Major Life Change Alert! I Just Started Working from Home.
I recently left my job as a producer at a major network news organization, where I was out of the house and in an office, control room, or in the field for at least 50 hours a week. I accepted a position as the managing editor and digital director for an amazing non-profit project that is tackling issues that are near and dear to my heart. But I can’t pretend that my decision to make the change was entirely based on what was best for my career.
I started working at the network when I graduated from college (actually I had interned there when I was still in school), and worked almost every single shift imaginable – midnight to 10am, 4pm to midnight, 2am to noon, weekends at 2am, holidays, 36-hour days, weeks straight without a day off…all while enjoying huge adrenaline rushes, a front row seat to history and the constant worry about how I would do this when I had kids.
When I became pregnant and found myself suddenly single, I REALLY started to wonder how I was going to make it all work. There were certain parts of my job that could have been made flexible, but I quickly recognized that wasn’t the office culture. And no amount of suggesting, asking or demanding, was going to make it such. At the same time, I realized that I wanted to be doing something that I enjoyed and/or make a positive contribution to society. Especially if it meant being away from my daughter.
An overly ideal goal? Absolutely. But I figured at least one or two steps in that direction would be better than where I was, which was constantly in a state of panic that one more ear infection, stomach bug or croup – and the whole deck of cards was going to come crashing down on me.
The nights I had to stay at the office until midnight, I would count the extra dollars leaving my pocket to pay for the additional childcare, while I tried to push away the guilt of not being there to kiss my daughter goodnight.
It sucked. No amount of leaning in was going to change the fact that I really began to hate my circumstances.That’s when I recognized that my life had changed, and that the conflict I was feeling was primarily because my daughter was my number one priority, and everything that conflicted with that made me really upset.
I looked for a job for about a year. As a close friend and colleague pointed out, I wasn’t looking for a career change, I was looking for a life change - and I didn’t want to jump just for the sake of jumping. I thought long and hard about a wide variety of opportunities, and turned down a number of them because they just didn’t feel like the right fit.
After a year, I was finally offered something that met my criteria and required me to work at home, with occasional travel.
I knew I wanted more flexibility, but not having an office? That is REALLY a big change. And the other offer I had on the table also had elements that I would enjoy – but a lot of international travel. I had no idea what I should do.
I slept on it. I talked to friends and trusted colleagues, and I prayed.
I realized that I gravitated toward an office environment because I am a collaborative worker and I LOVE people. And as a single mom, the office really became my main means of social interaction. After working at the same company for so long, I enjoyed knowing the name of the upbeat guy that delivered the mail, and knowing about 80% of the people I ran into in the halls. And the conversations? Oh, how I loved those impromptu conversations.
But when choosing between an office and my daughter, my daughter won – hands down. I am only a few weeks into being a WAHM (who knew there was an acronym for what I am doing?) and I can honestly say it all feels…weird.
I love being able to drop her off at school without aggressively checking my email, and sweating about the fact that someone might email me while I was commuting on the subway and out of touch. I appreciated the flexibility when she came down with a very violent stomach bug last week, and I was able to work on my laptop while she slept right next to me.
Did the illness still throw a wrench into my day? Absolutely. But it was an inconvenience, not the crisis it would have been if I had been at my old job.
And there is nothing better than being able to kiss her when I get up from my desk in my bedroom to use the bathroom.
But I miss the benefits of in person interaction, the subtly of a facial expression, bumping into someone in the hall that says something that inspires a great idea, and grabbing a coworker to make a Starbucks run. Working remotely forces me to develop and use a different muscle in my brain, and even though it is different and feels a little strange – I welcome the challenge, and I know this is exactly where I need to be right now.
I also wake up every morning and thank God for this opportunity and for the ability to make a choice…I recognize that there are so many women in my shoes that aren’t as lucky.