Thursday, March 5, 2009

I am one conflicted mommy

After eight years at home with my kids, I am going back to work.

The decision itself wasn't a hard one; things changed in our family, and it was necessary. And, truthfully, I feel like Cinderella at the ball, because the job I'm going to start in a few weeks will be terrific. I'll discuss the specifics another time, but the high points are:
  1. It's directly in my area of expertise - developing new online products that showcase user-generated content.
  2. I've liked every single person I've met at this company so far.
  3. It's been voted one of the best places to work in Los Angeles several times by the LA Business Journal.
  4. It's less than two miles from my house.
So, as you can imagine, there are a lot of things to be excited about. And I am excited. But I'm also nervous, and most of that is about the changes this will mean for my kids and my relationship with them.

I thought I'd make a list for you, so you can easily see the breadth of my feelings on the matter:

I'm excited because...
  • It's been a long time since the business-oriented part of my brain has gotten a decent workout. The job search process reawakened it, and that felt great. Stimulating.
  • I've always been really good at my job, and this time, I know, will be the same. In fact, I may be better for having been away for so long - I have definitely learned a lot in the past eight years about time management, people management, selling my ideas to skeptics, harnessing creativity, and resilience.
  • My kids already seem to see me differently, with more respect. In the past, whenever I brought up my past career, they reacted with a combination of amazement and disbelief ("You had a JOB? in an OFFICE? No, Mom, your job is to stay home and take care of US"). Time for them to learn that women are equally capable of bringing home the bacon (not the kind from the grocery store).
  • I like earning money.
  • I think working will make me a more interesting person.
  • I really like feeling like I'm on the cutting edge, and when you work in product development for an Internet company, you are.
  • I'll be motivated to wear nicer clothes.
  • I'll get to meet smart new people.
  • The money thing.
But I'm nervous because...
  • I will have less time with my kids. Now, if it works out the way I think (hope) it's going to, most of my office time will coincide with their school day. The hours I'll miss are in the 3-6pm range, give or take. That's carpool time, snack time, homework time. Which I have really enjoyed. But their dad will be with them, and he deserves a turn to enjoy it too.
  • I won't have as much time to exercise, which is bound to have an effect on my body (and possibly my disposition). On the other hand, many days I'll be able to walk or bike to work, which is something, at least.
  • I'm worried that my kids will decide they like spending the afternoons with their dad more than they enjoyed spending them with me. Juvenile, yes, I know. Still.
  • Have I mentioned that I haven't worked for eight years? I wonder if I even know how to have a job anymore. My mom friends who've already made this transition assure me it's like riding a bike.
And I feel guilty because...
  • I don't think I'm actually going to miss driving on the 405 freeway in the afternoons.
  • I don't think I'm actually going to miss volunteering at school (although I will miss the other women I volunteered with, for sure).
  • I don't think I'm actually going to miss my kids that much. They're gone most of the day anyway.
  • I know I'm not going to miss homework hour.
  • I worry that my husband will equate being happy to go back to work with not feeling grateful for the years I was able to spend at home - and I am (grateful).
I know all these feelings, excited and nervous and guilty, are normal. That doesn't make them any less real.

Anyone out there who's been there, done that: Please post a comment and tell me how you dealt with all of these things. I need chatter.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lovie. Congratulations on the job. You've pretty much covered every situation in your breathe....see how it plays out. I'm excited for you and the K-Gang. My brothers still reference 'when mom went back to work' as a happy time in our family. The balance of energy shifted and we did see her in a different light...Very Cool.

Erika said...

My very wonderful and very, very wise mother-in-law emailed me the following and agreed to let me post it here:

"I went back to work when my kids were exactly the same age as yours are now. It was great. I loved realizing my potential, using my talent, and experiencing success and appreciation at the time when my kids were getting more interested in spending time with their friends than with their parents. Suddenly I regained my own identity, as opposed to being the mom of M. and J. I was happier, and was much more interested in doing fun things with the kids on weekends and vacations.

"You wanted responses from people who have been there. Here it is, whatever it is worth."

I'm hoping this happens to me - particularly the part about being more willing to do fun things with the kids on weekends and vacations. Maybe it's because they're boys, but what they want to do for fun and what I want to do for fun don't seem to coincide much these days.