FAQ: Going Back to Work

A couple weeks ago I had my first day back at work (well, traditional office work ;)) since December of 2016. I shared the news on Instagram and got a lot of great questions about my decision/new setup, so thought I would do a blog post answering! I attempted to answer through Instagram stories and realized I have so much to say on the subject that a blog post made more sense! So here we go…

What will you be doing? Are you doing the same job as before you left? There have been lots of organizational changes at Nike since I left, but I am back in digital marketing on the operations side, which is where I was right before I left. I accepted a 6-month contract, so it will be over at some point in July. That’s as much as I feel comfortable sharing with strangers on the world wide web 😉

How many hours a week will you work? I worked it out so that I have Fridays off (home with the kids). I am working on a specific project, so my hours each week will vary depending on what is happening with the project, but it will probably be around 32 hours/week give or take! Most days will be 8-5ish, so traditional working hours.

How did you negotiate 4 days/week? It is honestly just the situation I am in, I could only get one day of childcare covered a week so it was a non-negotiable. When I started putting feelers out there with old coworkers and managers I made that requirement clear since I couldn’t budge on it. There were some opportunities that didn’t work out because I couldn’t work five days and that’s okay!

After 6 months, will you have the choice to stay? The specific role I am doing is really project based, so after 6 months the need will no longer be there for that role. That said, if I do a good job and I really want to continue working at Nike, I am confident I could find another job. It’s hard to know how I’ll feel in six months, but at this point the plan is not to continue past July. I’d like to give our family the space to navigate Elodie’s transition into Kindergarten in the fall. After we’re settled in to life with an elementary schooler I am sure I will know more about how I want to proceed (or not) in the corporate world.

Who is watching the kids while you work? James and Elodie are both at the Nike childcare center 3 days a week and have been since September (Elodie has actually been there for preschool 3 days a week since September of 2017, James just started in September). I will be home with them one day, which leaves one day that my mom and mother-in-law will be covering. We are SOOOOO lucky we have both of them locally so I could do this, otherwise taking a short-term contract would have been a lot trickier!

How did you determine now was the time? I knew that life would shift after James started part-time care in September. At that point we had both kids in school the same three days each week and no concrete plan on how I was going to be spending that time. Corey knew my wheels were immediately turning, but wisely suggested I not make any rushed decisions on what to do with the 3 days/week until I had the chance to really experience them and see how life was flowing and feeling. So I gave myself until the end of 2018 to just feel things out and do some soul searching on what I wanted my next steps to be.

It became clear pretty quickly that I was not happy with that much “free time”. On the one hand I was so appreciative of the time I had to get all those things done that most people just never have time for …like keeping their house mostly clean, laundry, meal planning, grocery shopping, meal prepping, cooking, organizing closets, running errands, taking the kids to the doctor, dentist, etc etc. Yes it was glorious to have the space and time to accomplish those things …. But that got old really quick. While I loved supporting our family, I didn’t feel deep fulfillment in these tasks. And I put SO MUCH PRESSURE on myself to make every hour count, constantly questioning if I was making good use of my time. It was mentally so exhausting. I felt empty at the end of the days I didn’t have the kids. I was also experiencing feelings of extreme guilt. How many people would love to have this privilege? I felt so lucky and grateful that we had the means to put our kids in part-time care while not needing me to bring in income. But why me? I didn’t deserve this more than anyone else. I just felt bad about the whole thing. I couldn’t ENJOY the kid-free time pretty much at all, but I was also really grateful for it and totally understood my good fortune. I was feelings all the feels, basically.

So all that said, clearly I needed a change. I had a lot of people suggest ramping up my blog and Instagram or making my photography more of a business. I enjoy those things SO much asa hobbies and creative outlets, but truly feel no desire to make them my full-time business. I love the community I have created through Instagram and my blog and LOVE the companies I’ve had a chance to partner with because of that community, but that said… I never want money to be the driving force behind those creative outlets for me. Yes, I make some money from affiliate links and sponsorships, but those are just icing on the cake when sharing a product or company I truly LOVE. Even if I didn’t make a dime I would rave about these products and companies! It stifles my creativity when I feel like I am posting in an effort to gain followers or make money, etc. I find it kind of hard to explain all this, so I hope I’m making SOME sense, but basically I just have no desire to try to make my blog and Instagram any bigger than it is by pouring any more time and effort into it than I already am.

After a lot of soul searching and a visit with a life and career coach I decided that exploring other avenues of more traditional work, temporarily, would be a great solution to continue to learn more about what it is I want to do at this point in my life. That’s a really long-winded response to how I knew it was time … I just stopped feeling inspired and happy being home and wanted something different.

