Last fall, six months after returning from maternity leave, I asked to be considered for a new position at my work. The decision to do so was one that came with some hesitation. Whereas my previous role required little deviation from the standard daytime hours, this new one would require many working nights and occasional trips overnight. The immediate thoughts that popped into my head were telling me this new job was a bad idea:
• How could I even consider such a move with a baby who wasn’t yet a year old and a schedule for our stepchildren that had my husband driving all over for soccer games, school dances, group projects, etc.?
• I should be home every night and all weekend to spend the little free time I have with my child.
• My daughter will grow up resenting me even more now.
• YOU ARE BEING SELFISH AT A TIME WHEN YOU SHOULD BE SELFLESS!
However, the reality was that I hadn’t been very happy in my current job for a long time and I had given serious thought while on maternity leave about whether or not I would be able to stay in that position for much longer upon my return. This new opportunity would connect me back to the performing arts, my first love, and get me out of the office more. It was a position that required my most extroverted self; something that comes fairly naturally to me when in known company but that is not always comfortable for me when with strangers or large groups of people. I was going to have to “stretch” professionally in this role and, as someone who likes to always get an “A” in what I am doing, it was intimidating. Thus it would have been easy to use the personal excuses for why this was a bad move to mask the real underlying hesitation – fear of failure.
Luckily I have an incredibly supportive husband who, as soon as I mentioned this potential job, said “I think you would be great at this!” With that affirmation I let unleash all the self-admonishing thoughts I was having. He helped me realize that I wasn’t being selfish by being happy in my work. If I have to be away from our daughter shouldn’t I be doing something that I cared about and that gave me some joy? We talked through how to handle the nights, weekend and overnight work. He was excited for me and took in stride the increased kid juggling we were going to have to do. It was his pep talk that gave me that final push to return to the office the next morning and tell my boss that I would like to be considered for this position.
I have now been in the new job for eight months. I don’t regret my decision one bit. Sure, the academic year is a bit crazy, with my University schedule and my step kids’ school activities. We have two shared Google calendars going – one that my husband and his ex-wife manage (and I can view) for the twins’ happenings, and another that he and I share for our daughter onto which we put both of our work commitments, changes in daycare coverage, her doctor’s appointments, etc. So far this system has worked well. We try to look out far enough in advance so that my husband can switch his night having my stepchildren if I have to be out late, or if need be we have the resources of both of our families to help out. It definitely takes a village but we are managing. My daughter seems happy and no worse for wear; my time away gives others in her life time to bond with her in a way she is not always interested in when I am around.
When I took the new job, some people congratulated me on Leaning In. But I am not sure how I feel about that. I am not trying to “have it all” and many days I feel like I am running on empty both personally and professionally. I will always “lean in” towards family; if my daughter is sick, has a school event or anything else that requires my presence that is where I will be. But I do have to work and as such, I have the right to be happy. My current job makes life more hectic but I crossed over that threshold the day I became a mom. This new role has reinvigorated me professionally and I like to think that this energy and optimism carries over into my personal life as well. Some days the only thing I want to “lean in” towards is my bed but I can never say I am bored!
Photo credit: Pinterest