Raging Madness

I write three blogs with varying regularity. I can’t decide which blog is more appropriate for this post: the one about adapting to Vermont, the one about parenting, or the one titled “managing the madness”. This one feels like it should be in the latter, but that one is focused on a different source of madness, and the first, it could go in because it’s got to do with living here, but it’s also about our life, and how it colors our life, as people and as parents. Continue reading

The Possibility of Work

It’s back. The possibility. The possibilities.

I’ve thought long and hard about this one.

People try to dissuade me from pursuing this. And yet.

Today, after using my small but growing network, I sent an email with my resume attached to pursue the possibility of part time work with mywebgrocer.com.  My contacts gave me the name of who to write. I did. Today. Before lunch. By 2pm, my phone had wrung. I was just about to take a nap. I was surprised. And yet I wasn’t.

That’s why I had to be sure I wanted to pursue this. I felt there was a good chance I’d get a call. Not just because I had help getting my foot in the door, but becuase I’m well qualified.

So, I talked with the lovely woman from HR who had been directed to follow up by the EVP I had written.  I was a little dismayed to talk to HR and not someone deeper in the organization, but it does show the company has a process and it likely works with efficiency. I like that.

I admit I’m a bit rusty discussing my career from 6 years ago. All in all, I think I did well. I was myself. I was candid.  She will talk with the operations department and see if they want to follow-up some more.

I now am left wondering about the possibility of work. It will mean utter chaos at home. It will mean childcare coverage in the summer. It will also mean a new world of work will open to me. And despite that everyone says I should’t , I really really want to work.

It’s nice to ski during the day, but I don’t do it much. It’s nice to walk outdoors and I would very much miss that. But I feel like I’m ready to try fitting both into my life.

Fingers crossed to learn more and maybe go meet these folks in person.

Am I about to shake up everyone’s life? Let’s hope so!

MeMeMe Talk

I suppose there is some subliminal message in my writings. It’s probably “help! I’m lost? I can’t find my way!”  Others might hear it. I cannot.

It takes a crowd of voices, mostly in my head, for me to faintly hear anything.

The shouts of my brain, my soul, my psyche have been telling me that what I am searching for is “MY thing”. My thing to call MY OWN.  Sometimes finding the right word for it makes it so much clearer.

Running and training for a half-marathon has been ALL ABOUT ME. It’s been MY Thing.  It’s been good for me.  It feels like the only thing I have and do just for me.

Now maybe that’s just the way it works for a mom. But I think I should have more.

I’ve been fixated on my husband’s unhappiness and utter frustration with work. I get fixated on every up and down of my children’s lives.  While I enjoy being so intimately connected to people, I realize it’s not healthy for me.

I recently used the phrase “imprisoned” to describe my unhappiness stemming from my husband’s unhappiness (with work). I have felt like I can’t settle, grow, spread my wings, relax or be myself for fear that my world will close in on me and we will move.

I’m sure that whole sentence represents a therapist’s onion to help unpeel. I know what it’s about however, so I don’t think I need the therapist.

What I need is something to call my own. I’ve been thinking it’s a job; a way to bring in some money so I feel like we can take an airplane trip w/o dipping into our investment accounts, or so I can buy myself some fun clothes. Maybe a job would give my spouse some security to find his next path.

Is my thing to call my own — a  new career path? Taking design classes? Should I train to be a teacher?

My homework is to try to figure out what MY THING is; MY THING to fixate on. My thing to make good for me.

Time to let go and be free and happy!

The Agenda: My Big Year

This was to be My Big Year. The year both children are finally in school all day every day. The year I am finally free to be me.  Or so I imagined a year ago.

As last summer drew to a close, I spoke proudly that I would not over-commit, I would take time for me, that I would keep my calendar open for a few months to take stock in myself and see what direction emerged from my self-imposed quiet period.  And I was pretty sure I’d find a job, because I would no doubt have figured out where I was going from here.

As it turned out, my existing volunteer commitments became bigger.  My co-coordinator took a job in September and I was left as the solo coordinator for the school’s parent-led nature education program.  I took on two classes to lead as well as the program.  I wrote a grant application. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. The school needed it.  I felt I could do it.  Sigh.

The neighbhorhood leadership position I have I wanted to resign from but couldn’t leave MY co-president in the lurch, so I hung on for another year. A year that has proven to be full of challenges for my skills and patience.

I took on the family budget. I applied the discipline we needed. I organized our investments. More work to do there, but I have a plan. That’s huge.

There are just five and one-half days of school left.  Yes, I am counting the days. It is a double edged sword.  It is when I must close out my own agenda and start up the summer agenda.  They are very different. They are mutually exclusive.

As it turns out, this has been My Big Year.  No, I didn’t jump into my next job. I didn’t lose 10 pounds. I didn’t quit things that bum me out.  But I DID figure out a lot more about what makes me tick.

I’ve worked through many emotional issues about work, friendship, and self-worth. THOSE are the biggies.  I believe I’ve been able to remove many barriers to my own happiness and much of it has just fallen away in the past months.

I’m no longer driven to find a new job. I realize I don’t need a job to make me whole.  I have that with my family right now.  If I want to work for money, cool, but I’m leaving the baggage behind!  And of course, now that I don’t see work as critical for my self-worth, I am free to enjoy my family and myself.

School’s out in 5.5 days.  I’m not panicked.  I’m looking forward to enjoying a summer of exploring with and being with my kids.  No agenda.

