Going Back to Work: When is it Time?

We have been away for a little over 24 hours on a little "staycation" in the mountains. After five years of being a mama, I know this is usually how long it takes to clear out the fog of mommy-brain and just be. After eight years of being a wife, I also know this is usually how long it takes for us to decompress, unplug and get a little clarity.

And because we work together, we spend a lot of time talking about work even when we are "on vacation." Where is our company headed, and what role do I want to play in the company as the kids get older and need me less? Is the status quo working for either or both of us? Then, inevitably, the big question –

Is it time for me to go back to work full time?

I work now. But not full time, and not outside of the house. There are action figures on the window-sill of my office and Barbie dolls under my desk. I don't communicate via telephone because I can't trust the tiny humans to stay quiet long enough to complete a phone call.

This is the way I wanted it. It has worked for us for a long time. But I wonder how much longer it will work for. Lately, every time I am on the computer, a tiny human pops up with big, sad eyes and says "Mama, stop working, I want to play with you." I feel horrible about it. I can buy a little time by giving them the iPad or turning on a show outside of "screen time" limits but I still feel bad about it.

On the flip side, our little company is having a few growing pains. R could certainly use more help, but we both know when I say I can – even though my intentions are good – I really can't do much more than I already do. And I feel bad about that.

How will I know for sure when it's time to go back full time?

I've been thinking about it all day, and I still don't know. I know these years with my kids seem long but in retrospect they will be incredibly short. And I may wish I could go back and make different choices. T will start kindergarten in the fall, and A will pick up more days at preschool. And here are the things I know for sure:

  • No Daycare: There is a huge difference between preschool and full time daycare; I want A to experience the former but not the latter. T never had to and I want them to be even. (Note: if your kid is in daycare, I am not judging you. This is about me.)
  • Dream Job: I've got a good thing going right now. And if I choose to leave it, it will need to be for the perfect opportunity. Which in this economy may be as likely as winning Powerball. But still.
  • It's About Me: Kids are resilient. What they think is normal is still largely determined by R and I. My mom loves to remind me that she stayed home with us for the first years of our lives and we don't even remember. My kids are not going to be ruined because I went back to work.
  • And a Little Bit About Them: My mom is right, we don't really remember. But that doesn't mean that we don't know that she stayed home with us as long as that was the right choice for our family. What I do remember is how hard my mom worked when it was time for her to go back to work, and all the other things she did at the same time. And because she did both things it never occurred to me that I couldn't do anything I wanted when the time came for me to choose.

I guess I must not be 100% ready; it is not time yet. But it may be time to start doing more networking, catching up with old colleagues and seeing what else is out there. Because even in a down economy, job opportunities will come up. Maybe when I see the perfect one, I will know I am ready.

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