Paul Ryan, Julia Roberts, Oprah and Me

Did you know that Paul Ryan is the same age as me? Someone my age is running for Vice President of the United States. Someone my age could be a breath away from the White House. That means that I could potentialy be a breath away from the white house! Or I could if I had made totally different choices with my life.

Some days I look at a fact like that and I wonder if I have made the right choices with my life. Have I settled for mediocrity when I could have pursued the big dreams? When I graduated from high school I thought about pursuing a degree in political science. Who knows where I would be today if I had followed that path rather than dropping out of school to get married and raise a family.

Julia Roberts is a few years older than me but I remember realizing when I had my son at 23 that she was a huge movie star at my age making millions. I wondered aloud to my husband what I had done wrong. Since I have no theatrical aspirations whatsoever and never would have pursued that career, he just gave me the “you are crazy” look and moved on. He doesn’t get caught up in comparing himself to others the way I do. He didn’t think I had done anything wrong, just made different choices.

I have a wonderful friend who was recently commenting on the fact that Oprah claimed her 40’s were her best decade ever. This friend in her mid 40’s said she keeps waiting for this best decade ever experience to which Oprah refers. I concur with her, this decade is feeling like quite a bit of hard work to me. But as we talked I realized Oprah doesn’t have kids. We are in the midst of it all in our 40’s, raising kids, building careers, husbands, homes, friends. It is not all about us, this decade feels like it is about everyone but us. We need women like Oprah who don’t have families and can put all their energy into making a difference in the world, but we really need women like me and my friend Jackie who are busy raising the next generation and making a huge difference on a small scale.

This past week I had someone ask me a question that clearly implied he thought I was further along career wise than I actually am. I tried to stand tall enough to answer the question but the reality is I am just not there yet. I spent the next couple days feeling like a failure. But I realized I am just getting started. I am exactly where I should be based on my starting date and my skill set. I will keep moving forward and questions like that help motivate me to keep moving forward.

I could never regret my years at home. They may have put me 20 years behind on my career track but they put me 20 years ahead in my family track. I love my family and cherish the years I gave fully to them. Now they are supporting me as I pursue a new career, a career outside my home.

I am not a young fresh face in the corporate world, I am the old woman filled with experience and wisdom. I might not be a 42 vice presidential candidate or a million dollar pretty woman in my early 20s and this might not feel like the best decade ever, but it is far from too late for me to accomplish anything and make a difference in my family, my career, my community and my world.

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.

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.

Part Time or Full Time it is Still a Transition

Years before I went back to work full time I was already struggling with the transition between work and home. I had taken a part time job to save up for a trip we took to Kenya. I was doing childcare at a health club 2-3 days a week, 2-4 hours per shift. And even then it was a challenge. I wrote this after working a couple extra shifts one week:

I worked 4 days in a row this week and I am still alive and am not having a break down. Of course have done nothing but work, make dinner and check my facebook page this week but still I am good. I started working this past summer and increased my hours slightly in the fall. After 2 days in a row of working I would literally be on the verge of a mental breakdown and completely incapable of making dinner or caring for my family in anyway. Now, before you feel sorry for me, keep in mind I work less than 10 hours a week. I don’t transition well. But, I am now in the groove of working and I sort of like it. I changed my schedule this week plus picked up someone else’s shift which is why I ended up doing 4 days in a row. I know John was skeptical when I told the girl I would take her Sunday afternoon shift that I would still be in my right mind tonight but I have done it. I feel so powerful.

While going back to work full time has been a crazy challenge, even just going back a couple hours a week can completely change the dynamics of your routine and be a big transition. In some ways part time can be harder because you think you can still be a homemaker and work. So you add work but don’t give up anything as a homemaker. When you take a full time job and are out of the house 9-10 hours a day it is pretty clear sign you are going to need a little extra help around the house and probably can’t continue to chair the fall fundraiser or hit the gym with friends every morning at 9am. When you are part time you continue trying to do it all.

Upon my return to full time work I realized I needed to do some releasing. So I stepped down from my leadership position at church, let my house get messy, I even told my daughters 1st grade teacher we wouldn’t be doing homework that year! For me, I needed to totally wipe the plate clean. Once I was feeling comfortable I started adding things back one at a time. So this summer I agreed to plan the church picnic I have planned in the past and told my daughter we would do homework in 2nd grade. But I continue to avoid long term regular commitments because the rest of my family has irregular schedules and I need to be as flexible as possible.

Once upon a time my whole life was a flexible schedule but now I have a rock in the middle of the day I need to work around. For me, the fewer rocks I pile around that rock the better my life flows.

If you are going back to work part time I would encourage you to consider what changes you are going to need to make. What might you need to release and what will you need to work around? A part time job of only a few hours a week might not feel like a big change but any time we add to our schedule we need to make changes.

Hi Ho Hi Ho Back To Work We Go

Finding a job after and extended time at home can be a challenge.  When I went back to work there was a gapping 17 year hole in my resume.  Yes I had done a little childcare at a local health club for a year but I wasn’t even sure I wanted to put that on the resume.  Truthfully in that 17 years I had done a lot.  I had headed ministries, fundraisers, planned events, been the treasurer of a few groups, sat on the church board.  But I knew, and experienced upon going back to work, that for women and men who haven’t been home and don’t know how much work and professional experience you are really getting, none of that counts.

In this section we will be talking about how to find work and begin rebuilding your career after being at home.

I also discovered that the rules for socializing at a mom’s group are not exactly the same as socializing during break time at work.  As one friend told me when I went back to work, “remember, these people are not your friends.”  She told me I could be friendly but not to think of them as friends.  It turned out to be very good advice but also very challenging after spending so many years hanging out with women, sharing my life and making friends. Not everyone at work wants to hear your life story and unfortunately not everyone can be trusted.

So in this section we will also be talking about the social rules and etiquite involved in being a working mom.

While I went back to work willingly I really did not want to be there. Initially I was just going to do a job for a few years, not build a career.  But the reality is I am back to work and am going to be for many years to come.  I quickly realized that if I was going to be out of the house working I might as well be doing something where I felt valued and challenged.  I wanted to feel like I was going somewhere and making a difference.  This is the section that will help you accomplish your work goals and make leaving the house worth the effort.