when I couldn’t get it, I quit.

The second time around looking for a job I was more aware of my skills, what was happening in the workforce and what I needed as far as flexibility, hours and pay. I was able to do a little networking and found the perfect job match for my skills and a better balance of work and family.

The article ends with suggesting 4 action items: find your confidence, establish your expectations, work with someone to build a resume and pursue the right job. I would offer a 5th action item: pray. When it became apparent that my first return to work job was not going to work for me or our family long term I started praying. I didn’t want to impulsively run from a job situation that wasn’t working only to find myself in another bad work situation. So as I was assessing my skills, building confidence and re-working my resume I was also praying that God would guide my steps. And after several months I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do and began pursuing it. That plan didn’t come together exactly the way I thought it would but an even better opportunity than I would have dreamed of came along at that same time. A plan that could only have been orchestrated by God.

Staying Healthy for Me

For years my weight has fluxuated 5 pounds. Up 5 or down 5. I am mostly stuck in the middle. At least I was for most of the past 10 years. Then I went back to work. Right before I went back to work I was doing particularly well, feeling healthy and was down the 5 pounds. Then I started to work. It was hard to figure out dinner every night so we ate out a lot during the first few months. And then there were meetings with goodies. Even if I wasn’t in the meeting there were always leftovers sitting out tempting me. Or a sales rep would come by and leave me a bag of candy. And don’t even get me started on the Christmas gift season! Needless to say I did not keep that 5 pounds off for long and started adding to it at a rate that I found a bit alarming.

I will admit that while I did learn to walk by the snack table and control my candy munching before the weight gain got out of control, it wasn’t a big priority in that first year. Still, I have been healthy and active for many years and so I did a few things to keep from totally falling apart.

I made my lunches. I love salads. Love them. But that is another post on another blog. Whether you love salads or sandwiches or leftovers for lunch, anything you bring will be a better choice than going out to eat or skipping lunch only to binge at dinner.

I kept active at work. During slow times in my day I might stand up and do squats. I was trying to rehab an IT band injury and brought a foam roller to work to roll out my knee during my breaks. Take the stairs, go for a walk around the building during lunch, or try a few of the desk exercises foundhere. Or if you are really motivated and have a little room here is a place to learn a Cross Fit style work out at the office. Even if you aren’t interested, that one is just entertaining.

You may be the disciplined type that will make a schedule and stick to it each day. For me, I might take a yoga class once a month. Run 3 mornings one week and do nothing the next 2 weeks. I know I am not necessarily changing my life but I know I need to keep doing it. It is something I do for me. Something that makes me feel good, feel strong and capable. Clears my head and prepares me for whatever my day or evening holds.

When I first started working I would feel guilty about taking time away from my family to go take a weight lifting class after work. And really guilty for putting my daughter in the childcare yet again so I could do something for myself. But the truth was she loved the childcare at the YMCA I attended and I had more energy to give her and felt mentally stronger when I got in a few work outs each week. So slowly I learned to give myself permission and a little grace to spend an hour a few times a week doing something just for me.

Why not get up right now and do something? A quick walk around the block or around the building to get your heart pumping and shake a few of the days stressors off.

No Comparrison

Several years ago I was lamenting to a friend about how my girlfriends who worked full time seemed to be so much more disciplined than I was. I felt like I was just flopping from thing to thing while they were so purposeful in their lives. She reminded me that I was not a working mom and should not be comparing myself to them. I may not have been as disciplined but I had things they did not have as a stay at home mom.

Now that I am working I need to remind myself not to compare myself to my stay at home mom self. I am not able to do what I did when I was at home. I used to keep my house clean, I used to be available more for my kids, I used to think about healthy meals to make, I was on top of our shopping needs, I knew where everything was and I was a walking encyclopedia of our life. Then I started working and I don’t know anything, I am not available very often and I don’t even care that we are out of shampoo and nobody has made dinner. I am a different person. And that is hard because I liked who I was at home. But, as I slowly begin to embark on this new adventure I am finding myself admiring some things about this working mom side of me too. Mostly I am still getting to know this new working mom within me but there are a few things I like so far: I am learning to be more disciplined and I like that. I am meeting new people and being social and solving problems and learning new things every day and I like that. My family is working more as a team and I really like that.

