Reentering the professional workforce has been on my mind for a long time. And it’s never seemed so difficult.
I remember thinking, before we had our first child, that I would simply have to wait until she was born to see how I felt about returning to work. I just didn’t know how I’d feel about the life changes that the birth of our first child would bring about. Would I love it so much I’d never want to leave our daughter’s side? Would I want to run and hide after a few weeks? Would I know? Would I be conscious enough (as in: not too sleep-deprived) to even make that decision? I just couldn’t know until I lived it.
There was one little wrench in my story, though, that isn’t necessarily the norm among other working mothers who take maternity leave and then return to their job. While I was originally trained as a graphic designer and pursued that career steadfastly for almost ten years after getting my BFA, I decided to switch careers right before we started a family. I went to graduate school for counseling and received my Master of Education degree the year before our daughter was born. I took the professional counselor licensing exam while pregnant. And then I had to stop before I even had a chance to start. When our daughter was six months old I decided to return to manage the design business part-time that my husband and I co-owned, and we hired a nanny. A year and a half later, we had to let her go due to financial constraints, and within a few months I also reduced my work hours to zero. I attempted one last push before we said goodbye to our nanny to see if I could dive into the deep end with a full-time job for someone else in the design industry. But already then I felt out of the loop, and the choice felt desperate, not genuine. I had chosen another career direction, so it just didn’t feel right to go backwards. I needed to go forward.
I went forward alright – giving birth to twins 17 months after our daughter was born. Given the economy and the demands of three small children, it would be a monumental task to find what would essentially be my first job in my new field in an economy that had very few jobs available, and after being a stay-at-home mom for several years. Add to that my decision to make a slight shift from counseling to life coaching during those years. I was able to fit in time for my training, but now I was facing a double whammy: I hadn’t even had time to get my feet wet in the counseling field, and I was already switching things up again.
Man, I’m tired just from writing all this.
I have never felt so clueless and unsure of myself in my life. Another mommy friend of mine who is probably one of the most intelligent people I know on this earth was sharing with me how she couldn’t even find secretarial jobs, and how she felt her brain turning to mush. She absolutely loves being with her daughter, teaching her, caring for her – but her intellectual muscle was atrophying. She and I went to college together and were both extreme achievers with high standards for ourselves and each other. It feels so incredibly foreign to us not to have a 5-year career plan.
Reinvention comes in short but strong bursts. With the arrival of 2011 I was overcome with that “now is the time” feeling. I named my coaching business, I bought the domain, I made my web site, created the Facebook page, and started spreading the word. Without any scheduled childcare I have managed to accumulate 35+ hours of coaching since January 2011 which will now allow me to become a board certified coach before the end of this year. If you think about it, that’s pretty awesome – I actually kind of forgot that I set that goal for myself back in January. I achieved it, and much faster than I thought!
So now, the kids are still all under five, not yet in full day kindergarten, but my available time is definitely increasing. The reinvention bug is biting me again… And I’m trying some interesting things here and there that are meant to get me out of my comfort zone. But I think it’s time to stop reinventing, and start defining, and refining.
I am a mother. I am a professional life coach. I want to make my own work hours. I want to be a substantial contributor to our family’s income, both for financial reasons, and for my own sense of self worth. And I want to help people be their best selves.
I think that’s a good place to start – and stop. And dive in.