Today’s post is part of the From Left to Write online book club. The idea of this book club is not to write a book review, per se, but rather to write a post in which the blogger connects that month’s book to an experience from his or her own life. One of the book club books for May is Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Success and Happiness in Modern Motherhood by Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple.
Have I told you all about my Coffee Klatch? Once a week, give or take, I have coffee with three wonderful friends after we drop our kids off at school. We rotate houses and we have a friendly competition to see who can make the yummiest breakfast treat. It just started this year — in fact, two of the members are newcomers to this area — and we didn’t intend to make it a weekly gathering. We just decided to get together one Friday morning. And then decided to do it again. And again. Next thing we knew, it was a standing date.
The Coffee Klatch includes one lawyer (ahem), one doctor, and two women who have worked in corporate America. We all have degrees from prestigious schools, and impressive resumes. We are all married and have young children. None of us work full-time. All of us feel really, really ambivalent about it. We talk about everything at our weekly gatherings: parenting, our spouses, our kids’ school, decorating, cooking, books — you name it. But the one subject that we return to time and time again is our careers. All of us feel consumed by the same set of questions. Should I go back to work? What should I do? What I did before? Or something different? What will happen to my family’s life if I do go back to work? What will happen to my life if I don’t?
Our doctor has looked into going back to work part-time and we have encouraged her to explore that option. One of our businesswoman launched a business and we applauded her for that. When she wondered what do next, we helped her brainstorm. (Our other businesswoman is none other than Chef Druck who may actually work a forty-hour week between her twenty-five different jobs and her blog.) When I express my concern that I am a disappointment and a failure for walking away from my legal career, the other three listen sympathetically, but gently remind me not to be so hard on myself. We point out to each other that lives and careers are long these days. Julia Child didn’t even start to cook until she was our age! We haven’t given up our careers for good. This is just a phase of our lives.
That last point — that this time at home caring for young children is just a phase, not the rest of our lives – may seem obvious, but when you are in the thick of it, it is easy to lose perspective. This is especially true when you see your former colleagues and classmates making partner or landing that big promotion. You feel like the career train is passing and you are stuck waving good-bye at the station. But that is honestly not the case. There is life after staying home with your kids.
I was reminded about the possibility of a career relaunch while reading Good Enough Is the New Perfect, the new book on modern motherhood by Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple based on their survey and interviews of over 900 working mothers. This book captures almost perfectly how I feel about my life. It hit so close to home that at times, it was almost painful to read. I told my husband that I wasn’t sure I could even finish the book. It was like rubbing salt in my (self-inflicted) wounds. And then, I hit chapter 10: “Reentry and Reinvention on the Path to the New Perfect.” In this chapter, Schwartz and Temple profile two career coaches, one of whom even specializes in “career relaunch” and talk about women re-entering the work force after an absence. It was a revelation to me. Even the very phrase “career relaunch” made me feel better.
Again, it seems so obvious. But somehow, I wasn’t seeing what was right in front of me. Of course I can relaunch my career once my kids are a bit older, or in school full-time. It’s ridiculous to think that there won’t be a place for me, in the law or even in another field. I am smart, well-educated and have great experience. Those things didn’t disappear just because I stayed home or only worked part-time for a few years. Instead of thinking that I am wasting that fancy education and impressive resume by staying home, what I should be thinking is that that education and past hard work is my ace in the hole. It means that when I do want to go back to work, some employer will be interested in talking to me. And in fact, Schwartz and Temple point out that there has been a recent explosion in formal career re-entry programs and employers are beginning to realize what a gold mine the relauncher demographic can be for them.
Lately, what I have been doing the most is writing. I teach writing to law students in the fall. I write this blog, which has become a source of pride and satisfaction. I write for other websites. And I have recently had my first print piece appear in Chicago Parent magazine. It’s almost as if, without even realizing it, I’ve begun a new career as a freelance writer. While it may not be a lucrative career, it is one that is flexible. It’s one that could allow me to work from home, be around for after-school activities and still be intellectually stimulated.
Of course, there is always my first love, the law. Or my passion for food, which could turn out to be more than a hobby. Or public relations — my dad’s field and something I have been learning about through blogging. Who knows what I will do in two years when JR is in school full-time? I don’t have to decide that right now. But it is making me feel better to know that that moment is out there in the not-too-distant future and it holds a lot of possibility. This is what my Coffee Klatch friends have been trying to tell me all along.
A “From Left to Write” Book Club post. In conjunction with the book club, I received a free copy of Good Enough Is the New Perfect. Buy your copy here. And I really recommend that you buy a copy of this insightful and inspiring book. You can find more bloggers’ reactions to Good Enough Is the New Perfect by following the links on the From Left to Write website. Follow From Left to Write on Twitter here.