Who do I need to be now? Shifting my priorities

In the six months since losing my job, I have had to re-evaluate many of my own assumptions about what it means to be “successful” – as a business person, a mother, wife and maybe even as a woman. It’s amazing how easily we can become attached to our own notions, and also how groundless it feels to have them evolve due to life changes.

After my layoff, I made the decision to continue having our daughter’s nanny watch her four days a week, and to also place her in preschool two mornings a week. I did this, even though I knew it would come at a financial cost. My reasoning for that was simple: how was I supposed to build my business ventures if I didn’t have childcare? I have a Reiki and life coaching business that I’ve operated part-time for about three years and decided to focus more attention there, since I already had a client base and it’s something I enjoy doing. In August, I also launched a mindful living website, Danatopia, that was another interest of mine.

The timing of all this has been challenging. The economy has not fully recovered and in the last few months, people are watching their spending even more closely. My business revenue has dropped compared to this time last year, even though I have more time for client sessions and classes. In late December, I began doing social media consultancy and implementation work. Despite some possible opportunities, that has not fully taken off either. I’m also still waiting to hear back about a potential contract job I interviewed for nearly a month ago. And, my husband and I just found out this past week that the lottery-funded (free) Pre-K program we registered my daughter for this fall is on the receiving end of budget cuts. The City of Decatur school system is proposing charging a tuition for full-day Pre-K.

I’ve debated about whether or not to go back to work full-time. After nearly 14 years in a very structured corporate environment, it has been a breath of fresh air to pursue work that interests and speaks to me. However, the economic reality has been tough, and it’s hard not to feel discouraged right now.

Yet, I have also found myself questioning the need to work “full-time.” My daughter will be 4 years old in April and my stepson will be 13 in March. In the past 6 months that I haven’t been shlepping off to an office, it has put me more in contact with their daily lives. It has allowed me the flexibility to be there at times during the afternoons, and during the school district’s Fall and Winter breaks, as well as the week schools were closed due to a snow/ice storm that paralyzed most of Atlanta.

My children are are both at pivotal ages – my daughter is transitioning away from a dedicated caregiver to the school environment, and my stepson (who lives with us every other week) is in the throes of puberty and all the angst and pressure of middle school. Does it make sense for my daughter, who will already be away from home half the day in school, to spend more money so she can spend the rest of the day in what is basically a glorified daycare environment?  All this to make more money? Should my stepson be allowed to stay home alone for hours, unsupervised? I was a latchkey kid for a while in the ’70s and ’80s during the times my mom worked. I know full well what kids can get themselves into, and access to the internet and other online activity (texting) has opened up a whole new world. I’m not a Helicopter Mom, but my children should know that someone is always there for them. As my husband and I have observed, it’s hard to make up for that that lack of presence later on in life.

Look, I’m hardly Mother of the Year material. I do the best I can, despite my limitations. I never envisioned myself being the type to stay at home doing motherly, domestic things. I have a hard time being fully engaged with kids’ activities or am into scheduling playdates. I don’t fit comfortably into that world. At the same time, things are changing and I’m strugging to figure out where my place really should be. Am I a “career” person, a “mompreneur,” or am I just someone who has been unwittingly drifting towards being mostly a stay-at-home mom with a side business?

The issue here isn’t whether or not I’ll find a job I like or makes enough money. It’s really about what’s right for my family – and what’s right for me? Where do I need to be at this time in my life? Where does my family need me to be? There are no answers flashing like neon in the night. It’s this slow, frustrating and sometimes painful process (a transformation, I might add) that seems completely out of odds with the advice I give my life coaching clients. Unfortunately, I don’t quite have the luxury of sitting with the discomfort of change because there are still bills to pay each month.

I believe that things will eventually reveal themselves. I respect the laws of the universe as far as that goes. But sometimes I just wish for a whisper in my ear or an obvious sign that will make the process a bit clearer and less unsettling. It’s not just me who needs to know. My family does too.

(Image credit: Dan4th on Flickr)

2 responses to “Who do I need to be now? Shifting my priorities”

  1. awwww D! You know in many ways, I completely understand the internal struggles as a mom. In deciding to return to school & looking at the summer class schedule, it dawned on me that I will be missing the children music lessons practically the entire summer. This discovery almost made me put the breaks on the entire school plan because I felt I have lost so much time with them already from situations that had plagued me in the past. However, I feel that sacrificing things here & there for a year or so in order to solidify a better financial future and provide an overall better life for the entire family.

    Perhaps the biggest burden of being a modern day mom is finding a balance of the family’s priorities without completely loosing our sense of ‘self.’ Being a latchkey myself, I can understand the concern but I don’t really think its all that detrimental. As long as the time that you are together are maximized with interactions.

  2. […] News & World Report entitled 8 Ways to Find More Time in Your Day. I’ve blogged about navigating the challenges of work/life balance before, but this is the first time I think I’ve “outed” myself in the press with […]

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