“You’re still here!?” My coworker bellowed when I was 39 weeks pregnant with my second child. Social grace had left me about two weeks earlier when my husband unexpectedly lost his job and I had to keep working until I went into labor. A relatively significant departure from my original plan to leave a week before my due date to rest and maybe do this “nesting” thing I’ve heard of.
"Clearly I am,” I replied dryly. My intention had been to not return to my deeply unsatisfying job after my maternity leave was over, but just days before my daughter was born there was nothing on the horizon and I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic that anything would turn up.
Ten weeks came and went and before I knew it I was back at work, continuing to look for something new, and longingly reading articles about women who just quit their jobs and moved to their ideal location taking whatever jobs they could while they cultivated the options they really wanted.
For me, the mother of two little girls, wife to an amazing spouse, and provider of medical and dental insurance for my family, the notion that I could just quit my job and wait for something better to crop up was quite discouraging. But I knew that my dissatisfaction at my job was taking its toll on my health, my marriage, and impacting the type of parent I wanted to be.
I started digging, trying to figure out how to fill my need for professional satisfaction. I found articles on side hustles all over the place and while a side hustle seemed like a fabulous idea it also seemed like an exhausting one. I flipped that script on its head by deciding that my side hustle didn’t need to make me money. After all, I was already working and I knew that busting my butt for a pittance would keep me in the same place where I already was. Instead, I committed to writing on my blog every week, and I am pleased to say I’ve kept that goal.
Prior to becoming pregnant with my littlest girl, I had decided to run for an open school board seat in my community. I found out I was pregnant after it was too late to take my name off the ballot and I won the seat. So I dedicated more energy to being a better board member, and while the changes in our community aren’t because of me, I am proud of the positive steps we’re taking to improve our schools. I am particularly proud because of the political difficulties that are our current reality.
After consulting with my husband I also decided to go back to school. I knew that I wasn’t going to get anything better unless I had a more advanced degree. In January of 2017, I started pursuing a Master of Arts in Public and Non-Profit Administration. My goal is to finish by May 2019, in time for my oldest daughter to start kindergarten.
Themes throughout my life are cropping up and it’s something I appreciate being able to see full-circle. I can remember writing in my journal in first grade that I need to remember to “take my tim” (yeah, spelling wasn’t a strong suit 20 years ago). As a graduate student, I am taking my time to apply myself in each course. Summer 2017 is only my second semester but I’m earning an A, and I also received A’s in my first two classes. The work is deeply rewarding and I feel like I’ve found “The Secret.”
I also say I’ve found “The Secret” because engaging in all these positive actions has led to a really stellar bridge job. It’s a lateral move in terms of pay grade, but the positive environment makes it easier for me to engage in self-care. And that makes me a better wife, mother, worker, and all around person.
Making a career transition when you feel trapped by your job and the circumstances of your life is daunting. As a parent you want your children to be well taken care of and they need food in their bellies, a roof over their heads, and clothes on their bodies. But I've learned there are small steps you can take, even if they don't feel like steps at the time, that will reintroduce positivity into your life. Maybe they won't land you more money or the dream job you've always wanted, but they might just remind you of the person want to be and the person you already are.
Read more from Your Brain on Work, Levo's new series on our emotions, feelings, thoughts, mental health and states of mind as we navigate our careers. If you have a story you'd like to share, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Image by Getty)