Back to Work For Mom: Life in a Bigger Play Pen
“You must all be wondering who the lovely lady sitting at the front of the room is and what she is doing here! Well, she will be ushering us into a new world for 2011. Let’s give her a warm welcome.”
I was turning around to see who was this wonder my new boss was hailing out at the company’s ‘kick off’, only to realize he was talking about me! I almost laughed out loud, but I quieted myself, schooled my features into a professional arrangement, and nodded my head soberly. Yes, that company powerhouse was indeed me. Oh dear.
Returning to work after staying home for four years, raising my children, has been quite the experience. I’m loving every minute of it, and not only for the obvious, getting out of the house reasons. Firstly, if this is work (I manage the administration department), I want to work forever. Let me shout from the rooftops that there is no job that is as hard as being a stay–at-home mother. As a housewife, you are always working and you are always working with a partner who is about half your size, but three times as bossy. My daughter just has to help me with every household chore.
“Let’s put away these forks Mummy, but I want to hand each one to you first!” she says.
Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Let me add that this instruction usually applies to everything you need to do in and around the house, which all needs to be done before lunchtime. Believe me; it can get tiresome. There is no independence when working at home, no salary, no coffee break, no company lunches, no bonus, and there is certainly no increase to your vacation time in recognition of your tenure on the job.
When I was a stay–at-home mother, I totally forgot that I was educated and accomplished. Yes, I did do things outside of the home – creative and joyful things, like writing courses, making pottery at a studio, and things that I always had an interest in, but never got a chance to explore. Still, it was not the same.
When you are in the working world, measured by strategic and tactical goals, you get a very strong sense of competency. Put a bonus structure on top of that and your sense of accomplishment doubles, triples even. It is harder to feel that sense of accomplishment when you work at home.
Many of your rewards are ‘soft’, an unsolicited hug or an excited fist pump, but they are not as tangible in the short term as they are when you are employed and can buy those hot shoes you’ve been dribbling over. Now don’t get me wrong. My children’s hugs and kisses are powerful incentives and rewards, but I feel a very different sense of empowerment in the business world. I am striding and strutting in my heels and I enjoy having those feelings again.
But life teaches us that nothing is perfect. There is always a con for every pro, and returning to work is no exception.
Every now and again, I sit at my desk and I just miss my kids. I miss the funny jokes we shared when I was at home. I miss that feeling when my daughter looks at me, while we colour or make different crafts, and says that she loves me and I am her best friend. I miss when my son comes running home after school, brimming over with stories about his day. I miss that sense of making a home for my family, smells of dinner and laundry, and just being in the centre of that domestic world.
After being away from the office for just over four years, I’ve realised it is exactly as I remember. Truth be told, I am rapidly rediscovering that some adults in my workplace are more childish than children and they’re definitely not as cute. I have some workmates who get so excited to pass along any little gossip or run any little story, no matter how negative, and dealing with that type of energy takes a lot of self-control. Unfortunately, in the corporate world, spontaneous outbursts, like telling them to stop being so damn macocious, are better left at home.
Here’s another scenario. Ever watch toddlers in a playpen? One gets a hold of a toy and is happily playing with it. Another toddler, because the first baby is having so much fun with the toy, just has to have it too, and will wrest it away from the child so they could have their turn. Naturally, the first baby gets mad and the fight over this toy escalates until not even the toddlers can remember why they are fighting.
Transport that whole scene to the workplace, but instead of babies, picture big people ‘getting on’ so, and that the toys are really just areas of control. I cannot tell you how many times I have resolved grudges and long-standing arguments. I have had big adults crying in my office over situations that are truly ridiculous, in my eyes, but I don’t say so. I dry their tears, I listen to them vent, and gently redefine what the real issue is for these big horses. It’s almost as if we, as adults, forget to concentrate on what we are actually being paid for, and are sacrificing it, in the interest of protecting what we perceive to be our areas of control.
Still, it is harder to be a stay-at-home mom and consistently bring patience, understanding, discipline and positivity to your offspring. I work for a Fortune 1000 company, which means that there are clear policies and procedures in place to manage (and replace) the ‘children’ there, if they aren’t able to reason and adhere to set standards. Motherhood is a much more demanding, and requires a firm, yet tender approach.
Even though it would seem that I’ve left the home to return to ‘play time’ in a bigger sandbox, I love the buzz and feelings I get from being in the office. I think fast and I move fast, so the hardest part of being at home with the kids was adjusting my speed to theirs. Anyone who has young children will tell you, you go at their pace, not yours; and if you force it, it can be catastrophic. So I love being my cheetah self at work.
While my family enjoyed my days at home, I’d have to say it is much easier for me to be in the office. I still have those days when I miss my domestic world, but it’s always there waiting for me after 4 p.m. (well realistically… 6 p.m.); and hey, now I can swap stories with my children, when we chat about our day.
Check out the rest of this week’s issue (Issue 56; 09/05/11):
- Viruses on Facebook: Why are people still getting caught?
- The Pitfalls of Singlehood: Waiting for a Money Partner
- Trini Culture through Puerto Rican Eyes
- Age gaps in Relationships: Weird or Workable?
Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday!