A bit of background: I’m a coach. I ran my own business for 8 years or so, combining high level corporate coaching with personal coaching. Heart-warming, cup-filling work which made a difference to people and earned me a good living. I loved it in so many ways, but as my firstborn reminded me, loudly and clearly when he arrived, it wasn’t ALL of me. The way I wanted to mother him (gently, attached, consciously) didn’t sit as easily alongside the work as I’d imagined it would. After almost 2 years of juggling work and family I chose to take a career break. It was hard to shut down what I’d worked so hard on and I cried over it, but it was also so right for us then and I have never regretted it for even one second. Another son and 5 years later, we have all felt the benefit. I am changed because I allowed motherhood to change me – I’m pretty sure it was supposed to – and I’m happier and more whole than I’ve ever been.
Still, while it’s been the very best thing to have had a chunk of years to be all about mothering (and I’m so grateful this was even a possibility for us), it wasn’t intended to be a forever choice. I always knew I’d journey back to work when it felt right and that call has been coming through.
So a journey back to work is on the cards, but, in fact, forwards rather than back. Because there is no going back, I don’t believe. Not for me. Intense experience changes us and while we can go back and put our old career back on like a suit, I’m not convinced that it always fits as well as it used to. At least, that’s how I’m feeling. And it’s ok to ask, ‘well, who am I these days and what do I give from where I stand now?’.
The answer has been a work in progress for a year or two. A hazy sense of knowing it wasn’t ‘this’ and it wasn’t ‘there’ but it might be ‘this’, perhaps with a bit of ‘that’. Foggy, unclear ideas and feelings; coded messages from my heart to my mind that took a while to decipher. But I’ve gone with it and I have an answer. I have a thing I’m going to do.
It’s not completely new – kind of an evolved version of what I did before combined with a heap of new stuff. It has threads that speak to every piece of meaningful work I’ve ever done. It’s a response to a wonder I’ve long held. It’s for people I would gladly spend my life upholding because I believe in their awesomeness (it’s for Mums).
It feels important. It’s everything I want to do work-wise right now. And it’s really quite scary!
Because it’s big and we don’t talk about this ‘back to work’ stuff enough.
New work and starting a business is big in itself. But restarting, reworking, relaunching, redesigning, re-entry into the world of work as a mum after a long time out – something that most of us do at some point in our journey – gosh, it’s HUGE. Add to the mix that it’s something you care deeply about and you still have your family to care for and… whoa!
Like much of motherhood, there’s this weird societal norm that says we should just get on with this big transition quietly and not make too much of a fuss. Well, I’m not sure I’m buying that. We need to talk about this. We need to honour the uniqueness of the part of the mothering journey where we begin to move away ever so slightly. And we need to hold a space for each other while we navigate it. If it’s exciting or terrifying, if it’s exhausting and messy – we need the space to say that it is. Hearing it makes people realise their own fears are normal and maybe stops them burying their thing before it’s grown wings.
And so, in the manner of a slightly wired friend who left her filter at home, I’m just going to do an emotional download on the subject. I know a few mums – in real life and on Insta – who are in the process of getting back to work at the same time as me and it might help them to read it. If nothing else it’ll quieten my head down and free me to get on!
All the scary things about restarting my career/business
I’m starting from zero. Again.
Standing at the beginning of something fresh and new is great in so many ways. And it’s also hugely daunting. Having stood here before, at the beginning of creating something, I know how much work it’s going to take. Working for myself was by far the most rewarding way I found of working, but it was also the most demanding. The first time around I had no concept of what was ahead. I wonder if it would have scared me off? This time I need to take the leap knowing all about what I’ll need to put in. The thought gives me butterflies. Have I got it in me a second time around?
Where the heck do I find all the time?
I mutter this often. When I’ve written an epic list which’ll take me ten times the available window I have to work that day, I feel massively overwhelmed. There’s a lesson in allowing the rest of life to dictate the pace. There are only so many hours in a day or week when my little loves don’t need me. Sometimes those hours are all that are available. I’m learning to just go with them. Balancing the odd late-night working with early nights the rest of the week. Calling in some daddy-daycare when it’s possible. I try to tell myself it’ll take as long as it takes and that has to be ok. Pre-children timeframes were very different, but these are the ones I have now so I’ll work with them.
Meanwhile, I do mental things like committing to a date and deciding I’m going to build my own website.
I don’t even know what to say about this. It just seemed like the right thing to do! Predictably it sparked a mass freak-out. Luckily I have a husband who thinks I’m invincible and is great at pep talks, a web designer friend who made it seem easy and the dogged determination I see in my four year old. So I guess we’ll just see how that pans out? (Help!)
Putting myself out there feels all kinds of vulnerable
There’s been a simplicity in being a full-time mum. Not needing to put myself out there for anything much has been a luxury. With no need to sell myself or anything else, I could just be myself. It’s been a healing place to sit. Just me in the world. No cloak around my shoulders. The work I’m creating comes from this place; from having been able to be my whole self without playing any corporate games. And when I step out there to offer it up, it will be just me, in the world, offering something I care about. That’s where the fear kicks in. The vulnerability of putting myself out there with an open heart, no protection cloak, and allowing my self to be seen… oh wow, somebody give me a shot of courage please!
There will be sacrifices
I’ve had the luxury for a few years of never really having to say ‘no I can’t do that, dear child of mine, because I have to work’. And so beginning to say it has felt strange and uncomfortable. The confused looks and the slight disappointment. Ouch, it’s hurt a little bit. I’m aware that to make space there’ll be times when I’m pulling away and while I don’t love the idea of that, I’m reminding myself of the other side. I’m raising two boys, after all, and it’s my job to show them a life well-lived. While I want to be by their sides, holding all the hands and reading all the stories, I also want to show them how to follow a path that matters to you. I want to find a way to show them that family and work can coexist happily when you’re mindful of balance. That work isn’t really work when you do something you love. That it all gives more than it takes away, for everybody. And so, I’m trying to embrace the small sacrifices here and there and keep in mind what it’s giving us all too.
I sometimes have to remember why I’m doing it
The fears, the mum guilt, the vulnerability – on certain days when the wind is blowing in the right direction they swirl around and put me in a negative headspace. I end up questioning it all, wondering if I’ve got my priorities entirely wrong. Those are the days I have to dig deep and remember my why. My why is that this work calls to me. It allows me and others to be creative and grounded, supported and well-resourced. It’s wholly about the good it does. My inner critic can be loud and harsh and I’m getting used to quelling it’s fears. It isn’t about succeeding or failing, it isn’t about it or me, it’s about them. It’s about showing up with something good to offer those who want it and doing the work well.
And so you see, I can talk myself into it and I can talk myself out of it at any given moment. That might go some way to explaining why I feel like a crazy person some days. Given I’m attempting this alongside finishing off my Handwork course (a portfolio of 2 year’s work!) I very possibly am crazy! What it comes down to though is: it is a bit scary, there isn’t enough time, I’m feeling pulled in all directions, but somehow I’ll make it work because I have to. I’m a driven, creative woman, who also happens to be a mum, and I need to honour that.
I’m looking forward to sharing more of what I’m hatching here soon. I don’t quite have the words yet, but they’re not far off. And if you’re walking in similar shoes to me right now, beginning something exciting and scary which changes things at home, I see your inner crazy person and I raise you mine! Comment if you feel like it and we’ll cheer each other on.