More on women who work, then don’t

From Motherlode, the NYTimes parenting blog, I read this

The reason high-achieving women don’t have children, they concluded, is essentially because women who do have children are more likely to step out of the workplace for some period of time or ratchet back their workloads or otherwise sacrifice their careers. They don’t take off for long — an average of just over two years. But the detour comes at a high cost. Those who are out one to two years lose 15 percent of their lifetime salary compared to those who do not. For those out for three or more years, the salary gap is now 46 percent. Some men do this, too. But the latest numbers show that twice as many women (31 percent) take what the center calls “an off ramp” than men (16 percent.)

Which is all the data I read before I quit but did it anyway.  I won’t say I regret my decision; I do love being engrossed in my children’s lives.  I do wish corporate america (i.e., my former employer) had been more accommodating for a parent (me) dealing with the changes parenthood brought on. I think we could have had a long and prosperous future together.  Instead, I have a happy well adjusted family that is a bit poor and a slightly frustrated mother (again, me).

I am still thinking I can make something of this.  My new website for moms who want work?  Don’t give up, Julie.  Make this a seed for positive change.

The full Motherlode blog: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/19/women-work-and-the-supreme-court/#more-12133

Why do I Want to Work Again?

So I figured out what my search for work is all about.  It’s funny how these things manifest themselves.  I didn’t get a call back on the job I applied for.  From a friend of an employee, I heard that my resume was actually “noticed” and was impressive.  Nonetheless, the sheer volume of applicants seems to have worked against me.  As I say, it’s ok. It was my first attempt and if I’d gotten a job offer out of it so easily, I’d wonder if I’d sold myself short.

In the time between sending a resume and hearing back, I pondered not only how the logistics of my life might change, but also what a work environment might might represent for me.  During this time a couple of other interesting things happened.

First, I heard from an old colleague. She no longer works for our old company.  She said she missed me and I her. I realized how much my old work life meant to me; how I loved working with a group of really smart, really dedicated people who all seemed to “get” each other.

Secondly, I found myself on the outskirts of the core social circle of parents at the elementary school.  It sounds so adolescent to even say, but at a school with no busing, the parents tend to congregate outside the school waiting for their kids to get out;  I think I’ve always been on the fringe of the in-crowd. I mean Always. Not just for the past four years, but going back to at least middle school.  So, it’s not an uncomfortable place.  What got me was the sting of realizing that I had been hoping to be more “in”. And why do I care?  Am I so insecure of who I am? No, it’s because after six years living in this new place in a new lifestyle, I’m still looking for a community of people who “get me”.

And that, I realize, is a big part of wanting to work again.  I miss being surrounded by dedicated, driven, smart, funny people who “get me”.  My people.  I also miss working hard and getting paid for it;  in case any prospective employers read my blog, I am also looking to make money!

So, this realization might actually help me winnow the field of possible employers.  It has certainly helped me sort through the emotions of the past week.

And for the few new friends I do have who “get me”, I think you know who you are. And I thank you for being such great friends.

The Value of Work

My youngest entered kindergarten in the fall of this year.  Since quitting work shortly after her birth, I have assumed that this would be the year I would return to work. I expected then it would be hard today.  I also thought I’d probably do something different from what I had been doing, not only because I had moved from a big city in the south to a small town in New England, but also because I figured my interests would likely shift after five years “off”.

This winter, after much hand wringing about full-time vs. part-time I decided maybe the first step would be to try substituting at school. So predictable and so not me, but I truly figured maybe it would at least break me in to having to shower & apply make-up & leave at the same time my children do.   I thought I could work out the trauma of getting three people ready for the day in a “test” job.

A position in my school district became available for “substitute administrative” jobs, such as administrative assistant, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver.   I figured this was perfect! I volunteer enough at school to know I don’t have the patience to deal with a classroom full of children for longer than an hour at a time.

So, I filled out the application online. I listed my past “supervisors” and phone numbers for employers going back to 1988 —  a good 6 or seven employers representing at least 10 positions.  This in and of itself was no small feat.  I then contacted the local folks who I have volunteered with and asked them if they would be my references.  I serve as co-president for a neighborhood of 250 homes (and an annual budget of $25,000) and have for the past five years.  I also run the local elementary school’s nature education program — recruiting over 30 volunteers annually.

Last year I was president of a cooperative preschool.  I managed a budget of over $100,000, led a board of directors of 12, oversaw the salaries and contracts for 4 staff, facilitated school-wide changes, led marketing efforts, intervened in bad contracts,  cut benefits from staff, fielded grievances from employees and families. Oh, and I volunteered with the children in the classroom countless times. I even substituted for teachers.

You can imagine my surprise when my application was returned to me as Incomplete because I had not included any references from “supervisors of past employer”  Humph.

So, even though I did the equivalent of an executive’s job, because I did it as a “volunteer” and had no “supervisor” it does not count!

To be fair, I did not pursue this any further with the district human resources office.  I decided it was a good lesson.  I certainly did not want to contact the vice president from my corporate days and ask for a letter of reference to be the substitute lunch lady!  I was totally willing to check my ego at the door and BE the substitute lunch lady, but apparently I could not qualify with just volunteer labor references.

And while I appreciate the school district’s need to be very careful about the background of its employees, must it overlook the reputation and skill of volunteerism?  Afterall, what is work?  Must one be paid to be reputable?  If one has the highest rank within an organization they have no “supervisors”, does that not count toward one’s qualifications for the next job?  Why can’t my skills used in community organizations be valued by society?  I know I don’t have the answer.  So many others have been down this path before me.

I think what stopped me in my tracks more than anything was that I never expected it to happen to me.