I’ll be honest, when an amazing company hired me to write for its website and actually hired me as an employee, I was stoked! After years of working from home (alone), I felt excited to finally be included–to be part of a creative team. What I didn’t expect after two months of working for this company has finally started to materialize into something discernible.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far about joining the workforce after primarily staying at home with my kids for over a decade.
- Suddenly–you’re the old one who can’t relate to everyone else. You go to work most days and listen to exciting plans being made by people in a younger phase of life who have no kids. Quite frankly, you start to feel left out. In fact, every time you start to give your opinion on something or talk about your personal life, you feel self-conscious because you know they’re just being polite in listening to you and don’t really care.
- You have to learn how to socialize with adults again. If you’re an introvert like me, expect to feel socially awkward when you return to the workforce after being a stay-at-home-mom for so long. Your new co-workers are likely complete strangers and have very little information about your home life. You say something, trying to be funny, and fall flat on your face because they don’t “get you” just yet. Pretty soon, you realize most of the topics you regularly lean towards–parenting, being tired, having a son with ADHD, raising entitled kids who don’t appreciate you, stress eating–these things are not relatable to the majority of people in your department. You realize you just sound bitter and uneducated, so you become less interested in socializing.
- You gain weight. Learning new things is scary at first and what do I do when I’m scared, nervous, or stressed out? I eat. Because it gives me comfort. So I’ve gained more than I’d like to admit. In fact, I just polished off a bowl of ramen noodles and a can of soda at 10:30 p.m. because I was hungry and felt like I deserved it for hauling my kids downtown to see my boss sing in her band. Because, I really did want to see her, I’m tired of my kids running my life, and the handful of mom friends I used to meet up with feels really inaccessible at the moment.
- You stop having time for the little things. Like being able to grocery shop mid-day or being able to lie down in bed while your toddler watches Netflix for two hours. You miss going for impromptu bike rides and workouts become obsolete. Who has time for that when you’re not at home?
- You eat like crap. Seriously. I haven’t made a green smoothie in ages and I used to have a morning ritual that allowed me to wake up, workout, and drink a smoothie, followed by a gallon of water throughout the day. Now I wake up, rush around to find the best outfit to conceal my fat stomach, apply my makeup as quickly as possible before my toddler wakes up and interrupts me asking for breakfast, and then I must wake the older two so they have time to eat and get dressed before we leave for the day. I’m lucky if I remember to bring my own lunch to work, which usually consists of a wrap or microwaveable noodle dish.
- You feel liberated, yet lonely. What, again? Here I am saying I was lonely at home, and now I feel lonely at work. As I explained, the feeling of being at work and being part of a team can feel so good when you “need a break” from your mom life. You feel like you’re finally getting the respect you deserve, the pay you need, and a workspace all your own. Yet, when you’re away you feel guilty for leaving and for not being able to meet up with your old mom friends at the park or Carls Jr. That part of your life slowly but surely starts to disappear, and it makes you ache inside.
- You start to pine for your old life. Because the grass is always greener on the other side, you start to wish for the way life was before your job (which at the time sucked and you wanted out). Now you want to quit your job and cherish your motherly duties of washing dishes, doing laundry, and planning your day centered around your child.
I keep telling myself things will get better. That time will make this phase in life easier and meaningless. Yet, I can’t help but feel a longing for one last child, one last chance to be the Pinterest mom, one more opportunity to focus on the family and not on work. But it can’t be. I must work so we can be financially free.