This week I had a revelatory moment. It struck me as I was walking into a building and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the plate glass. I saw a smartly dressed woman with a laptop bag slung over her shoulder.
“Where have you been the last three years?” I asked the mirror image as I pushed the intercom button to announce my arrival.
As the door buzzes open, I consider how it feels to wear a black dress with flowing red scarf tied loosely around my neck, stockings, heels and all-business glasses. Even if I feel a little shaky on the inside, I have all the right props. No one here will have any idea that I haven’t done this full-time in three years.
I was glad to leave my current persona at home for a while. I liked wearing my old self even if just for a day.
I love my children. I love my husband. But they cannot define me and be enough for me. I need a little more. It feels good to be working again.
Several weeks ago I accompanied my husband on a business trip to Chicago. Mostly I did it to get away. Partly I did it to witness the presentation I’ve been hearing about, and helping him with in small ways, for more than a year. Afterward the organizers invited us to dinner at a popular restaurant in the downtown business loop.
While I’d secretly hoped for a quiet dinner for two, so I didn’t have to worry about how many glasses of wine I’d ordered, and I could kick off my uncomfortable shoes under the table, it wasn’t to be. Instead I felt “on” since it was more of a business dinner. I had to watch my words and not get all, well, the way I can get sometimes.
After a few exchanges of pleasantries I was asked: “So, what do you do?”
I mentioned my part-time freelance business that is temporarily full-time.
“Oh, so mostly you are just a mommy then.”
Why the instant leap? Why the dead-end of conversation once the leap is made? I felt crushed.
Mommy — not even mom or mother — mommy! was said the way someone might spit out the word pedophile.
And I had thought the guy was pretty nice at first.
Just this week I logged on to Facebook to find a so-called friend had sent me some application quiz that determined my dream job was to be a wife and mother. Huh? First of all, this person knows I’m trying to return to the workplace. Where this whole you-are-better-off-at-home sublimation comes from I’ll never know. Rather than fire back some snarky remark, I just deleted the whole post.
But back to this week: I check in at the front desk, hand over my business card and announce who I am. Then, I’m led down a long, polished corridor that winds its way to the CEO’s office to conduct a joint interview with two high-ranking members of this organization.
I was taken seriously. I engaged in adult conversation, discussed plans, strategies and deadlines. I had a schedule to juggle, appointments to confirm and my planner was bleeding ink to the margins. It all felt so natural. People were paying attention to me. I wasn’t so-and-so’s mother or somebody’s wife. Not that those things are bad but I do have a name and my own identity. Motherhood and marriage can shove those things to the back of the closet.
That’s the upside.
The downside: My poor, poor house is a wreck. Tasks both inside and outside sit uncompleted. There are three family birthdays fast approaching, not to mention the whole holiday stress-fest. I have a mother who feels ignored, a visiting brother who feels slighted and probably a husband and two daughters who feel they’re not getting the service they’ve grown to enjoy.
This is my first big paid gig and I feel the need to do a good job, to be viewed as dependable, reliable and able to deliver on time, as promised when we set our terms in September.
It feels good to have a task, a deadline, responsiblity. I’m hoping these seeds planted will nurture a larger garden of opportunity down the road. If nothing else, I learned what I needed to do to be successful working from a home office.
I’m on the other side — even though it’s a short visit.
And I like it.
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