When you originally decided to stay home, did you think you’d go back?  I forget how much of this I shared, but deciding to stay home wasn’t something I thought a lot about as a working mother. I didn’t think it was financially feasible so it wasn’t a decision I agonized over or even thought about at all. After James was born I decided to leave Nike to take an opportunity with a small startup, heading up their marketing. It was essentially my dream job, but the realities of working in a startup environment really didn’t jive with having two young kids in daycare, including a 5-month-old who was getting sick every three days, requiring Corey and I both to miss a lot of work. It was a really hard decision to make, but I was at the end of my rope — my stress level was insanely high, I was constantly getting sick, I seriously just felt like my body was shutting down and I was not in a good space mentally, spiritually or emotionally. I needed to step back and reassess. That’s how I ended up making the decision to take a break from my career. Financially we had to pull the kids out of daycare, so it’s not like I could take a break, recuperate and then get back out to the working world. Essentially I was forced into being a stay-at-home mom, something I never thought I would be, but honestly came to love deeply and feel incredibly fulfilled by.

I spent most of the past two years I was home with the kids feeling pretty sure I would never want to go back to corporate America. I experienced life without the stress of a demanding job, I was happier than ever, ended up finding my groove with exercise, felt like our home and our family was just more balanced than ever.

Then around the time James turned two I just felt like he could use some more structured social interaction. I felt strongly that he would benefit from being in part-time care, so after we got a call that he had gotten a spot in the Nike 3-day class after being on the waitlist nearly 18 months, we decided to take it. Having the kids both gone three days a week made it clear that being home no longer gave me that amazing, happy, balanced feeling. I felt like something was missing.

While my indecisive nature tempts me to make every decision as if it will be the last decision I’ll ever make, in each of these scenarios I have tried to step back and remind myself that this is only a moment in time. Yes, I decided to quit my job and stay home with my kids two years ago, but nobody every told me I could never go back to work or never find a different way to work. Yes, I have decided to accept a 6-month contract, but that is the only thing I have decided. This new job works great for me RIGHT NOW. And that’s all I can really say. I might love it so much I can’t imagine not going back full-time in a more permanent role, or I might appreciate it for what it is and find more gratitude for the freedom I have once July rolls around and I am jobless again. I just don’t know, and that’s okay. I’m going to take things as they come.

Is this going to impact your barre3 schedule? How do you plan to balance work/life/fitness? It will definitely impact the times of day I go to class, but it won’t impact the number of classes I attend a week (3-5). My schedule is now mostly 6AM classes which allow me to get home, shower quickly and still be at work between 8-8:30AM and 6:30PM classes, which require Corey to handle bedtime. Also the weekends of course 😉 Fitness has become an integrated part of my life — it’s a habit, something I love doing and something that makes me a truly better mother, wife, employee, PERSON. Essentially it is extremely high on my priority list, so I will find ways to make time for it, even if it’s not as convenient as it has been in the last few months!

As far as balance — I think balance is a myth. Being back at work has required both Corey and me to reexamine the tasks that fill our days and prioritize them.Keeping the house as clean as it has been the last four months is going way down on the priority list. Family time is the highest priority, so making sure we are eating together as a family each night and being intentional with the time we do have together — meaning hyper-focused, no phones out in the morning/evening hours, etc. Time for us as a couple is also super important and nothing will change there. Time for fitness is very high for both Corey and me. Luckily he loves at-home workouts and last year we invested in a rower and a treadmill for him to have at home, so he can do an early morning workout while I am at a barre3 class on the weekdays and he likes going to Orange Theory classes on the weekends. We make it work! Things will be messier and more complicated than they were when I was home managing the household and the kids, but that’s okay. It’s just a season we’re in and having been out of the work force for two years I am now even more aligned to the things that are important to me as an individual and us as a family, and I’m just going to worry about those and brush the other things off. One thing I know for sure: I can’t do it all. Period. So not even going to try.

How do you get out of the house on time? Well, we’re only two weeks in, but the last couple weeks have gone really smoothly. The fact that Corey and I both work in the same place and our kids go to daycare onsite is HUGELY helpful, so we have that working in our favor. Otherwise, the BIGGEST determining factor of getting ourselves out of the house on time is how much we prepare the night before. Making sure coats, hats, gloves, blankets, lovies, WHATEVER needs to come with us to daycare the next day are either already in a bag together or in the car is number 1. The second biggest factor is getting up before our kids and being completely ready before they are awake. We get up around 5:45 (earlier if we are working out) and shower and get ourselves put together, get the kids’ breakfast ready, unload the dishwasher, etc before the kids are up around 7 (give or take). We lay Elodie’s clothes out the night before and she goes potty and gets herself dressed before coming downstairs for an easy breakfast. Think wholegrain waffle with almond butter and banana, a smoothie, cereal, etc. Those two things have helped tremendously!

Can you talk about meal prep as a working mom? Such a struggle! This was one of the biggest conversations we had before I accepted this new job. I think I have PTSD from the dinner/bath/bed hustle when we were both working before. It’s been pretty dang amazing to be around the house at 4PM able to get dinner started and have it ready when Corey gets home around 5:30.

