A Working Mom’s Evolution: The Tween Chapter

pexels-photo-256430

A little more than two years ago, I read a blog post by Lindsay Mead which stayed with me. Called “Parenting a tween: an exercise in presence,” Mead gently wrote about the need to simply be there for your kids “often silently, often without acknowledgement” – especially during the middle school years.

This post planted the seed for what is, this week, the next phase of my life as a working Mom – working part-time. It’s something my husband and I had been planning for – potentially for 2018 – but which has arrived on our doorstep a little earlier than expected.

If my 12-year old could drive, I could continue work full-time.

The tween after-school conundrum is a mix of this: the kids are technically old enough to be home alone after school without setting the house or the dog on fire or maiming each other. But then there are the activities to which they need schlepping. And homework that needs supervising or odds are it wouldn’t get done. Basically, they need a grown-up in the house and ideally, someone qualified to drive.

Trade-offs in the search for work/life balance

Everyone I’ve told about this choice is excited for me. I think I’m excited for me too but truth is, I’m not sure. There are lots of trade-offs involved that are making me feel temporarily nervous about this transition.

On the plus side, I’m thrilled to get quality time with my kids during these critical years, less work-induced “how do I do it all?” stress, plus time/space to run some errands so they don’t eat into the weekend. Also not sitting on my arse at a desk all day is going to be great for my whole bod.

On the negative side: the obvious, reduced income. Also the handing over of some of the most stimulating parts of my work (being part of a management team, having operational responsibilities and managing/mentoring staff.) I worry I will miss the intellectual challenges these have afforded me till now.

Here’s the other thing. Learning how to “work less” is going to be a journey too, especially since I work in the always-on, news/social fueled PR environment that operates a mile a minute. It’s not just something you can switch off and on easily. Particularly since my brain is engineered in a parallel way – it’s an all-in beast that’s constantly flowing with ideas and to do lists, day and night.

Another concern: letting people down. For this to be successful, I need to be sure that my schedule changes inflict zero impact on my clients and teams.

Relief for the dual working parent struggle

I don’t know how we working parents do it, I seriously don’t. The thing I have HATED MOST ever since I went back to work when my youngest was an infant was the relentless tension over the schedule. The stressful machinations of figuring whose job or meeting was more important than the other’s when a child was sick or on one of the many, inexplicable early release days from school. Never mind doctors appointments, teacher conferences, requests to chaperone field trips, help in the classroom and so on. It has always felt like the whole system is architected to be anti-working parents.

Preschool, elementary school after care programs, nannies, babysitters cost a fortune. Not all of us have families around to help out in a pinch. If you are lucky (like me) you have an amazing network of other parents who can help if needed. But it pains you to always be the one asking for assistance driving your kid to this or that after-school activity.

But while I’m giving up income and some mental stimulation, what I’m gaining is multitudes of blessed relief from the constant tension of dual working parenting. No longer will my husband have to worry about cutting short his meetings out of state to get back in time to pick up a kid – I can carry this load now. And I’m hoping I can repay the kindness of my village too and provide relief to many of those folks who have so generously helped me.

The real winners will be my kids

Back to Lindsay’s post. These tween years are challenging. The kids might be independent but they are – at least to me – at their most vulnerable and susceptible. Raging hormones can color every situation, heightening the opportunity for drama, frustrations and sheer stupidity.

Being more present for my tweens during these years will, I’m hoping, provide a foundation of comfort and assurance. While they might not listen to me, I’ll listen to them more than I’ve been able to till now. I’ll learn more about their passing thoughts, their circles of friends, what they’re excited or fearful on. I’ll be there for the small everyday conversations but also for the big ones – whether they happen in the car, at the kitchen table or at bedtime.

And by watching me navigate this journey (they know how much I love my work), they’ll maybe come to understand and respect the lesson of finding value in both work and your personal life.

To me, this is worth it all.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

3 Comments

  1. Bravo! Good luck to you on this new adventure. xoxo

    Reply
  2. William Agush

     /  September 25, 2017

    You need to think outside the PR box. Reinvent what you do so that you’re not a part time Inkhouse person, but rather a full time at home something. Patty reinvented her phone sales career into a 20 year, really well paid, research recruiter career with 100% time at home. The hard part is not reinventing – it’s the loss of work dynamics, social structures and familiar surroundings. You should aim to not work part time for Inkhouse (sorry but it is true) but 100% of the time for you.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: