After a year and a half of being a stay-at-home-mom and toying around with the idea (ok, dream) of being a professional writer, it is time to go back to the “real” world. The real world has some pro’s like paydays, for example. The real world has a few con’s too though – schedules, commutes, packed lunches and alarm clocks, workplace expectations that involve dressing in something other than yoga pants and styling my hair by some other method than a hair-tie. The real world kinda sucks.
For the past year, I have mostly avoided the subject of returning to work, assuring myself that one of my books would get picked up and published before I’d ever have to really consider things like job postings and daycare applications. I even timed my last round of queries and submissions so that I would receive my acceptances and have enough time to choose a publishing company to represent me before needing to commit to return to work, therefore avoiding an encounter with the “real” world entirely… sometimes I am so good at lying to myself.
Don’t get me wrong – I like my job; most days I would even go so far as to say I love it. I get paid fairly, the hours I work are great, my coworkers are fantastic and the actual “work” itself ranges from challenging to rewarding to just plain fun which are all good things a mon avis (quietly groans at how pretentious French can sometimes sound). I don’t actually mind going back to work that much; sometimes it’s just fun to complain. Who doesn’t love the sound of their own voice? But since I have gone back to work, there is one challenge I’ve faced that, in all seriousness, has caused me some stress and anxiety - transitioning from stay-at-home-mom to working-mom. I’m finding myself in a very different role than what I’ve become used to and it’s taking some adjustment.
I hate to admit to this weakness but on my first day back at work, I was definitely feeling out of my element. Schools were so much noisier and busier than I remembered (especially in the first week of the school year), the kids were bigger and not as cute as they were in my memories, the buildings were more crowded and easier to get lost in. I totally felt like I’d lost my edge.
I began to doubt myself. I felt like I’d grown “rusty” from my year “off” (as if that year of maternity/parental leave was anything remotely comparable to a vacation). I wondered how my new mom-skills would translate into the workplace and began to realize that there would be no opportunity to demonstrate my mad laundry-skills, or my ability to soothe a crying baby while sautéing onions, or how I could pick up my son’s toys with one foot while balancing him on the other hip and using my remaining free limb to hold the phone so I could finish scheduling his next Doctor’s checkup (seriously – I can do that). There was no place for these skills (no matter how freakin’ fantastic they are) on a resume… or was there?
And that’s when I realized just how valuable and translatable my mom-skills are.
The past year and a half of leave has (in many ways) been like a boot camp of intensive mommy-training led by the unforgiving, unyielding and determined force of my beautiful baby boy. He has been my drill-sergeant and he has taught me well. My sweet little son has taught me to multi-task on a whole new level. I am more organized than I (or my mother) had ever thought possible. My thinking is broader as I have been trained to constantly think-ahead and plan for every possible scenario. My natural instincts of empathy, intuition and even my ability to understand and interpret non-verbal communication have reached a whole new level. And, as specifically relates to my field of work, my understanding of basic child development milestones, my patience, my nurturing skills and even my speedy and efficient diapering abilities have become incomparable. Full of myself much? I know. But honestly, when it comes to mom-skills, I have become a freakin’, unstoppable machine and I’m a little bit proud (why not?).
Which brings me to a point I have made before and will continue making time and time again because it is so very true. Being a Mom (or a Dad for that matter) is one of the hardest and most amazing jobs I, or anyone else, will ever do. Being a parent changes your whole life, every single aspect of it, in the most positive way. It brings some changes that you expect and about a million that you don’t but it affects absolutely everything you do. It has changed my outlook on life, my philosophies, my priorities, my skills and my abilities – even my sense of humor. I feel like my son is preparing me not just to support and care for him for the next 17 years of his life but to face the rest of my life also. I am more than ready to face the “real” world, it turns out I never actually left it.
So while I won’t be picking up any toys in the classroom with my feet any time soon and I can’t imagine singing all the verses of “Baby Beluga” at a staff meeting is going to impress anyone (though you never know!) I am still returning to work as a more capable and more highly-skilled employee. My employers have my son to thank. He likes bananas and things that make loud noises – he’ll be waiting for the gift basket.