What do you like about your new working mom self?

Worship While you Work

Some mornings I wake up and can’t believe I have to go to work. Again. I jump up late, get ready, rush off to work and immediately launch in to the stress of dealing with difficult people, projects and deadlines. Problems and frustrations come all day long. Finally, it is over and I go home.

I hate those mornings. I hate those days. They don’t feel good in my body, my mind or my spirit.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1

Right now I am transitioning from one job to another. While on paper it is the perfect job situation, and I think once I find my groove it will be, the transition and learning curve has been significantly bigger than I had prepared for. I don’t like having to deal with the problems I am encountering, I don’t like having to work so hard to prove myself and I have found the training I recieved from the last person to be more than a little lacking. I was finding myself struggling with the right attitude and perspective.

Paul calls us in Romans to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. He calls it an act of worship. Do you think that includes my body while I am working?

I have been learning bit about worship lately, opening my eyes really. If you are way ahead of me you can just skim here but for those of you back where I am I submit these thoughts. Worship is not all about feeling good, singing happy songs and praising the Lord. That can be worship for sure and is a great tinme of worship. But I am learning that worship can also be done while struggling and complaining. It isn’t really about pretending you are OK with the fact that God has brought you to a place you don’t like. It is about acknowledging the fact that while you don’t like where God has brought you, He is God and he can bring you there.

I was recently listening to some program on the radio with some Christian who wrote some books. I think they guy is a Christian musician who is now writing books? I like to give credit for my thoughts when possible. Not sure it is possible this time. Although this is my paraphrase, hopefully I am telling it right. Anyway…He pointed out that in the Psalms David is often lamenting. He goes on sometimes for many verses about his problems, and then throws in one verse of praise to God. And David is seen as a man after God’s own heart and the Psalms are seen as great poems of praise and worship. So therefore we can conclude that complaining about our circumstances can be an act of worship. Well, within reason. It isn’t about the complaining, it is about the attitude. An attitude that tells God we know he is there, he has our best interests in mind and while we don’t like it, we will follow Him.

There are so many examples of this that I literally just opened my bible to Psalms to find this in Ps 64:

“Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint; protect my life from the threat of the enemy. Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from that noisy crowd of evildoers.” He goes on to explain all the evil things they do and are planning for him. Then finally he says, “But God will shoot them with arrows; suddenly they will be struck down…Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him!”

So I have decided to make my work and act of worship to God. Doing so doesn’t mean I have to put on my Happy Working Mom face every morning it simply means that I am acknowledging God’s presence and plan for me in my work. When things go well I praise God, when things go wrong I trust God.

Are you giving yourself and your days to God as your spiritual act of worship?

Working Community

My children are nearly 11 years apart. On purpose. As we began the process ofadoption after years of infertility, I talked to a friend who had walked our path a few years eariler adopting 2 little girls when her 2 boys were in jr high. I felt like the only person crazy enough to start over after so many years. She assured me that once I had a second child I would find people coming out of the woodwork with similar stories. And sure enough I meet people almost every day who have large age gaps in their family or have a much older or much younger sibling. Today an 11 year gap seems like a perfectly normal thing to me.

The same has been true as I have returned to work. When I was at home everyone I knew or had contact with was also a stay-at-home mom. At least that is what I thought. But once I went back to work I realized how many working moms I knew through my church, neighborhood or my daughters school. Some at a desk full time like me, some part time, some from home, many of whom spent a season at home as well. We all have different stories and schedules but we all have the same needs to juggle various commitments while still being the best mother, wife, homemaker they can be. I am definately not alone. And that gives me the courage to keep going.