Here’s what we’re trying this time around. We’ve divided the food tasks as such: Meal planning: Liz, Grocery shopping/online ordering: Liz, Corey: Meal prep on the weekends or the night before, making dinner: whoever is home earlier and cleanup: whoever didn’t cook. This week it worked out pretty good. Offering the kids a healthy snack (cashews, cucumber slices, apple with almond butter, etc) as they settle into being home after school and while we get dinner going has also been key.

I have no doubt we will probably be leaning on more takeout, meal and grocery delivery services and the like to help keep us sane, and I’m cool with that. Whatever it takes!

So, what’s it like being back?! Oh my gosh you guys… I’m only two weeks in, but it feels SO GOOD. I am invigorated. Inspired. Confident. Excited. ALLTHETHINGS. Also, it truly feels like I never left, like I just picked up right where I left off, which is such a trip! In the best way possible! Being at work because you WANT to be and not because you feel like you HAVE to be is a freaking game-changer to say the least. I also think leaving the corporate world and living life outside of Nike (I started there right out of college so it’s really all I knew) gave me such incredible perspective I am bringing back with me. Taking a little career breather so far seems to have been a very, very good idea (and one I know 95% of people don’t have the privilege of taking). Short answer is I LOVE IT. I AM SO HAPPY. And I am super curious if and how these feelings change as I get deeper into this new job!

You know I’ll be over-sharing my way through it! 😉 Any more questions? Leave them in the comments!

 

 

{Going Back To Work}

{Photo from my first day back at work & Elodie’s first day at daycare!}

It’s hard to believe I’ve been back at work a touch longer than I was away on maternity leave. The way I feel about being a working mother now versus when I first came back to work is night and day.

Going into maternity leave, I wasn’t really sure how I would feel about being home full-time with my little one. I’m an extremely social person, I love to chat and be around people, but do find that I need my alone time at the end of the day to recharge. Part of me thought that I might not even like being home all day every day as I might go stir crazy, or always intend to get out and do things, but never muster the energy to get out of my PJs and actually do so.
To my surprise, I really thrived on maternity leave. I got into my own little routine, and found myself almost being too social at times (I was really lucky and was on maternity leave at the same time as a lot of great friends. It was one of my absolute favorite summers of my life!). I got into the swing of being a stay-at-home mama, and found true happiness and joy in keeping our home in order, cleaning, cooking and hanging with my bebe. For the record, Corey never expected me to do anything but care for Elodie and would never give me grief if he came home to a disastrous house (which, let’s be honest, happened probably a lot!), it just made me happier to be in a clean house! Anyway, point is, I really liked being on maternity leave.
Fast forward just about five months and it was time for me to go back to work. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, there were lots and lots of tears (most came the night before going back and in the immediate weeks thereafter). It all just felt silly. I had a baby, only to leave her with someone else 8+ hours a day? And I’d hardly get any time to hang out with her at night as we have a pretty yucky commute and she has an early bedtime. I went from spending every waking moment with Elodie to spending mere hours, sometimes minutes, home with her each day. It killed me.
To make matters worse, Elodie did not take to daycare well. I often got reports that she was sad and fussy all day, and cried a lot. This coming from a baby who seriously never cried at home. It broke my heart. She was clearly unhappy.  
There were definitely moments I had irrational thoughts about leaving my job to stay home with Elodie. I thought long and hard about the role I wanted my career to play in my life, and in our children’s lives. I went back and forth. What job could be more important than being a mother? What would Elodie think of me if I didn’t work? Would she respect me? Would she resent me?
There’s no doubt that both options would be rewarding and difficult in their own ways. I have SO much respect for stay-at-home mothers. Honestly, that’s a way harder job than what I do day-to-day! And working mothers have it hard – they spend their days away from their littles. Even if working mothers love their jobs, they can often feel torn between their two roles. There really is no perfect solution for this dilemma, and it is incredibly personal.
Luckily I didn’t make any brash decisions in those early weeks back. I found my groove at work again and as soon as Elodie started crawling at six months, she became a much happier baby at daycare. Now, six months into daycare, Elodie is thriving – she adores her teachers and has so much fun playing with her baby friends and all the awesome toys they have in her classroom. I miss her like crazy all day, but I’m lucky that my company has daycare on-site, so if I’m really having withdrawals (um, every day!) I can pop in and say hello. It’s proven to be a really good balance for us all. 

So if you’re a new mama already dreading going back to work, an expectant woman wondering how she’s going to navigate the waters of being a working mother, or anyone who’s given any thought to how on earth she’ll balance a career, marriage and motherhood, I hope sharing my experience with you has helped. We’re all bound to choose different paths, but just know that with time, you’ll figure it all out and it will all be okay (even when it REALLY feels like it won’t be)! Good luck 🙂