I have been a Working Mom for 21 years. I start the words with capital letters because it is my name. It is me. I have worked sometimes more hours than others but, for the entire time I’ve been a mother, I’ve worked.
Every career decision I have made for 21 years has been with my husband and children in mind. I have built a community of people I can rely on to help when my children need to be picked up from school or driven in a carpool. I don’t know how I would have managed without my own mother who was always willing to pick up my boys from here and take them there.
My husband Todd and I have found a nice groove – a place where we both fit equally and pick up where the other leaves off. He married an ambitious, busy girl and I am still that woman today. I am proud to have done my best to do it all. I am a better mom because I am fulfilled in my own right. My boys know that and are two independent, wonderful young men. They are my greatest success.
Possibilities on the Horizon
And now I feel the shift of the winds as I begin the transition from Working Mom back to Working Woman. Michael, my eldest, is a junior in college and Scott is a junior in high school who is deciding, picking and preparing to leave. It is as it should be.
I am not afraid of the empty nest. As my son prepares to leave, I prepare for this new part of my journey. It feels oddly familiar. It feels like when I was in my 20’s, graduating from college with all the possibilities ahead of me. Now, however, I am older and perhaps a bit wiser. Now my plans aren’t to begin a career but to end it.
About four years ago, I took a class and the instructor told me that I should be a presenter. I hemmed and hawed but agreed to present at a conference that she was planning. She said that if I didn’t like it, I never had to do it again. Since that conference, I have not stopped speaking to groups of professionals and parents about best practice for raising and educating children.
Two years later, a colleague said that I needed to blog. I tried it. It has been unbelievably successful and was the beginning of a path that led me to writing for The Shriver Report. Success is exponential. You only need to be brave and to keep at it.
People ask me what I will do now that I have a certain amount of notoriety and I will not be tied to the timing and place of the Working Mom. I like steady rhythm of my full time job as a school director. I also love the ever expanding work that I do sharing my experience to help other people do what is right for children. After paying for my children’s college, I want more education of my own. My friends and family say that I should have a talk show or radio show. They talk about a regular column in written media. I dream with them. I laugh with them, but I would seriously do it.
According to the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, people in my age group are in the Generativity vs. Stagnation stage of life. He said that during the middle years of our lives, we concern ourselves with guiding future generations and contributing to society. When we accomplish that, we ensure that our lives count.
He is right. I want my life to count. I think we all want to matter in the world but my view of the world and my impact can be more expansive as more of my time is freed. It is time for my thinking to move past the daily schedule. I am ready for the big picture. I want to be where I will count the most.
There is only one problem – I am not sure where that might be. I hope the path keeps revealing itself as it has for me for a number of years. I hope that people value my age and don’t see it as a detriment. I have at least 20 more years of work ahead of me.
Lessons from Childhood
I’ve decided to take my own advice. I realize that the lessons I teach about what is best for children apply to adults, too. I teach parents to let children try and make mistakes. They learn the most from their mistakes and so do we.
I teach that the best gift we can give to our children is confidence and the ability to go forth knowing they are capable. I tell children that they should try new things and that a change in routine isn’t so scary. You never know what you will enjoy.
I feel like that 21-year-old making decisions about the adult I want to become. I look in the mirror and see a woman who is still becoming that person.
As our nests empty, we have a choice. We can lament the end of the raising children portion of our life or we can grasp the opportunities. We can prove that our age and experience make us more valuable, not less.
- What I Need Now: Jennifer Wells
- The Power of a Mother’s Love: How One Mom is Making a Difference for Kids with Disabilities
- Caregiving and the Battle of the Matriarchs
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