I forget. I forget sometimes how hard it is to try to do it all. To try to do it all – and well.
I have worked since early years of high school. I have been a cashier and a waitress at restaurants. I have sold clothes and sunglasses at boutique and big retailers. I have worked in child welfare, in supportive housing, in healthcare. I have held seemingly important titles in my field. And for the last 4 years, I have worked part-time overseeing two housing programs.
About 4 and a half years ago, Sean and I made the hard decision for me to step back and work part-time. Child care costs were/are outrageous, I wanted to stay home with my first babe as much as possible but I also wanted to continue working as a social worker. I was excited when this perfect part-time opportunity at one of my favorite organizations fell in my lap. We are so grateful – beyond words grateful – for the ways I have been able to continue to work in my first passion while still being present for our sweet girls – my ultimate passion.
I have learned a lot about myself these last 4 years – both programs I oversee, I was part of creating them. I loved that part – flushing out the details, the policies and procedures, creating workflows, contracts, scopes of services, testing and perfecting program implementation. I love these parts of program administration. What I don’t love so much? Is after everything is set up – doing the same thing every day for 4 years. That part is tedious and a bit mundane. Of course when you work with people, there are unique situations that come up that require some strategic problem solving. But overall, I have done the same thing for the last 4 years. It became habit, I figured out a way to run the programs pretty efficiently – working in the office 2 days a week and about 10 hours from home the rest of the week. My files are pretty impeccable (patting myself on the back). But let me tell you – no one warns you how hard it is to be a working outside-the-home mother. There are days when I feel completely inadequate in all areas – mother, wife, social worker, athlete. It’s hard juggling all these roles. There came a point when I felt like I wasn’t meeting my full potential in any of these roles.
I realized a long time ago I was no longer invited to the brainstorming meetings for new programs. I wasn’t privy to the details of new contracts or grant applications. Of course I don’t blame them – I was only in the office 2 days a week and had lots of in-office things to get done. Ask anyone – where’s Alice? Oh, at her desk with her headphones in and working. There was no “moving up” or climbing any ladders in this position. 4 years. I have done the same thing every week for the last 4 years at work.
Today, my boss’ boss – (who 4 years ago, was my peer) came into the office on his way to the airport for a conference – to say thanks and goodbye. He wrote an amazingly thoughtful card. There are lots of nice things in it, but this stood out to me: “You are an impressive mother who prioritizes family while successfully balancing the life of a modern woman.” First, let me tell you, this card had me in tears (I literally ran back to his office and cried in gratefulness). Second, the love of a mother – regardless of whether you’re an out-of-home working mother or in-the-home working mother. The love of a mother – it’s fierce. It’s strong. It will do anything for her children – even sacrifice her career and her ambitions. Because the love of a mother pushes for her children’s ambitions. While I am at peace with the stall in my career – it still makes me sad to think about all my peers or even people I supervised over 4 years ago who have now far surpassed me.
Today’s my second to last day of working outside-the-home. When we move, I’ll be full-time at home with the girls. I’m both excited and terrified. I was never the girl who dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom and wife. My examples of strong women were my mom and aunts who have worked ALL of their lives while providing everything for their children. Those were my goals. But here I am, ready to leap into this new life. I am even homeschooling (we’ll see how that goes. Seriously.). I’m ready – but I’m taking a moment of silence and saying goodbye to this life. This life of this very particular and efficient part-time social worker who has housed hundreds of people experiencing homelessness. Who has connected hundreds of people to necessary healthcare services. Who has taken part in writing grants and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for the most vulnerable people in the city of Chicago. Hopefully one day I can fully decide without barriers or regrets to work as a social worker again. But for now, bring on all the people experiencing homelessness on the streets of Silicon Valley (eye roll). Olivia, Lucy, and I are ready to befriend you.