We had about 30 minutes before our flight started boarding. I had used up all my entertainment ammunition on the flight over, so the kids and I meandered down to a Hudson or the like. As I skimmed through the shelves to find an educational product that could hold my son and daughter’s attention for more than ten minutes (a tall order), I passed over an article of Yoga Journal. I had just cycled through twenty minutes of sorrowful tears and solemn, blank stares. The plane would take me back to San Diego away from the parents, comfort, childhood friends, soothing thick accents and grounded roots. I wasn’t ready to leave this time and as I walked through the airport fully exposed in all my emotional distress, when I read the headline of YJ “The Healing Issue,” I thoughtlessly picked it up, dropped it on the counter, landing on an airplane sticker book and light up propeller toy, heard the beep, slid my card and trudged to the gate.
Hours later I peeled open the pages while Eleanor sleepily drooled on my chest and found an article on transformation. With each line the words drifted toward my experience as a struggling mom questioning my decision between stay-at-home-mom and working mom. Transforming into a mother then deciding which version you will be is one of the most soul-revealing transformations one may experience. Sally Kempton, the author of the article Quantum Leap, examines transformative journeys and identifies 7 stages. I want to expand and tailor these stages toward the transition of returning to work. I will not identify the specifics of what type of work, meaning full-time, part-time, etc.; my focus is the transformation which occurs when a woman decides to stretch herself toward a career while holding onto her family.
The Wake-Up Call
Maybe you find yourself needing more space to explore and serve outside of the home. Maybe money is tight. Maybe you’d be a better mom. Maybe your just curious. Whatever the reason, you’ll get a little seed thought and it will grow. You’ll begin to research your option, initiate conversations, visualize the changes. All this is your wake-up call for a transformation in your version of motherhood. Kempton shares evolutionary biologist’s Elisabet Sahtouris’ findings: “…stress is what creates evolution in nature: Plants grow through pruning. Human beings grow the same way.” The stress of your wake-up call, though life disrupting, will propel you toward an uncharted version of yourself; fulfillment is grown through taking risk.
What is my next step? Who do I aspire to be? What do I want my days to look like? How can I give to myself and my family? I’m scared. I’m not ready. It’s too hard.
Transforming your version of motherhood breeds an overwhelming load of uncertainty. You’re not only making decisions for yourself but ones that will impact your children and how they will grow. It’s daunting. Acknowledging this stage is vital in the transformation as a stepping stone to the other more rewarding steps toward fulfillment. I have stopped countless times at this stage. The baggage of uncertainty, guilt and shame precluded my ability to see beauty that might lie ahead. I wish I had known it’d only be temporary.
Asking for Help
Should I add work back into my life? It is a loaded question. Sifting through the uncertainty and scenarios is just too much for one mind (not to mention you’ve still got to pack lunches, clean the house, coordinate play dates, change diapers, etc.). Reaching outside of your head and hashing out all your thoughts and feelings surrounding this decision is mandatory in finding your optimal solution.
This is exactly why I want to support mamas and soon-to-be-mamas in these conversations. You need a sounding board and an objective perspective. Things can get heavy, it’s nice to share the load.
Grace, Insight and Awakening
Deciding and moving forward to see your better version of motherhood is exhilarating. Greeting yourself in the mirror after washing your hands with baby food on your button up to say, “You CAN do it all.” Feels so damn good. Live in this stage. Remember this stage. Absorb the whirlwind of joy and business. You jumped! And landed in an ocean of fulfillment and satisfaction.
Now that you have landed in the ocean of fulfillment and satisfaction let’s swim around for a while. Adjust your schedule, develop special mom and baby times, explore your new balance, grow and learn, steps outside of yourself and see your expansion, see the shift as a mother and worker.
The Fall from Grace
Transformative change ain’t always pretty. It’s usually hard. Dinner is hard. Balance is hard. Guilt is hard. You’ll find big waves in your ocean of fulfillment and satisfaction. You’ll have to find what works through experiencing what doesn’t work. Work will bleed into your home and vice-versa, sometimes it’ll be for the best and other times for the worse. Learn and grow from the hardships, don’t beat yourself up or jump ship; see each hurdle as just one little hurdle rather than the whole race a mess. Just tread, mama until you can return to your strong stroke.
How can you be every version of yourself that you aspire to live? Kempton highlights contradictions in this stage; the transformation has pulled you from energetic to aspirational to motivated to accomplished to struggle to humble…now integrate. It’s powerful to look back at your transformational journey and use your experiences to grow wise and confident in your decision to build your version of motherhood.
How can transformation from stay-at-home-mom to working mom stretch you? It’s scary, but you might develop into a version of yourself that is more beautiful than you ever imagined. We are so fortunate to be mothers in a time where we have authority over our transformation. Whether you want to work a little or a lot or somewhere in between we have those options. Ask questions and plant the seed to what might be.