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My Mommy-Track Adventure: Part 2

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NOTE: Part 1 was published over at BlogHer, where I sometimes like to drop a few lines. Check it out here if you’re interested!)

The economic times that had helped decimate our little menu business were still on the rampage, and soon led to leadership changes at the casino.  I quickly learned that loyalty to the wrong faction in a tribal political atmosphere was enough to cause you to lose your job.

I was stunned!  I had been the first manager who was awarded the Employee of the Month honor and had gotten 2 merit-based raises within the 18 months I had worked there.  I was kinda doing awesome, but in a political atmosphere, your success within the group who had been black-balled only paints a larger target on you.

My husband had been working part time (did I mention that jobs requiring a Fine Arts degree in our town were apparently hard to come by?) and staying home with the kids.

I found work in town with a local advertising agency, but had to take a $20,000 pay cut for the privilege of driving only 5 minutes and getting to work inside an old Victorian-style house turned office.  It is still the most beautiful place I have ever worked.  I had seven windows and my own private bathroom.  I could also go home at lunch and squeeze my babies, who, by now, had started part time daycare.

My kids actually loved daycare.  When my son started, at 2 ½, he was saying only the minimum amount of words for his age group.  But just a few weeks into his new daycare routine, his speech exploded and he finally started telling us all about the world in his own words.

Fast forward through another advertising agency gig and another bad-economic-times job loss (this time it was called a “layoff”, though) and I was now at home with a 4 year old and a 2 year old.  Needless to say, I was in over my head.

I felt extremely unqualified to be a stay at home mom.  I didn’t know many other moms with kids the same age as mine who also stayed at home.  Park time was overwhelming and took me so long to simply pack everything up.  By the time we got there, my visions of happy frolicking in the sandbox quickly turned into screaming fits of rage because I had managed to foolishly schedule our park time during naptime.

To help keep myself from feeling too worthless, and to also help add to my household income, I ended up helping to start a new event planning company with my former casino boss and friend.  With that new project, I got to learn the art of juggling naptimes, Thomas the Train and graphic design and event planning from home.  It was lots of fun, but still barely covered our expenses.

My husband was working multiple part time jobs, barely painting, and trying to figure out what to do next.  By this point he had fully adopted the ‘Why the heck did I get an art degree?’ mantra.

My husband eventually went back to being a full time electrician, which is what he was doing when I met him as a fresh-faced, naïve 19 year old.  Occasionally he gets to do some design work for a friend or a painting, just because, but very rarely.

I had gotten laid off in the beginning of 2009 and now it was early 2012.

In that time I had been able to start volunteering at my son’s school on a weekly basis, drive kids to swim lessons or ballet (thank you, grandma and grandpa!) and shop for groceries only on week days.  Work from home could be done in my pajamas, if I wished, and my daughter became very proficient in the Nick Jr. TV schedule for the day.

Yes, working from home was such a treat, but it also wasn’t perfect.  Many times the kids took turns coming in the office to tell me about how bored they were and ask me why I couldn’t go play a board game with them.  When I did a moment to spare from the computer, I was doing laundry, trying to straighten up or cooking dinner.

I had a major fear that if I didn’t have the house tidied up and hot food waiting for my husband by the time he came home, he would think that I was lazy and just got to loll around and read a book all day.  I felt like I couldn’t get caught taking a nap or else I’d just prove that I was lazy.  I was afraid he would think that I was worthless and make me go back to work sooner than I wanted to actually ‘pull my weight’ for the family.

This actually was a big lie that only I was living in.  My husband was glad that I was getting to spend some time at home with the kids and appreciated that his full time work was covering the bills, the meals were prepped, laundry was done and the house was kept (somewhat) clean.

Funny thing is, these chores I was doing were things I did while working away from home, too, so it was hard for me to really accept that it was ok to be “just” at home.

Eventually we started talking about me going back to work, now that our baby girl was about to become a kindergartener.  I immediately started to panic.  I felt like I just gotten the hang of the whole ‘mom at home’ thing and NOW I had to go back to the outside workforce?  This was going to suck.

But…it would be nice to get some more adult conversations in my life, besides the phone calls from the school nurse telling me that my son, once again, has knocked his head on some inadament object and to ‘keep an eye’ on him .

I would love to be able to see our household finances have room for things like ‘name brand trash bags that don’t tear so easily and slip down the inside of my garbage can’ or maybe even a vacation.  Hmmm…this could be a good thing.

Plus, a full-time job away from the home would help me finally dodge those fussy feelings of inadequacy I’ve been lugging around with me since being a work-from-home-mom.  (Because running away from your issues and not owning your crap has always been a good idea, right?)

My event work was flexible, rewarding and I had invested a part of me to help start the company.  But it still wasn’t at the point where I could work there exclusively and help cover the expenses I needed to.

So here I was, in my thirties and out of the ‘real-world’ job force for nearly three years, and I was looking for work.  Back then there was no such thing as LinkedIn.  Employers didn’t scan the internet for juicy background details or Spring Break photos of you before an interview.  (Not that I had that much rebellion in my past, unless you consider listening to Adam Sandler comedy tapes – yes, TAPES, in high school counts as being rebellious.)

I managed to land another job, but not after the HR rep told me that there were no other qualified candidates.  So they decided to settle?  I’ll take it!

Getting paid to write (albeit, for a software company) has been a whole new experience.  No one talks much and most employees communicate through instant message, even if they are in the next door cubicle.  That’s weird.

I am, once again, at the pay level that I was 10 years ago when I first graduated college.  I know economic times have changed and that I’ve been home for the last three years with the kids, but it still kind of stinks that I will probably never make the type of money I did in my career ‘hey-day’.

I am thankful that I got to spend that time with my kiddos but my heart breaks that they have to go to daycare 5 days a week.  I know they do activities and getting more exercise than if we were all back home and they were just plunked down in front of the TV while mommy worked in the office, but it’s been a rough transition.

My son was excited to get to go to after school care.  My daughter was not pleased with the idea of Monday – Friday, 8am – 5:30 daycare.  She still tells me, “I liked things better when I was three.”

It’s been almost three months since our transition and she still cries and chases after me when I drop her off.  Even though she is now five, she whines and wants to be carried around like a baby.  Part of me likes that she needs me, yet part of me fears that I broke her, somehow, and I’m nervous for the transition into kindergarten.

I am not 100% sold on this ‘work away from my kids’ season.  I dread the ‘How’s the new job?’ question that so many people ask and have considered avoiding social situations because I wasn’t feeling like I could put my normal verbal spin on my answer.

True, being chosen for a job after going through the interview process and the waiting period is a rush, but then realizing that you are starting at the bottom and will now be playing the role as a nameless-faceless peon is more than humbling.

But I am trying to remind myself that I can choose my attitude and that nothing happens by accident.  There is a plan and a purpose for my crazy life, as well as plans and purposes for my husband and kiddos.

I have no idea where this mommy-track will take me next, but as long as I chill out and let the author and perfector of my faith be the leader, I know that it will be the path that I am meant for.

So if things get a little crazy, it’s on Him, right?

Hanging on for dear life,

Jenny

Twitter: @jennyhfuller

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About Jenny Z

I love to overuse italics, misplaced hyphens and internal dialogue when I write about my usual favorite topic, myself.

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