I have two kids and a master's degree from Stanford (not the kids, just the master’s). Those are two contradictory items in my life...it would appear.
I used to work outside of the home. I liked it. Loved it, actually, when I was a newspaper reporter and ran off in the middle of the night to a flood or fire or the guy who shot himself in his garage. Sounds dark, I know, but covering police and fire were my favorites. (Being the schools page editor and covering local government was rewarding, but didn’t compete with the adrenalin rush that came with donning fire fighter turnouts to experience training associated with knocking down raging flames in a condemned, burning house). Reporting was exciting and kept my life interesting; it kept me interesting.
Don't get me wrong...I love, adore (and all that) my kids. Still, like so many women, I feel like I lost myself somewhere along the way. I know I'm hidden away in one of those dusty cardboard boxes pushed back on the shelves in the garage behind the clear-plastic boxes filled with art project supplies, saved school papers and a selection of my daughter's little dresses she's grown out of, but are too pretty to part with.
I wasn't one of those moms who wanted to stay home with my children. And yet, I was quite surprised when it physically pained me to be apart from my eldest, my son, after he was born. I hated leaving him each morning with my husband at home when I returned to work. I hated getting Mark’s excited calls when our son did/said something new and I wasn’t there to see it. But I did it; I returned to work and missed him every day.
I had several of those massive, multi-photo frames hung on my office wall displaying the transition of his development: infant, toddler, smiles, walking, all the snapshots of cute moments; his big blue eyes staring into the camera’s view and straight into my heart.
Soon enough, the full-time job transformed into a part-time job before it eventually disappeared and I started a home business. My success at adapting my work around my children was even written up in a book about “Mompreneurs.” But then, 10 years passed and the home business was gone as well. I had became a professional chauffeur to my children.
I spent my time at their school and then found myself working at the school, teaching the art program. I loved that, too, but the district closed the school due to terrible management and budget cuts. The district wasted no time razing the school’s buildings and my job vanished before the dust settled.
Life took over again and stripped away more chances to get out of the house to work when I found out I required several surgeries. One surgery in particular (bilateral mastectomy and TRAM Flap reconstruction) resulted in months of recovery, too much time at home and the necessity of ordering Netflix to keep my mind occupied when any type of work or even reading a book wasn't a viable option. Work (writing) required focus which the pain medication stole for too long. I wrote a blog to chronicle the horrible experience (Joey's Journal). In the early days during that first week in the hospital, I’d write, push the “happy button” for more pain medication and sleep another 15 minutes until I would wake up, write another word or two and push the button again.
So now, my life is returning, the kids remain on the road to independence and I need to work. Yes, "need." Otherwise, my mind will go crazy and our finances will tank even more than they already have after accruing mounds of medical debt and my husband’s workplace continues to trim his hours after having filed for bankruptcy last year.
As I face returning to work, I'm wondering if other women feel the same way I do...I'm insecure about my abilities and not sure if I can step back into the workforce unscathed. My husband continually reminds me, I always feel insecure about starting a new job and that fear vanishes after 10 minutes of work.
Regardless, it doesn't help I've been looking anywhere I can think of for a job and finding I've been technologically stranded. Java? Is that some new Starbuck’s coffee? I’ve only had two cups of coffee in the past two years. What do I know about Java other than realizing I don't know how to apply it to the job I used to be really good at?
I'm a prolific writer and a meticulous AP style editor. I'm creative and can compete with Martha (just not her fearless, "A" personality producing her success). After planning my son's recent bar mitzvah (making everything from the boxed, custom invitations that would be the envy of any Hollywood bash, to the props designed to look like—and mistaken for—a 17-foot-long aquarium), my family and friends insist I should go into business creating themed parties. If you don't already know, a bar mitzvah can be as big as a wedding (bigger, if you consider you are catering to the party needs of numerous children in addition to the adults) and my son’s bar mitzvah definitely fell into that significant occasion’s category—not for the sake of having a big party, but because it was an event of significant family importance. (It’s been little more than a week since his bar mitzvah and now, I really need to fill my time with something constructive, or I’ll surely go mad and drive my family batty in the process.)
So, that’s who I am these days:
1) A mom/personal assistant/chauffeur;
2) A writer (I wrote a novel that needs to be published and I’m working on another along with some short stories);
3) A struggling artist (hard to compete with all the generations of artists in my family including my mother’s art that is in a museum’s permanent collection. Although, one of my acrylic paintings won “Best of Medium” in the Sonoma County Fair last summer, 2009. Set against the muted colors in the other winning paintings, mine was the bright, colorful one with the dogs riding on the guy’s handle bars in Mexico); and
4) A member of the droves of unemployed searching for a job. A good one, I hope.
My mom always says, when one door closes, another opens…I really need that door to swing open wide and pretty soon.