A great deal of change has happened over the last several years and I’ve grappled a lot with my roles as a mother, wife, daughter, employee and woman.
With two daughters (3 years old and 4 months) I’ve often contemplated “Should I go back to work?” “Should I work part-time or full-time?” “What job should I return to?” “What if I fail at it?” “What if I stay at home, later decide I want to go back and there are no jobs?” “What if I go into a new job and need to work long hours and my family suffers?”
I’ve heard of the term “death by a thousand cuts”, I tend to execute a “death by a thousand ‘what if’s’”.
I overanalyze things and paralyze myself with the fear of doing something wrong or the fear of someone thinking negatively about me.
Today is one of the few days I felt freedom from that fear, and I saw how God was working to help provide guidance and quell my fears through 3 things.
1. Serendipitous magazine flip – While flipping through the latest Canadian Business magazine I noticed a plug for the book “The Happiness Equation” by Neil Pasricha, author of a favorite “The Book of Awesome”. It provided a shortlist of the nine secrets to happiness – the one that stuck out to me was “Do it for you.”
Such a simple but often overlooked concept (at least by me).
I’ve been so used to doing things for other people’s approval (whether it by my parents, mentors, co-workers, etc.) that I’ve forgotten how to tell whether I’m doing something because I want to, or because it’s something someone else will approve of, which in turn makes me happy.
Do it for you. Noted.
2. Lunch with a work mentor – A week ago I booked lunch with a friend/mentor, with the intention of stating “Here are the types of roles I’d like to do when I’m back from maternity leave. What are your thoughts?”
The next day 5 people rotated jobs, so the job pool seems smaller since those positions won’t open again for a while.
I realized I don’t always need to look like I have my sh*t together, and told her “I feel lost – I know what I like to do but I don’t know how that fits within the company.”I left the lunch still not knowing exactly what I’d like to do (or what will be open when I return) but taking away 2 nuggets:
i) Managers hire people knowing they are going to make mistakes. They expect best efforts and expect mistakes will happen. What??? I’m not expected to know everything and be perfect? If I make a mistake you anticipated that would happen and still hired me???
This shouldn’t be so mind-blowing, but it was for me.
ii) Nothing is forever. She shared “I’ve taken jobs that I knew I was going to hate, took and hated, then moved on after 1 year because it helped me get to that next level.” In the past I’ve been weary to take an opportunity because I was scared of the time commitment, felt like I’d hate it and was worried it would impact my family life. I worried that I would regret my decisions.
I need to be open enough to try opportunities when they present themselves, grit my teeth and get through it, and move on if it’s not working without shaming or reprimanding myself.
- Coffee with a stay-at-home mom friend – We talked about her debates on whether to return to work, things she appreciated about staying at home (being able to focus on her sick children, take care of things around the house, have a patient/listening ear for her children, etc.). It reminded me of things I’ve listed within a “My ideal life” post (which I plan to share shortly) and was a good balance to the career-focused discussion I had 15 minutes earlier.
I’ve come to the decision that I’d like to return to work full-time, and will continue to connect with mentors to find a role that will provide growth and learning opportunities.
I have faith that God will provide guidance and opportunities for a role that will further my career but also take comfort in the fact that nothing is forever.
My life is mine to live and if 6 months later (or even 6 years later) I decide the best move for myself and my family would be to reduce hours or stay at home, I can make that decision later without shaming myself for deciding a different path. It won’t be a failure, but a next chapter of my life.
Chapters are inevitable in both books and life. Equally so, each chapter has an end and is necessary to take you along the journey. The end of a chapter provides a moment to reflect on what was learned and eagerly anticipate the next chapter…it’s not intended as a bookmark to beat yourself up.
Stop looking around for others’ approval – make a decision and do it for yourself. If you make a mistake – learn from it. If it’s time to end a chapter – end it thoughtfully, without regrets and celebrate the start of the next chapter.
I’m happy to feel some peace over this decision. I’m thankful for my wonderful friends and mentors who support and encourage me. I’m hopeful that I can be the same support for them and for others in the future.