Leading into my 50th birthday, I reflected a lot on my life and where I currently find myself. I was asked about six months ago, what would you tell your 30-year-old self? What decisions would you change? I responded, “I would not change any decisions I’ve made.” I made them at the time with thought and purpose and even amid devastation at certain points in my life, I still would not change my decisions. I do think there are some manners or strategies in which to move through your life. And had I considered those manners or strategies I may have found greater comfort and a different perspective when the waves and storms came my way. So, begins a seven-part blogging series!
Strategy #1: Keep Your Toe in the Water
Keep your toe in the water, whatever water is a resource for you. When my daughter went to kindergarten and my son was 2 years old, I quit my job and became a mom. I was a work at home mom, full-time mom, whatever term you would like to use, but my largest bucket of work and greatest focus was my kids. And I was grateful to be that and again, would not change that decision, but there’s a strategy to find some balance in that role.
Nine years later, I was forced to return to the workforce after divorce and the devastation that followed that announcement. I had severed all professional ties that I had created prior to leaving my work. I had walked away from a Masters Degree and the potential of working in a field for which I was passionate. Now, while the time I spent home with my children was irreplaceable, I could have been more strategic about that time. I advocate staying home with your children, especially during their elementary years, but there are ways to keep your toe in the water.
The minute I quit my job I turned 180 degrees to parenting. I took my toe out of every other pond that was within my reach at the time. I did not look back and never grieved the loss of that professional life, or the non-kid conversations, or the non-kid movies, or the non-kid sports, until….
Reentering the workforce was a challenge, but luckily, I had a friend that had gone before me and had an opening that suited my skillset. That was divine intervention. I now find myself in a role that would have been my dream job back when I finished my masters, so full circle and everything, however, here’s my suggestion to those women who are coming behind me by 20 years.
Keep your toe in the water and don’t turn your back on any one thing by 180 degrees. We are grown and developed and changed by different experiences in tandem with each other. Whoever you are now, at 30, maintain all those parts. Don’t give up on one because another is taking a lion share of the focus. Keep your toe in. Find a balance. Feed all the parts of you. Any singular life focus, with the exception of our focus on God, has the ability to pigeon hole us into something that our true selves never intended.
A life sprinkled with different experiences, conversations, directions, and practices is a life well-lived. And that life may prove to be more pliable during a storm, and the storm(s) will come. By being true to ourselves and our core and maintaining our toes in the ponds that provide different perspectives, outside of whatever our central focus is at any given time in our lives, we may have a better perspective as life changes.
I had an experience on my last day of my previous job, the one that launched me back into the workforce. I was helping facilitate a parent education session and the moms of young elementary children were talking about how all-encompassing it was, how their lives revolved around the kids. I shared the following:
Take time for yourself. Stay in contact with the things and people that sustained you before you had kids and don’t let your life before kids completely slip away. There will be a time when your child leaves for college (mine just had) and what you want is a community and a life that sustains and feeds you and allows you to grow past the leaving of your child. You don’t want relationships and interests that revolve solely around that child, because suddenly, in an instant, they are headed off and you don’t know where to turn. You may find yourself stuck talking about what came before and not growing into a new life that is set before you. You need other things to focus on and to talk about (and you may need a job).
I believe we are all more well-rounded by keeping our toes in different ponds that grow and develop different sides of ourselves, it provides another portion of ourselves, another pond so to speak. Then when devastation takes something in which we define ourselves, maybe we can find a resilience that we have been slowly cultivating in another pond.
By His Grace