This past July marked my one year anniversary of being back at work after having Dashiell. So much has changed since then. Dashiell has changed, of course. He is so much bigger and more independent and full of personality. My position at work changed and I love my new job. And I have changed, from feeling overwhelmed to being really happy that I work outside of the home and feeling pretty great about my work/life balance (at least on most days!). Reflecting on it, I think there are several things that I'm finding are really positive about our current situation:
+ Dashiell getting older and being in an environment that is similar to a classroom. When Dashiell was about a year old he moved up to the next classroom in daycare and his days are structured with activities, crafts and play time. It was harder to leave Dash when he was at the age where he just needed to be held and fed. He had loving caregivers who snuggled and loved him but it pulled at my heart not to be the one to do it, even while I did also appreciate aspects of working.
+ Using skills and passions outside of motherhood. What I've learned from more than a year of being back at work is that I truly love to work and I find much fulfillment by pursing my interests that are beyond the sphere of caring for Dashiell and maintaining our home. There are many ways to do this, of course, and it doesn't have to be working full time or even outside of the home but in my situation my job does entail working full time and outside of the house.
I'm lucky that my job draws on my skills and passions. Things that I really enjoy about my current job that I find fulfilling include: working with smart and passionate colleagues, many of whom I consider friends, having the opportunity to learn about university research and talk to the faculty members who are pursuing that research, being paid to be a writer and having the structure and reward of project-based work like deadlines and tangible deliverables.
+ Finding flexibility in my schedule. This is very, very important and something for which I'm very thankful. Since I've been back at work I've been able to work from home on Fridays and that really helps me to feel that I have balance between work and home. I'm also able to have flexible start/end times to my day so that I can nearly always leave the office by 4:30 and we can be picking up Dashiell not long after 5.
I think that if I had to be at an office from 8 to 5, Monday through Friday, that working full time would definitely be harder. Reading this article about parents who struggle with unpredictable schedules made me feel deeply appreciative of the great work situation I'm in. My occasional worries and stresses over working pale in comparison to the mother profiled in the story.
+ Working towards debt reduction. Since I've been back at work, we have had a budget that would allow us to get by with only Chris's salary and for me to stay home full time. It would not be without cutting back spending and savings significantly and losing benefits like my employer's contribution to my retirement and health insurance so it would not be without sacrifice but it is possible. So working full time, or at all, is definitely a choice that I have been able to make. I feel very fortunate to be in this position.
An aspect of working that I have come to really value is the contribution that I'm able to make to our finances and what that allows us to do. Right now it is allowing us to live very comfortably while saving money for the short- and long-term and also to pay down debt. The financial security that we are creating for ourselves is helping us create the life we want for our family.
+ Opportunities to socialize. At least in my work situation I'm finding that an unexpected benefit of working full time are the opportunities I have to socialize with friends and colleagues and even for mini dates with Chris. I've mentioned it before but I love taking advantage of my lunch hour to "socialize" since my weekends are precious family time. I make plans to go out to lunch with work friends or non-friends who don't mind meeting up near my office at least once or twice a month. I also meet up with other working parents at the university for lunch once a month.
Since Chris and I carpool three days a week we can fairly easily plan to leave the house a little early and make time to get coffee on the way to work and maybe even fit in a quick game of farkel (we love this pocket version). A lunch here and a coffee date there go a long way in making me feel balanced and that I'm getting to spend quality time with friends and with Chris.
When I first went back to work when Dashiell was 12 weeks old it was really, really hard. I knew that I enjoyed working but I wasn't sure if working full time was what I really wanted to be doing. I never seriously considered quitting my job, even on the tough days I could still name several things that I appreciated or enjoyed about working, but I definitely felt - and sometimes still do feel - complicated emotions over it.
So this isn't to say that being a working mom isn't tough at times - just like being a parent in general is tough at times - but overall I'm so happy to say that I'm really enjoying being able to work outside the house and to raise a family. I think we've found a balance that doesn't require one to be sacrificed for the other and it feels like a really good place to be!
Catch up on more posts about being a working mama:
Day in the Life post from October