It’s Time to Go Back to the Office

Mary_Stevenson_Cassatt,_American_-_A_Woman_and_a_Girl_Driving_-_Google_Art_ProjectAbout two years ago there was an article that came out in Salon in which writer Katy Read said she regretted quitting her job to stay home with her kids. The headline read “I Wish I’d Never Quit Work To Raise My Sons.” The story’s sub-headline read: “Consider this a warning to new moms: Fourteen years ago, I ‘opted out’ to focus on my family. It was a mistake.”

I’ve never forgotten about this article.

From the minute I left my job after my first child was born, I felt the same way. Though I can’t say I’ve always been the first to declare it. I tend to feel rather ashamed about the way I feel. I love my kids and I don’t ever want to denigrate my love for them. I did go back to work a short period after they were born, but I went for a part-time job. Which led to another part-time job. And another. And not a lot of stability in terms of longevity.

Over the last few years I’ve been working primarily from home as a consultant. Every now and then, when a client has required face time in the office, I’ve had no problem going into the office a few days a week. The balance has been good for my family and me over the years but recently I’ve become more of a work-from-home mom. It was never really planned, it just evolved as my employers became more flexible over time and saw the value of a multi-tasking, efficient mom working from home, avoiding the commute and putting in just as many hours, if not more, as everyone else.

But lately I’ve started to desire the outside world. I feel a need to expand my work and take my skills back to the office on a full-time basis. Working from home is not as cushy as it was when my kids were in preschool and were coming home early in the day. When they come home now at 3 p.m., it’s hard to keep working and the balance is getting harder to maintain. Conference calls are hard to have after they get home and I can’t be that mom who keeps her kids inside while I work.

I’ve hit a breaking point where I want conference calls to turn into real life meetings. I crave the train ride into the city, as well as the steady paycheck. I crave a lot of things that people who have full time jobs complain about.

And there are jobs out there for women like me.

According to an analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the May employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that job growth for women improved in April compared to the previous month. Of the 165,000 total jobs added to non-farm payrolls, women gained

It’s good news but the job search can be daunting.

I have put myself up for several full-time jobs this year. Most of them have been through real life contacts, like old managers and recruiters, but didn’t work out for various reasons. Perhaps they weren’t meant to be.

Yesterday I had another interview, this time for a job I very much wanted. It didn’t go very well and I came home kind of bummed out. My daughter took one look at me and asked what was wrong. When I told her I why and murmured that I was worried about not being good enough, her response was simple: “But you’ve been a mom for 10 years. You’re SO good at it!”

It was very sweet and I love my daughter for saying it, but it also made me wonder why being just a mom isn’t enough for me. It is for plenty of women living in my town who stay home with their kids and answer the door wearing June Cleaver aprons.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my children, but I can’t just sit back and watch them grow up without achieving other things in my own life.

The question is this: what’s stopping me from getting the fabulous job I deserve? I am so ready to get back out there and buy some adult clothes and use my skills in a more professional arena where I will be recognized for something other than motherhood and children.

In a recent article by Peggy Drexler in the Huffington Post about going back to work after babies are born, she wrote:

“A 2011 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology looking at more than 1300 mothers across the U.S. found that working mothers reported fewer symptoms of depression and were more likely to rate their health “excellent” as compared with non-employed mothers. In this same study, working mothers also reported being just as involved in their child’s schooling as stay-at-home moms, while those who worked part-time provided more learning opportunities for their toddlers than those who didn’t work at all. The lesson? The kids will be all right — maybe even better — when mom puts herself if not first, then pretty close to the top of the priority list.”

Being a mom is full of everything wonderful, but sometimes being the person we were meant to be is no longer as possible as it once was.

Guest contributor Holly Rosen Fink is a marketing consultant, publishing executive, freelance writer and theater producer living in Larchmont, New York.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

  • Amy McVay Abbott

    Ironically I’m on the exact opposite side of this dilemma. I wish I had not worked as hard or as much when my child was at home. For the first eleven years of his life, my husband was the primary parent to our son because of the hours I had to work. I regret that now. Our son is an adult and doesn’t live at home anymore, and I feel like I missed out. I had tremendously fulfilling jobs and provided a great deal for my family, but thankfully when our son was eleven I got a job that allowed me a different way of working and more time with him. I think the grass is almost always greener, and we are often prone to second guessing ourselves. Good article.

    • Amy, thank you for the comment. You are absolutely right, the grass is always greener. It’s so important to be happy with our choices.

  • Lani (@lanisia)

    Hey Holly,

    I don’t know that there is a right answer to this dilemma, but having grown up with a mom who was a could-have-been, I knew I did not want to put that burden on my kids. I am somebody whose professional identity matters to me, and I have worked full time. I feel fortunate to have a profession that is flexible enough that I can occasionally chaperone a field trip, attend plays, and work from home some times.

    I have come to believe that we have different needs as moms and women, and that there is no one size fits all to this question. I am grateful to the stay-at-home moms and dads who volunteer and make our community and schools better places.

    I hope whatever comes for you that you find satisfaction and contentment.

    • Thanks, Lani. Sounds like you’ve struck a great balance between work and home and I applaud you.

  • We don’t all like the same music. We don’t all have the same skills. We like different foods, movies, books. I don’t know why we think that we should all feel fulfilled by the act of mothering. I can’t imagine a better lesson to teach our kids, and especially our daughters, than to live a life full of passion. As long as they are loved and cared for, your happiness will only serve as an inspiration for them to find their own paths.

    • “…your happiness will only serve as an inspiration for them to find their own paths.” Beautifully stated, Christy.

  • Jen

    I agree and was thinking as I was reading your post, that the grass is OFTEN (though not always) greener on the other side. And that we too often misinterpret wonder and regret. Meaning, “I wonder what that would have been like…” becomes “I bet that would have worked out better for me.” And maybe it would have, but probably. Probably had you stayed a full-time working in the office mom with a nanny, you’d be imagining how much of a better relationship you could have had with your kids, or you would have wondered about that amazing business you never got the chance to build. I think there are those of us (like you and me) that wonder in color (and sometimes translate this wonder as regret) and those of us (not you and me) who seem to be satisfied or content moving forward instead of looking back. Neither of us are the “better” of the two — it’s just our personalities. The you and me type tends to be happier with our present when we acknowledge that it’s better to wonder about our past (playfully) than regret our choices.

  • Jen

    Too many typos in that comment. I meant to say that I agree “grass is often greener.” And I mean to say we too often misinterpret wonder AS regret. (sigh) I need an editor and proofreader in all areas of my life.

  • I haven’t worked full-time since my kids were born, mostly because a full-time teaching position would barely have paid for childcare. I make up my mind to go back to work and change it again about 12 times a day…compounded by the fact that my husband is out of a full-time job himself, but is still unable to pick up the parenting slack. Sadly, it seems that the plight of a mom (or at least this mom) is to constantly second guess herself and feel like, no matter what she does, she’s always being less of something. I look forward to the day when I figure out a comfortable balance!

    • that sounds about right, jessica!

      great post holly– sorry this interview didn’t go well. but I think you will get the job you want and deserve–when the right one comes along. good luck.

  • You know you raise such an interesting point Holly. A friend of mine recently went back to work, who had previously been very frustrated and angry with her kids and spouse. I saw her the other day and she was glowing–she loves getting away and becoming “herself again”, as she puts it. She says her relationship with her kids and hubby has never been better. Definitely food for thought.

  • What a lovely, sad, thought-provoking and inspiring post, Holly. What I hope more than anything is that we find the balance between self-examination and self-criticism. It’s good to re-examine and re-process, but not so good to beat ourselves up for past decisions. I hope you’re doing the former, rather than the latter, because you are a STELLAR human being. And I read your daughter’s comment not as “But you’re a great Mommy – why would you want to be anything else???” and instead read it as “But you’re a great Mommy! Why wouldn’t you be great at other things, too???” hugs and love to you!

    • Aliza, I am quite sure that is what she meant, exactly. To her, I am a rock star and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • Elissa

    I completely agree with you, Holly. Now that I’m working from home – after 25 years in the corporate world – I feel my choice to be home now that my daughter is 13 makes a whole lot more sense. I’m of more value to her as an emotional support vs a ‘physical’ support.

  • Sounds like you are looking for balance and you will find it. It’s not about balance on a daily basis but over a lifetime. You can have it all – just not all at once.

  • I’m with ya! I left the corporate world in 1999 to start a small franchise. Years later, I left that to start a family.

    I stayed home for years–my life revolved around my husband’s demanding workload and heavy travel schedule. (I took care of everything so all he had to do was focus on work.)

    Well he wasn’t just “working.” It was tough enough to wrap my brain around his betrayals. But worse, words couldn’t convey how vulnerable and overwhelmed I felt realizing I needed my career back, stat. With being out so long, most of my contacts lost, it was going to be an uphill battle – especially in this economy. I’ve applied for job after job, prepared for the interviews and donned the interview outfit. Previous opportunities haven’t worked out. But I keep hoping. I’ve verbally kicked myself SO MUCH in the last year for leaving corporate America. But then, I’ve also kicked myself when I think of how my being at home ended up a huge benefit for my son — I wouldn’t have caught his developmental delays so early if I hadn’t. And since I caught them early and had the time to sit in on those occupational and speech therapy sessions, I was able to work intensely with him and serve as reinforcement.

    Wishing you the best in your job search. I crave the same workplace things others complain about as well. (I’d even wear pantyhose!)

    On the “why isn’t motherhood enough” subject… As a little girl, I knew women had three options. We could have a career, a family, or both. Knowing we woman have option C, I think we naturally expect more of ourselves. Plus, how does a woman bust her butt getting an education and army crawl through career milestones and NOT (over time) miss the sweet taste that success brings? Many previous generations of woman attended college to get their “Mrs. degree” or married out of high school. Motherhood became their ONLY adventure. They didn’t know what they were missing. Women, these days, do. So I think it’s natural for today’s women to have that internal struggle.

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