Heading back into the workplace after either staying home with kids or working from home can cause no shortage of anxiety, fear and lapses in confidence. Continuing with my monthly series on building confidence, I asked award-winning humor author Lela Davidson if she could share a few of her insights with us.
Lela’s newest collection of inspiring, relatable and hilarious essays about the collision of motherhood and work, Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life, launched in September.
5 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Going Back to Work
by Lela Davidson
Going back to work is exhilarating and wonderful, but also scary and stressful. Heading back to a work environment means you’ll be expected to shower, get dressed, and show up with a smile on your face each and every day. It’s exhausting. But it’s also so very worth it when you’re sure it’s the time to return to work, or when the cash is going to make a significant impact on your standard of living. From fast track to mommy track to yoga-panted freelancer and back again, I have been all kinds of working mother. Two years ago I left my “life of leisure,” or at least the luxury of wearing yoga pants to the office down the hall. Going back to work was the best decision I made this decade, but it was still a rough transition. Here are some things I wish someone had told me.
Relationships take time.
I went from working at home with my dog, or in a coffee shop where the extent of collaborative human interaction was limited to my coffee order, to working in close proximity with dozens of other people. I had to interact with these people on a personal and professional level every day. All of the days. Even the ones when I didn’t want to talk to the dog, much less another person. In the beginning I would come home with zero energy beyond that required to eat dinner and crash onto the couch in front of the television. I wish someone would have reminded me that it takes a long time to get to know people. I wish someone would have told me to give myself the space to be myself and the time to get to know others and let them get to know me.
Motherhood builds marketable skills.
When you stay home with kids you acquire superpowers that you may not be fully aware of until it’s time to apply them in another environment. Arbitrating sibling conflict? Awesome training for getting your team to work together. Coordinating Thanksgiving plans with your parents, spouse, and in-laws? Super preparation for salary negotiations. I wish someone would have told me that my parenting skills were valuable in the marketplace.
You get used to the cash very, very quickly.
So much extra money! Yay, right? There’s going to be extra money for better groceries and eating out and clothes and extras for the kids and friends and family, not to mention that vacation you’ve been dreaming of. All true. Extra cash is real. However, the weird thing about money is the more we get, the more we think we need. That extra cushion, or extra disposable income, quickly becomes absorbed into the budget to the point where you cannot fathom how you once lived without the additional paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, extra cash is fun. Just know that it doesn’t feel like extra for long.
Getting dressed is hard.
For six years I wore my most comfortable jeans with a top that may or may not have highlighted my mama-muffin-top, topped with a raggedy cardigan. (Nothing beats the comfort of a ratty pilled-up cardigan.) Being required to look presentable and authoritative every day is an ongoing challenge, especially because I work in a very casual environment. It’s counter-intuitive, but looking pulled together and casual is a lot harder than just dressing up. I knew how to look like a CPA. Looking cool, trendy, trustworthy, smart, and like I’m not trying too hard? Still working on that. I wish someone would have told me about the capsule wardrobe sooner. I’m still a student of closet skills, but at least now I’ve got a system.
You are probably going to cry.
Maybe a lot. This is okay. It’s alright to cry– remember that song from “Free to Be You and Me”? But crying doesn’t feel great, especially when you’re hiding in the bathroom at work. But some days are going to be cry days, especially in the beginning. By no means does the occasional breakdown stop you from accomplishing your goals. You just pull out your Big Girl Kleenex and deal with the frustration that’s causing you to lost it. I wish someone had told me that the crying is simply a symptom of the overwhelm of change.
Bottom line is, when you know that going back to work is the right thing to do, you can power through the challenges and feel successful. You don’t have to lean so far in that you fall over, and you don’t have to max out your life. You do have to be patient with yourself and your family and your newly acquired work family. I wrote Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life to highlight the choices working mothers face every day. Through my own journey into and out of the workforce, I encourage you to celebrate the smallest wins and laugh off the rest–because in the quest for work life balance, we’re all faking it.
About Lela Davidson:
Lela is the award-winning author of Blacklisted from the PTA and Who Peed on My Yoga Mat? and Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life.
Lela speaks nationally about working motherhood, marketing, media, and faking balance. Her work as a freelance journalist has appeared in print, web, video, and television. By day, Lela is VP of Media & Entertainment at Acumen Brands, a widely recognized leader in social commerce and parent company of Country Outfitter.
For those of you in the Kansas City area, Lela will be speaking and signing books at the Junior League of Kansas City Missouri Holiday Mart this Sunday, October 25 from noon to 1 p.m.
The Holiday Mart runs from October 22-25 at Bartle Hall. The event supports the Junior League’s many community-focused projects that benefit women and children in the area. Get your tickets today!