I have had a job since I was ten. No joke. Before I was old enough to babysit, my mom’s boss at the decorating center* where she worked paid me to black out codes in the wallpaper books** with a china marker.
I was still a pretty green lawyer when I started having kids, and we needed the money, so I never even contemplated not working when my kids were babies. Until I had my third child. Our kids are well -spaced so that may have contributed to the shift in the power dynamic, but things definitely got a lot tougher when we had 3 kiddos to contend with. I decided to shift from my full-time nonprofit job to contracting. I kept my employer as a client and intended to limit how much I worked. But then I took on another client, and another, and another. (I have a very hard time saying no to work that I am passionate about.) Still, I did not seriously contemplate stepping out of the workforce altogether.
Then we decided to move our 3 kids and dog across the country over Winter Break in 2015. After briefly considering that the children and I stay in North Carolina through the remainder of the school year, we decided it would be best if we all moved together over break. I would then take the first several months off from work to get everyone settled in. But then, before my husband had even accepted his offer, a job in Portland for me came up, and then another. How could I say no to paid work? And I needed to make connections in this new state where I have never lived or practiced law before. So, we bagged the idea of me taking time off, and I took one of those jobs.
But something happened to me during that year – maybe it was the travel required by both mine and my husband’s jobs; maybe it was the nature of the work; or maybe it was just September. For the first time, I really wanted to just not work. We were in a place financially that we could make it work (more on the logistics of this later) and I didn’t have a great way to transition to more flexible work, so I QUIT. Straight up quit. I gave plenty of notice. I was very nice about it. I may have even helped the organization out because they were making cutbacks anyway and decided not to fill my position. For the first time, I walked away from a job with no other employment prospects.
And I haven’t done anything work-wise for the past year. No contract work. No projects. No little legal favors for friends or family. When people ask what I do, I have no earthly clue what to say. I am on a career break? I am taking a sabbatical? It was during my annual girls trip with my two best friends from high school that I came up with Mommy’s Gap Year. Have you heard of a gap year? It’s an amazing concept – kids who are not ready to go to college get their parents to pay tens of thousands of dollars for them to travel the world while their parents keep working back at home, lamenting how much more money they should be saving for retirement. I think these kids are supposed to be finding themselves, or maturing, blah, blah, blah (I literally cannot hear young adults when they whine). There is actually an American Gap Association!
Much to my disappointment, my gap year has not included world travel. I have spent my time doing three things: 1) Taking care of my kids, mostly chauffeuring and watching their various activities and volunteering at school; 2) Home maintenance; and 3) Running. In so many ways, it has been great. However, I did not anticipate how much I would second guess my decision. It has also led me to call my entire career path into question. I can’t help but often think, “What’s next?”
More to come on what I have been up to and how to figure out what’s next. For now – next is some more volunteer time at the school library before shuttling four kiddos to gymnastics, hopefully squeezing in a quick run before gymnastics pickup for #3, home with #3 to finish homework until #1 needs to be picked up from play rehearsal, dinner, and then back to the gym to pick up #2.
*”Decorating center” was an 80s term for Interior Design firm.
**Before the internet, these things were necessary – oh, forget it, if you don’t know what I am talking about, this probably isn’t the blog for you.