Newborn Encouragement

The transition from homemaker to working mom is hard. And while that may be true, it may not be encouraging if you are going through it. But just because it is hard doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

Remember when your baby was born? Doesn’t mater if you are thinking of your 1st baby or your 5th baby. For the first year of that childs life you were off your game. It was hard but, it was good. I have sat with so many new moms over the years who have lamented how they couldn’t clean their house, didn’t get anywhere on time, hadn’t lost the baby weight, etc, etc. And I have continually looked over at their 3, 6 or even 9 month old baby, many of whom still don’t sleep through the night, and reminded them, “it takes a year”. We do our best to adjust to the change during that year, we loose a few pounds, we make adjustments to our schedule, our other kids begin to accept the new baby. But just when you figure out that you can make dinner if you put baby in a sling, she learns to sit up and wants to see what you doing and you are scrambling to figure it out all over again.

Working is the same. It is hard but, it is good. And it takes a year to adjust. Just when you think you have figured out a routine the Christmas shopping season will arrive followed by Christmas and your kids home from school for 2 weeks. Whatever you were doing probably won’t work during that season. Birthdays, flu season, spring break, Summer vacation, each new thing needs to be navigated during this first year of working.

But it is good. We may not find ourselves loving working quite like we love our newborn babies. I never did find myself just staring at my desk thinking how beautiful and wonderful and worth the effort it was to be able to sit there 40 hours a week. But I knew my working was a good thing. I knew I was accomplishing a goal. I never tired of payday. And on 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, etc. I was continually amazed that I was actually getting paid not to work on those days.

Plus it was encouraging to see my family begin to adjust and pitch in to help. To see my daughter so confidently let me leave in the mornings. My husband pitch in for dinner each night. And to wake up one day realizing I had found my groove with laundry and a more relaxed cleaning schedule. Not to mention learning my job, feeling successful and appreciated in the work I was doing outside the home.

Wherever you are in the transition from homemaker to working mom know that it may be hard but it is good. You are doing great! Keep up the good work.

Having it All

Can I have it all? I have read a few articles recently of women questioning whether we can have it all. Can I really work full time, pursue a career and be a great wife and mother? As a woman who has spent almost all her adult years raising her children and is now working full time, it is definately a question on my mind. I certainly believed in what I was doing at home all those years. I think it had lots of value, I do not regret any financial sacrifices we had to make so I could be home during those years. But now I am working and my daughter is only in 2nd grade. So I am very much a working mom about to raise my daughter amidst meetings and work schedules partnering with grandparents, aunts, babysitters, schools and day camps. She will not get the time with me she wants or sometimes even needs.

I am going to be honest. Don’t be shocked. You can’t have it all. Nobody can have it all. We all make choices and whether you work or stay home you make sacrifices. It is all about embracing our choices. And I realize we don’t always have a choice about whether we work or not. I wouldn’t necessarily choose to work at this juncture in my life, at least not in the capacity I am working right now. But I can choose how it will play out, and what my attitude will be.

So what I am asking myself is, “what do I want and what can I have right now?” How far can I take a career without ignoring my family too much? How involved can I be in my child’s life without it affecting my work performance? What is important to me right now and what can wait for another season of my life? Once I answer these questions I can start planning and making goals.

And I LOVE to plan and make goals!

Routinely connecting with your kids

After being with my children all day for years going back to work was a shock to all of us. How do you continue to connect with your children in meaningful ways when you have so many things taking up time?

During that first year one of the ways I continued to connect with my 7 year old daughter was through a couple simple routines. Every morning I would go in her room a few minutes before I left and snuggle in bed with her. Some mornings it was literally 2 minutes, some mornings I might get 5 or more minutes but I always went in, relaxed my body (a sometimes forced act) and let her know she was important to me. The comfort of the routine seemed to make the mornings go better after I left and made it easier for me to get out of the house. We also established “girls night”. My husband and son were both gone on Wednesday nights and so I set a couple hours every wednesday night for her. We might swim at the YMCA, play a game or watch a movie. She loved it. This year my schedule is different and while I am not sure I will be snuggling with her in the morning I will be home when she gets off the bus and plan to drop everything for those precious after school minutes to just look at her and listen to her stories of the day.

We also have routines for the whole family. Friday night is Pizza night. We always attend church together on Sunday mornings. And we all go to support each other in performances and athletic endeavors.

Take some time to think about where you can connect with your kids. Knowing you are still available to them every day in some small way will give you both peace as you make this transition.