Friday, October 12, 2012

A month's worth of updates in one little post. Er....long post.

I love change.

Which is good…because this last month has had copious amounts of it.

A month ago, I accepted a job offer for a full-time work-at-home position, doing technical writing for a bank. I was thrilled by the experience, but the transition was complicated. Figuring out how to balance conference calls and my children at home (other than the 6 hours my two little ones are in school each week) was definitely a work in progress. I had two nights where I had to pull all-nighters to do my work – since Steve was gone 3 of the 4 weeks of September and I wasn’t ready to give up chaperoning field trips and being with my children during the day.  

I learned important things, and I’m grateful for them. I learned that my children don’t mind my absence -- but they don’t like my physical presence yet emotional absence. They seem proud of my work and love when I go teach at night and they have a babysitter at home.  But when I was sitting at the kitchen table and scrambling to write a procedure due at 5pm that night, they felt conflicted and uncharacteristically clingy.

I also learned that I’m a hard worker.  And that when I say I’ll do something, I really will do it.  I tested that to the outer limits, and came away with a triumph that I had juggled the full-time work with hardly any babysitters, met every deadline, chaperoned every school trip,tucked my kids into bed, made all their meals, and passed the supermom test for that brief, insane trial.  I wouldn’t choose it as a long-term solution. I’d get babysitters, for one thing. But I appreciated seeing my capabilities tested. I appreciated seeing the depths of reserve in me to tackle logistically mind-blowing month of my life. Blogging didn’t happen. :) And sleep didn’t much either.  But the primary things, like my children surviving and getting the occasional bath….well, that did.

That contract was only short-term and was ending.  And then I got an email from the JTCC Dean about a position for the Department of Defense, as an instructor for military officers. I sent in my resume, interviewed, and got the job within a span of a couple of days. The lucky brown interview suit, the one my mom bought for me for college graduation 12 years ago, still has a perfect record of interviews to job offers. Thank you, Mom.

I wasn’t expecting the job, and it wasn’t necessarily my plan for our family.  At first.  It was a surreal whirlwind, taking our family in a completely new direction.   

But it felt right, it was the right time, and I knew I wasn’t deciding about forever – I was deciding for this particular phase in our lives.  This was the right offer at the right time. It stunned me with the salary, autonomy, and flexibility -- and it seemed time to make the shift.  I’m still being spoiled, as I have 5 weeks off a year and 20 holidays.  And wide freedom to bring the papers home to work.  But even with those luxuries, it’sa shift for our family.  I’m waking up at 6 to get into work, and someone else drives them to school in the morning and does the daily grind many days a week.

So, I am now a military contractor. I started this week. I come in and teach them communication skills as a 2-hour lecture every 7 weeks, and then grade papers the rest of the time. Primarily, I’m there to do one-on-one conferencing with the officers about how to improve writing.  They’ve all been to college, but this is about learning the Army standard and how to advance into higher positions with strong writing skills.

This will be the first time in the last 7 years that I’ve done a full-time job where I work outside of the home.  I’ve done every type of work at this point –staying at home full-time, working at home part-time and then full-time.  At one point, I was teaching 12 online courses.Now, I have a commute and pack a lunch and am researching nannies for the times my kids aren’t in school. 

To me, life is like exploring a new house filled with rooms and corridors.  I love cracking open a new door and seeing what’s inside. It’s one of my favorite parts of being human – not knowing what’s ahead,and the anticipation with exploring the next phase.

I love this job.  Love it. I love the foreign-language aspect of hearing the military-lingo, and having NO IDEA what they’re saying.  The acronyms!  The way they outline every specific detail -- like my 31-page job description, or the assignment sheet that says it will take a student 151.7 minutes to read the article. I love all of it.  

I loved meeting our Department Chair today, and the truly great men who’ve risen through the military ranks.  These men have seen a lot over the years, and I have a lot of respect for that.  

I love sitting at my desk at lunch, reading my book. I love the long walk across campus to my car. These quiet moments haven’t happened much in my life lately, and I feel like I’m coming home with a full emotional tank to scoop up my children and find out about their day.

This new period lets me experience another perspective on motherhood.  Simone is nearing 4.5, and I’vebeen with them almost 100% other than a few hours here and there.  In some ways, I think we began to identify with it.  We stopped questioning whether that was what made sense, we just kept going down that road. But different stages call for different things, and I was definitely seeing some of that need eroding.  

Even before this opportunity came up, I knew we were applying old rules to a new phase.  But I wasn’t sure how to define the new phase. Or what it needed.  That still might be a work in progress, but I do believe this particular job is part of that new place.

In the last 6 months, I felt unrest.  There was a part of me that wondered if it was about going back to work, but what would I do?  I didn’t just want any job; I wanted something that would nurture my spirit so I was more emotionally available to my kids.  And financially, I wasn’t sure what job would cover the expense of their French school and childcare to the point that it was worth me losing those daytime hours with my kids.  Paying to work didn’t make sense, especially since I had a part-time teaching job already. I needed to at least break-even. 

I didn’t know this particular job existed at the time, but it was perfectly designed for this moment in life.

One thing I realized: My children were begging for things that no longer had to do with me.  That was fascinating to watch.  Instead of asking me to hold them or read to them all day, they were asking for things like ballerina lessons or martial arts.  I was becoming a coordinator and chauffeur for this Big Life they wanted to create outside of our home.

They were growing up.  

There are things that remain unseen – childcare being a major component.  Our schedules are allover the place, even on the best weeks, and the first two people we hired full-time bailed on us. Clearly, I’m new the childcare realm, as I suck at hiring nannies.  I was hiring people based on their warm-fuzzy child-loving skills, and then the professional element of them fell flat.   My dad extended his stay this week to watch the kids, and we’re re-configuring our action plan.  

My dad told me a quote from a movie about how things work themselves out in the end -- and if they haven’t worked out yet, it isn’t the end yet.  I know childcare will be that way.  We’re interviewing a girl from Estonia, as Jack said he wouldn’t mind someone living with us if they spoke Russian and played piano.  Simone wants someone who can teach her dance.  And Andrew wants someone to teach him how to cook and take him to bounce-houses.  It might be the oddest job description ever posted, but we’ll figure it out.  

I’m excited.  I see good things ahead of us.