Three years ago I began writing a blog as a way to reclaim some of the identity that I had lost over the years. I had always been a great student, I was a leader in college, and I excelled at my career, even though it was not the career that I had imagined for myself many years earlier. When my first child was born, I was able to negotiate a great arrangement which allowed me to work from home three days a week (a hybrid schedule! I was, in fact, way ahead of my time). I did some of my best work during those years. I eventually returned to the office five days a week, when I was told I would never get promoted if I wasn’t in the office every day. When my second child was born, I negotiated again, for a part time role. This particular arrangement was not working out for me, for reasons that I would finally discover years later, when I tried again to “downsize” my professional life. I resigned, and on my last day I placed my boxes in the trunk of my car, drove away, and cried all the way home.
I never fully rebounded after that. I would go on to work first part time, then full time, at a small company in my profession, where I learned a lot. However, the work-life-compensation-balance was not balanced enough for me. I made a career pivot and worked in public education, TWICE! I was on of the very few school based employees required to work summers, during breaks, and 8 hours a day in the building; add in several nights a month and some weekend days here and there, for a very modest wage, and although I crushed the job, or “slayed,” as my teenage daughter would say, it wasn’t the right job for me. I even tried my hand at a part time job, four hours a day, for days a week, doing tedious work for just above minimum wage. While downsizing their career might work for many people, and is sometimes a necessity, it is clear to me that I need to find a different path.
In the meantime, I have taken on volunteer positions and projects, where I do get to flex a little bit professional muscle, display some of my leadership abilities, and all that good stuff. I do it because it is personally rewarding, I care about the causes that I work on, and the people that benefit from the work that I do. However, these are also resume builders for me, things to discuss at parties when people ask you what do you do, and opportunities to stay somewhat relevant.
I often ponder what will my future look like. Five, ten, fifteen years from now. How do mothers who aligned their lives so closely to their children’s schedules and needs come out at the other end? When those children get driver’s licenses, then college degrees, and move into their own adulthood? What comes after? What is beyond these current years?
There are a myriad of topics that I could go on about right now: the motherhood penalty; the great resignation; society finally recognizing that many women feel they simply have no other option but to leave their careers (that is what I felt, and I only now am I comfortable saying it out loud). That’s just the tip of the iceberg. But I didn’t want to simply write about it, I wanted to connect with more women like me. They must be out there. Their children might be toddlers, or already teenagers, but we have something that unites us. I want to reach those women, and meet them, and be a voice for them.
I want us to create change through numbers. Why can’t more employers provide temporary opportunities for such a talented workforce? Or provide a shortened schedule that would allow mothers to work from 9-2? Or in the evenings? Doing interesting, challenging, well compensated work? Why is it so difficult to re-enter the workforce? Why aren’t more of us running for office when our children get older and our schedules lighten? There are so many possibilities: the arts, academia, entrepreneurship, just to mention a few.
That blog that I started three years ago has lead me here, to Exceeding Motherhood. This will certainly lead me somewhere else. In the meantime, I want women who opted out of their careers to join us, and everyone else to come along for the ride too. Let’s hit the road!