Saturday, September 7, 2013

9:31 PM
This May Well Be The Easiest Part
Closely resembling a pack horse, I trudged for two miles under the baking sun - the sleeping two year old on my chest, the stuffed backpack on my back, and the five year old in the stroller along with two scooters, a helmet, the picnic blanket and a wet diaper. The downhill miles on the way to the beach had been a breeze, and the scampering in the sand and waves had been a blast. Now everyone was sandy, sticky and tired and we still had to get back to the car. These are the moments that we train for as parents - the engineer in us gets an improbable load packed away and stuffed in and precariously balanced; the nurturer in us lulls the babe to sleep on our chest; the athlete in us straps everything on, pushes everything forward, and

On today's outing I was lucky enough to be accompanied by my good friend and her adorable and tenacious three year old daughter (who mountain biked the four mile round-trip hike, pretty much on her own). This friend is actively engaged in questioning the next step of her life now that her daughter is older and more independent. As I thought about what she was saying, it occurred to me that our little excursion today was a microcosm of the general parenting experience.

The first couple of years of having a child, while they have their challenges, are the downhill part as far as I can tell.  Like never before, you are free to be in the moment. Nobody, least of all yourself, questions your decision to put everything second to the new found love of your life. You can go elbow deep or neck deep in the world of your MiniMe - forging an intimate bond; creating a new language of endearments; celebrating growth and discovery together. Work and your partner at least seem to pretend to understand.

But once MiniMe has grown a little more and strikes out on his/her own, work seems to want more, our partners definitely want more, and we get restless too. The slow, encumbered trudge uphill begins as suddenly, with playtime over, we start to question who we are and how we ended up where we did, with the jobs we have, in the life we are living. We wonder what change would look like, and how it could be affected. We know much more about ourselves now - what our real strengths and weaknesses are and wonder why we have chosen paths that maybe don't align as well as they could with our best selves. We wonder how to shift gears, change direction, realign. Do we go back to school, which means forgoing income, and may entail added stresses like moving or long commutes? Are we willing to swallow a bitter pill of starting on the bottom rung of a new career path? What is it that we really want to do anyway? How will what we change/do effect our families?

I had no good answers for my friend today, but having been there myself many times, I hope I could at least offer empathy as she worked through these issues in broken sentences while chasing her daughter and then circling back to my wagon train. She is a brilliant person with so much to offer the world, yet there is no obvious or easy path forward. Fully appreciating the complexity of her decision-making, all I could really offer was lame advice about networking, and the name of the book my husband once gave me: What Color is Your Parachute. Belatedly, I recalled the link another career-revisiting friend shared with me some time ago:

The first is Maybrooks is 'an online resource where smart moms – at all stages of their careers – can go to find jobs, post jobs, and connect with like-minded women. Our tools harness the powerful word-of-mouth network among moms, and empower them to help each other find flexible careers. These tools equally enable smart employers to leverage the “mom premium” and hire top-tier talent… from part time to CEO.'

While poking around, I came across a blog post on rediscovering courage. Jennifer offers services through her website and 'offers a variety of solutions for high-achieving, professional women faced with the new territory of transitioning into leadership positions in their careers, while simultaneously transitioning into motherhood. Jennifer understands the struggles that working moms face every day because she is a working mom herself.'

Another source of inspiration is a great list of career books posted by friend and fellow blogger Wellfesto. Her list included some time less classics (What Color is Your Parachute, The Seven Habits of Highly Efective People), as well as some ones that were new to me, including:

Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance: Based on the philosophy that we should focus our time and energy on the things we’re naturally great at and love doing, this is standard reading for lots of career gurus.

Maybe these resources, and others like them will assist my friend, and others, who are working through the What Next? questioning part of their parenthood journey.

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