When I started telling people I was looking to go back to work, the first and most common question I got was, "What do you want to do?" It sounds simple enough, but that's a deceptively complex question. They would often follow it up with questions like, "Do you want to work part time?" or "Do you want to do the same thing you were doing before?" My typical response included something like this: "My biggest priority is to find something that will allow me to balance work with my home life. So I'm going to start by looking at companies close to home. I will ask for flexibility or part time. What I do is less important to me than being able to do it and still have time for everything else."
That last line. I really meant it. When I started the search, I just wanted a job. I knew I wanted to go back to work, but I didn't really care what it was. I just wanted something to do, something that would enable me to contribute financially to our family, but a job that would be easy enough/close enough for me to still do all the other things I wanted to do.
So I started applying to jobs that were close to home, as well as jobs that I knew I was overqualified for. Then I got a few interviews. One was with a company really close to home. One was with my old company. When I started interviewing and talking to companies about the specific jobs and meeting the people with whom I'd be working....my thought process changed. I realized that I did care. I realized that I don't want to go back to a work situation where I'm just putting in the time in order to get a paycheck. Those last couple of years before my break...I was miserable. I don't want to do that again. If I'm going to take time away from my kids and my family in order to work, it needs to be worth it. It needs to be something that I will enjoy, something that I will be proud of, something that will motivate me beyond the paycheck.
The job that is close to home is a good job. It's a small company, and I think I could do well there. The job with my old company would be very easy for me to do. But I interviewed for another job as well. It's in the city, so the commute will be awful. It's actually a consulting job, so I'm not actually sure where I will be working every day - it depends on the client I am assigned to. And of course it is full-time and it won't necessarily be easy. But as I talked to people about it, I realized I started getting excited about the idea of being in consulting again (It's what I did the first half of my career). I also realized that I really liked every person that I met with. Smart, ambitious, cool people who lead full lives and have many interests both inside and outside of work. I want to be around people like that.
They offered me a job yesterday, and I'm hopefully going to get the written offer and officially accept it before leaving for our trip at the end of the week. I will start next month.
Ah! And then I will stress out for a while until I figure out how we're going to do everything. But I know we will. We will find someone great to pick up the boys from school, and we will probably hire a house cleaner once we get to the point where we realize we don't have time for that any more, and I will find more recipes that I can make on the weekends and turn into new quick and easy meals during the week. I will squeeze in occasional early bouts of exercise during the week and start exercising on the weekends again. It will all work out. And when I get settled in to my new job, I hope I'm able to say that it's all worth it. I feel pretty good about it right now.
PS - Have you seen this video of Michelle Obama? She speaks as someone who truly understands the struggles of balancing family with a professional work life. Check it out.