Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of Penelope Trunk's blog. She's a career adviser who's a little crazy (in a good way, just like me ;-), very opinionated (ditto that, too), but, above all else, interesting.
Penelope's unique theories on women and how they should approach their careers are absolutely fascinating. For instance: She explains how research proves that most women want to be available to their children while they are growing up.
Surprise! I agree with those findings, because that's the scenario I, too, wanted to have.
After college, I quickly entered the workforce with a portfolio full of ambition and determination and began applying what I had learned in the real world.
My first nine years as a designer were full of hard work and learning! It was very exciting. I held steady jobs with several different types of design firms and worked on some amazing projects with some amazingly talented people.
Then came my second child. as well as an end to the first half of my interior design career.
Suddenly, our childcare, gas, clothing, etc. expenses equaled the amount of my salary. I was doing all that work at the office, shuffling babies to daycare, and I never had any money to show for it. Not only that, but I truly did want to be at home with my children, just like so many other women living through this stage of life want to do. Fortunately, my husband made enough money to enable me to do that.
But there was a downside: My new job as a professional mom killed my career, as well as a little bit of my identity and self-esteem, too.
As a result of missing out on years of professional development...
I've had to work double-time to catch up. And sometimes I feel like I'm swimming upstream!
Not only did I have to get back in practice, back in the habit of working on design projects, back to learning available sources (because, of course, a good designer is only as good as their sources), but I also had to contend with learning how to use all the technology that had been born after I left the workplace.
When I first left my full time job, we didn’t have a computer in the home, and the CAD at work was in the middle of a giant room where a few pasty looking guys typed all day long at their tiny, little desks. Cell phones were as large as a basketball player's shoe. Fax machines had just hit the market and were blowing people's minds. And forget about blogs, chats, tweets, pins, etc. . . . We had no way to share information, virtually.
So I had a bit of an excuse for being behind??? Maybe?
Not really. But today, YOU don't have an excuse.
Never before has it been easier to maintain contact with the professional world as it is now. If you'll simply stay in touch with your career, you won't find yourself going through the same difficulties I've struggled with as I've tried to return to where I left off....when I stepped out of the water.
My advice to you younger women considering slowing down their professional life in favor of spending more time with your children and family is this:
Keep your toe in the water. Don’t step all the way out.
With today’s technology you don’t have to. You can be a dedicated parent and stay in touch with colleagues, events, and industry news and developments. You can dabble in small bits of part-time work. You can stay fresh.
You can stay in the game.
You don't really think this euphoria you're having over motherhood will last forever, do you?
No Ma'am. It sure won't. Those babies will soon be teenagers, and they'll then see you as the Pariah who should be avoided at all costs. But don't you worry . . . They'll eventually come crawling back when they have a wedding that needs to be planned or their babies need a sitter. (So I’ve been told.:)
I really shouldn't talk about how pleasurable it will be to have your grown children flock around you, or how rewarding being a grandparent will be, because I haven't experienced that stage of life yet. I'm an in-between'er. My kids are in their early 20s, going through college and getting their first job.
This evening, I'm not responsible for preparing four dinners at four different times of the night. There aren't any kids who need to be picked up from practice. I don't have to stay up late worrying when, or if, my babies will be coming home safely.
Why? Because this is my time!
To be what I want to be. Do what I want to do.
Looking back on the past, I wish I’d kept my toe in the water a little bit more, because swimming upstream is ever so exhausting at 54.
If you're young and have (or will soon have) children, remember the words you're reading here. Sure, the world is bringing you great joys during this exciting stage of your life, but that doesn't mean you need to be naive to this fact:
Soon enough, you're going to find they don't need you so much. Your kids grow up. Become independent. Imagine that!
Yes, it's true. And life will open its door for you, once again. It will, I promise, and you're going to want to be ready to step through it and participate.
Actually . . . You're going to want to hit the ground running!
Because, for some (not everyone, but definitely for me), this phase of life can be a little boring, a little monotonous, a little lonely . . . that is, unless you have purpose, ambition, goals and DRIVE!
And IF you loved what you did as a working woman, IF you would love to get back at it again, IF you know you could do it better this time, IF you didn't finish your race, IF you didn't become all that you wanted to be and just want another shot............ Be ready.
Because this time, you can do everything on your terms! With your own business! Your way!
Keep that big toe in the water, girls, then you'll always have the confidence you'll need to dive right back in!