Thrill, guilt, empowerment of a job

January 23, 2011 

I began this column in September 2008, shortly after leaving my full-time reporting job at The Olympian to spend more time with my three children.

They were 1, 3 and 7 and, other than maternity leave, I had never experienced the full-time mom lifestyle. I had longed to be one of those women at the mall who sip lattes and watch their children play in the toy area; let their children sleep in during school breaks, instead of rushing them off to child care; have time during the work week to make biscuits and apple pies from scratch, while keeping their houses immaculate.

And with the exception of the housework – which lost its appeal around week two of my life as a domestic goddess – I feel extremely lucky that I was able to experience all of those things and more.

In September, my oldest son began kindergarten, and my youngest son began preschool. And it turned out, more change was on the horizon. In December, I was rehired by The Olympian to cover education. Here’s how the transition has been so far:

Week 1: Woo-hoo! I’m returning to the ink-stained trenches of newspapering. I’m thrilled, scared and basically freaked out because this is going to be a huge lifestyle change.

I raid my mom’s closet to come up with a week’s worth of professional-looking work clothes. Let’s face it: I’ve spent the majority of my life in ratty T-shirts and yoga pants or cut-off jeans over the past two and a half years. I can’t wait to have a reason to dress up in pretty clothes.

On day one, I wake up early, straighten my hair, apply makeup and make a latte with our new espresso machine before heading out to work. Could I be any more on top of things?

Of course, it helps that my husband is on vacation this week, so I don’t have to worry about taking care of the kiddos.

By the time I reach the office, my stomach is filled with butterflies. I want to fit in with my coworkers, impress my bosses, and avoid “The Mommy Track.”

The week flies by, and I’m basking in the honeymoon period of a new job. The best part is that every night when I get home from the office, I’m welcomed by children who are jumping for joy to see me. This is going to be wonderful.

Week 2: Reality sets in. My husband has gone back to work, and I’m in charge of getting the kids ready for school every morning.

They’re not fans of waking up 30 minutes earlier than usual, especially since they slept in during Christmas break. The 3-year-old cries every time I drop him off at the child-care center. The big kids love the after-school program on the first day, but they quickly decide that it’s not nearly as fun as being at home.

By Wednesday, I’m exhausted, grouchy and sore. Apparently sitting at a desk and writing stories uses different muscles than sitting on a couch and watching “Dora the Explorer.”

I’m also sensing some anger in all of my kids and my husband. My decision to return to work was affecting all of their lives more than I had realized.

I cry on my way home on two different nights. I miss my family, and wish I could be home to help with homework, cook dinner and kiss them good night.

After feeling the first week like “I am career woman, hear me roar,” now it’s more like “I am tired, leave me alone.”

On the other hand, I’m making some progress on my job. I’m learning some new computer programs, meeting new people, and getting reconnected with former coworkers and sources. I even decorate my cubicle a little bit.

Week 3: OK, there’s nothing like being a new employee on probation, and calling in because you have a sick child.

Our youngest son came down with a severe ear infection on Monday and his brother woke up with a sore throat and horrible cough on Wednesday.

It’s a good thing I have cool bosses who allow me to work around my husband’s schedule so that we can stay home with sick kids.

And in between those days, Mother Nature throws in a snowstorm that makes for a dicey commute.

There are times in the week when I wonder if I’m secretly being filmed for a reality show called “The Real Housewives Who Enter The Work Force.” I hope not because I haven’t had time to fix my hair in days, and I keep forgetting to wear makeup.

The good news is that I no longer feel the high levels of guilt I did last week. I think it’s because I don’t have time to dwell on the things I’m missing at home.

By Thursday, I actually feel somewhat empowered: If our family can survive everything that happened this week, we can handle almost anything.

Oh, and bonus: I got my first paycheck.

I think I could get used to this.

Olympian reporter Lisa Pemberton is busier than ever with her three children. She can be reached at lisapemberton@rocketmail.com.

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