My sons have gone from small preschoolers who need their mommy for almost everything to big, independent boys who attend school. All day. Every day. Without me. This fall, when the school year started and they were both finally there all day, that something out on the horizon started to poke at me. I started thinking about the woman I used to be. Now, don't get me wrong. Choosing to stay home and raise my boys was the most valuable and important decision I ever made, and I would never change it, even if I could. But, being a wife and mother was not something I'd always aspired to. I had different goals and dreams as I grew up, and although they have been on the backburner for a while, they have never gone away. Changed, evolved and metamorphosed, maybe; but never forgotten.
And now is the time to revive them. Now, I am ready.
But here's the kicker -- all that change, evolution and metamorphosis? Instead of wanting to start right back where I left off in the political arena, I am completely lost as to what I want to do NOW. I don't mean to say that my past-life occupation wasn't important, or that I didn't believe in what I was doing, because I definitely did. I believed in the issues I worked on and the people I worked for, almost to a fault (sometimes my passion did get the better of me!). It's just now, my priorities have changed. It's hard to have two children, spend a significant time out of the workforce and reach the age of 40 without that happening. My mission now is to take my changed priorities, meld them with my professional experience and find the perfect recipe for purpose.
So, what am I looking for then? What are the ingredients that must be included to result in my desperately sought-after purpose? Well, though I may adjust for taste as the months go by and our family needs change, these are the core components:
- Balance. My boys have never been to daycare. They have never had anyone besides my husband or me have to pinch hit if they're sick. As I have said, their well-being and happiness are paramount to me. I would love to find an employer who understands this, and embraces it. I truly believe that employees are happier, more productive and more satisfied in their work if they aren't constantly plagued by thoughts of what-ifs. What if my child gets sick? What if the boss penalizes me for asking for a flexible schedule on soccer game days? Just knowing my employer 'gets it' would make all the difference for me in choosing to go back to work.
- Service. Obviously, a factor in my returning to professional life is contributing to my family's economic well-being. But this is one thing that has not changed during my professional hiatus: I need for my work to be in service to others in some way. In order for it to be meaningful for me, my industry has to help someone, somewhere who needs it. I am drawn to non-profits and their mission to do good. As much as I adore the finer things in life, I have never worked just to make a buck.
- Patience. I have been out of the workforce for a longtime. And while I have tried to impose some of my former skills on to my current reality, it isn't quite the same. I have no doubt that once I am employed again, it will take me hardly any time to get right back into the groove and learn the ropes. Hardly any time...but SOME time. It's a different working world than the one I left behind, and I do realize it will require some adaptations and a learning curve. Although I am quite confident I can not only do it, but excel at it, my ideal employer would acknowledge this adjustment and work with me.
- The 'Click.' Not to belabor the point, but it has been a few years since I had a boss over the age of eight. At this stage in my game, it matters more to me what a potential employer's purpose is than specifically what I'd be doing within the organization. I want to connect, to click with it; I want to feel passion for its mission. I realize my resume gap will necessitate a certain degree of starting at the bottom. Again. But I don't mind. I am perfectly willing to pay my dues all over again -- answering phones or some administrative duties in the beginning. If the potential for advancement is there, and I'm contributing to the overall success of the organization, I can do what I'm needed to do. Ideally, I will find a position that will utilize my talents from past positions to become a real asset to my employer.
So, I continue on my path toward gainful, meaningful, and balanced employment. I am learning more about myself and my aspirations every day, and with every cover letter I write. And although the process is taking longer than I would have predicted, I persevere. I know it'll be worth the wait.