It is a snapshot forever memorialized in my mental scrapbook; standing at my daughter’s bus stop, waving goodbye to my little girl as she ventured off to her first day of kindergarten. Yes, I had the requisite tears in my eyes. Yes, I felt a little empty inside. And yes, I wondered what on earth I was going to do next.
Four years prior, my husband and I had realized that, guess what, our daughter was only going to get one shot at childhood and that at least one of us should be home during the day to witness it. I postponed my advertising career and became a full-time mommy, with the assumption that I would go back to work when Sassy Pants started school.
So today was the day. There I stood, mouth half-opened, staring at the back of the school bus chugging down the road. A million thoughts went through my head and, to be honest, many of them had more to do with me than my daughter. Why hadn’t I been better about keeping in touch with my business contacts? Why hadn’t I taken some extra time to take an extension course or a new computer class? Why hadn’t I kept my finger on the pulse of the industry by subscribing to a relevant monthly publication or trade paper? Why, during those precious years, did I not once think ahead to the hurdles I might face reentering the workforce? So I went home, blubbered like a baby and then hopped on the internet and began doing a full scale job search. I was going to reenter the world of nine-to-five, bygone it.
After several hours of “hey-I-can-do-that” responses to job postings that I was probably overqualified for, I had an epiphany. If I am hauling myself downtown to bust my tail for eight to ten hours a day, who will be there to meet Sassy at the bus stop? Who will attend her Halloween Costume Party or chaperone her field trip to Emma Krumbee’s Apple Orchard? My laundry list of fears about returning to the workforce, some more rational than others, went on and on:
- Would my salary be worth my time away from my family?
- Had I forgotten how to use my brain cells and lost my creative muse (who was sort of a creepy cross between Gwen Stefani and Charles Nelson Reilly)?
- What if the school called and Sassy was sick or had a boo-boo?
- How would I navigate winter breaks and summer vacations? Hey, nannies cost a lot of dough.
- How much money would it cost to update my work wardrobe, most of which was pretty hip a decade ago; ten years later… not so much?
- A million other little things that whizzed through my troubled brain.
There was a chink in my working mama resolve the size of a McDonald’s Playland.
Now what? I would like to say that I immediately came up with the perfect solution for attaining that elusive work-life balance. I didn’t. I spent weeks scouring websites for jobs with a flexible schedule. I stared at the phone pondering a call to an old contact that might have the perfect fit for me. I played a little computer solitaire… all the while knowing that it simply wasn’t going to work. I could not be in two places at one time and the place that I still really wanted to be was with my child.
So I volunteered at the elementary school in the lunchroom, stuffing folders, reading stories, you name it. Let me just interject here that the nation’s school system should thank its lucky stars that the marketplace is still mostly disobliging to working moms, allowing thousands of school districts across the country access to countless eager, educated and incredibly capable women willing to work gratis cutting out 32 identical construction paper leprechaun hats or printing dozens of copies of “I am a Lucky-Plucky-Gobble-Gobble Turkey.” Suffice it to say, the work at the school was mind-numbing, but at least I was still a part of Sassy’s daily life.
While talking with the stay-at-home moms in my neighborhood, I would often unload about how I found it hard to believe that “in this day and age the working world is still so unaccommodating to mothers who want a career.” To which they, all of whom were degreed former professional one-thing-or-anothers, would say, “Um… yeah.”
So I spent two years in this working-mommy-purgatory; then our family moved halfway across the country. With a new home, a new state and a new attitude I decided it was time for a fresh start on my career path. I immediately began asking questions of the secretary at my daughter’s new school, of people I met in the supermarket checkout line, of just about everyone I met.
One evening I found myself at a Friday night block party with a garage full of my new neighbors. I was asked by one gal if I was a stay-at-home-mom. I told her yes, but that I planned to get back into advertising. I also mentioned that I was skeptical I would ever find a job that would allow me to see my daughter off in the morning and be there when she returned home. The woman replied, “Hey, have you met the neighbor down the street? She owns a staffing service that caters to ‘mothers and others’ looking for long-term, flexible, part-time career work. If you’d consider a part-time job, you should definitely check it out.”
What luck! Someone had come up with “the answer” (visualize cumulus clouds parting in the sky with golden beams of sunshine streaming down upon me) to my working mommy dreams. If I could find the right fit through the part-time placement service, I would be able to get back to the career I love and still give my kid a smooch when she hopped off the bus! I went to the company’s website, peeked around at the job openings and… voila… the placement service had several postings that were a perfect match to my skill set. And the company offered a flexible, part-time schedule.
I uploaded my resume, applied for the positions and (I swear this is true) got a phone call two hours later. They wanted to interview me. Yee-haw! So the happy ending to my story is this: I got a flexible, part-time job in advertising that I love, my new position has allowed me to stretch my creative wings and expand my portfolio… and Sassy and I have a standing after-school date playing with her plastic jungle animals and eating cookies.
It’s a good gig if you can get it.