starting a new work, life chapter

After over five years with the same nonprofit organization, I started a new, full-time job last month. I forgot how demanding it is to be in a new environment with a new set of responsibilities to learn. In the course of the first week I went from euphoria to exhaustion with every other emotion in between. 

There were times over the past few years that I wanted to leave my former job but I either didn't have the energy for all that would entail, it didn't feel like the right time to leave, or I couldn't find a better opportunity. Making this shift in my work life has been a long time coming. I didn't know if it was something I wanted or needed---"it" being a mom who works full-time outside the home. 

When we finally became pregnant with Henry after trying for over two years and doing fertility treatments, Dale and I went back and forth on whether I would stay in the workforce or not. We looked at our finances and discussed our personal and family goals. It was by no means a one-time conversation. We talked and prayed A LOT. Ultimately, we decided we needed my income but could afford for me to reduce my hours at my current job and work remotely. This would provide me with more time to care for Henry, adjust to motherhood, take care of my mental health postpartum, and figure out what I wanted my professional work life to look like moving forward. 

Thankfully, my work agreed to my proposal and I switched to part-time remote work right before Henry was born. That was absolutely the right decision--for me and for us. It came with its own challenges but we found our rhythm and it worked really well for the first 7 months or so. Having Dale's extra support due to him working from home was a bright side of the pandemic. However, in early 2021, as Henry began to be more mobile and need a different kind of attention, our setup stopped working. Dale and I were both overly stressed and exhausted, my mental health was suffering, and Henry wasn't happy either. 

We went back to the drawing board as they say and once again discussed our options. We revisited all the difficult questions--Do I need to leave the workforce? Do I want to leave the workforce? Can we survive without my income? What childcare options are available to us? What childcare options can we afford? Do we want to send our baby to daycare during a pandemic? The list went on. We prayed together and separately, trying to determine what was the best course of action for OUR family. 

I put us on the waitlist for childcare at UNM just as a possibility. We qualify thanks to Dale being a PhD student. I had no idea how long the waitlist was or if it was in fact what we wanted to do. But I knew  it couldn't even be an option unless I put us on the list. When we got the email less than a month later that a spot was available, Dale and I both knew that was our answer. 

Henry started daycare part-time (we call it school) last April. I stayed working part-time but went back to the office with a set schedule. No more constantly bouncing back and forth between being Clarissa the "Mom" and Clarissa the "Communication Specialist". We finally had better structure and more support to our days. Since then Henry has thrived and so have we. He is a very social kid and loves his teachers and peers. This setup doesn't work for everyone but it has been an excellent decision for us.

If I've learned anything since becoming a parent almost two years ago, it's that there is no perfect situation or completely ideal set of circumstances for raising a child. There are trade offs and sacrifices for every decision you do or do not make. And every decision impacts your kid. It's an important, heavy responsibility to carry.

Dale and I made the decision for me to go back to work full-time together. It wasn't an easy or simple decision. As I weighed the pros and cons I felt the added heaviness of cultural expectations, religious pressures, and societal prescriptions placed on women, especially mothers. Was it ok for me to want to remain in the paid workforce and advance in my chosen profession? YES. Could I have a real career and be a good mom? YES. Was I bad a mom for allowing someone else to care for my child while I went to work? NO. 

I've always felt like the whole "career" notion has eluded me despite the fact that I've been in the paid workforce since I was 15. I always wanted an education, marketable skills, and a family. Having a "career" seemed like something else entirely. 

Truthfully, I didn't think I could have both--a family and a career. I feel differently now. My professional and personal journeys don't fit the "ideal" Mormon trajectory. That can make me feel less than or like something is wrong with me. It's something I wrestle with a lot. But the more I learn to live in my truth and embrace my own reality, the more I see the beauty in my experiences and circumstances. 

We need my income to be able to care for our children and not only maintain but also improve our finances. I also want to continue growing as a nonprofit professional. I enjoy using my education and skills to positively impact my community. It helps my mental health to interact with other professionals and have a space for myself outside my home. I want to be an amazing mom. I also want a meaningful career. Realizing that, and saying it publicly, has taken a lot of internal work. 

I'm grateful for this new work, life chapter. Change is hard but it's how we grow. We're still figuring a lot of things out but Dale, Henry, and I are both transitioning to this new dynamic well. There are hard days but I know that for this season of life--this is the right decision for me and my family. And knowing and owning that feels really damn good. 

1 comment :

  1. Excellent Post Rissy! Love and respect you So Very Much Rissy! XOXO Auntie