A Global Pandemic and Tiny Humans are Making My Career Decisions

A Global Pandemic and Tiny Humans are Making My Career DecisionsI recently {in the midst of a global pandemic and record levels of unemployment} made the decision to leave a very stable job with a company I had been with for nearly six and a half years to return to the first company I ever worked for in my career. Granted, I was in oil and gas and had been considering getting out of the industry for quite some time due to the volatility, but even I could not have predicted the move back to my very first employer where I got my start in human resources nearly fifteen years ago. If that’s not #2020 throwing yet again another curve ball at me, I’m not sure what is.

My career has always been extremely important to me. Each and every move I’ve made over the past fifteen years whether it was joining a new company or taking a new role has been carefully thought out and planned {usually with multiple spreadsheets and pro/con lists}. My husband has always been a huge supporter of my career decisions over the years and has always trusted that I knew what I was doing with my career development. I must say that it takes a very secure and confident husband to be comfortable with his wife moving solo from Houston to Milwaukee to work for her dream company a week before their one year wedding anniversary {Thanks, babe! It was worth it. Xoxo}! My point is that I never make decisions about my career based solely on impulse {cue the entrance of the year 2020, please}.

The Opportunity for Career Change Without Taking A Step Back

One afternoon in July, I looked down and saw the name of a former colleague of mine from early in my career on my cell phone screen. We hadn’t caught up in years so I excitedly answered. She was calling to see if I knew of anyone in the market for an open position at the company. I gave her a couple of names of folks she could reach out to, then we caught up for a few minutes and said our goodbyes. I didn’t think much of it afterwards other than it was nice to hear her voice and catch up.

To my surprise, she called me back the following afternoon. She was calling to tell me that ironically, someone at my former company had just announced their retirement and that my old boss had asked if I would be willing to return. What happened next was something so unexpected and completely counter to every other decision making process I’ve followed in my career – a global pandemic and the tiny humans that I am responsible for made a career decision for me and I was just along for the ride.

What my former colleague didn’t know is that on that very day that she called me , I had been struggling with all things motherhood and all things as a boss. Whether to send the kids back to in person school…whether they’d fall behind if we chose not to…whether I was spending enough quality time with each of them…whether I was checking in enough with my staff…how I was going to stay afloat at work while trying to manage so much at home…if I was being a supportive boss to those on my staff who were also dealing with many of the same challenges as me and my family, etc. It seemed like this constant dialogue and self doubt was on repeat in my head at all times.

It had been an excruciatingly long 4 months of dealing with the impacts from the Coronavirus both in oil and gas as well as in human resources in general. For the first couple of months, I had been working 14, 16, 18+ hour days as my industry went through massive layoffs and restructuring and my function of human resources tried to write policies and guidelines around how to deal with the Coronavirus in the workplace. The latter part of that was extremely difficult considering there were few prior examples or applicable laws to turn to on the topic and expert guidance and opinion seemed to vary by day.

“Mommy, All You Ever Do is Work”

The toll that those first few months took on me and my immediate family was brutal. I was more stressed out than I’ve been in my entire life and honestly that time period is a fuzzy blur in my memory. I worked like a madwoman from my downstairs study at home from sunup to sundown and then continued to burn the midnight oil after we got the kids to bed each night. Over time, things slowly let up a little at work but I still found myself in this perpetual cycle of work and constantly doing more with less and satisfying the demands of everyone around me except those who really mattered.  I became incredibly snippy with my husband and kids. I stopped calling friends and family. I did nothing for just myself for months on end. All I did was work and constantly check my phone. My 5 year old son had withdrawn from me big time and frequently complained, “Mommy all you ever do is work” and “Mommy you’re not fun any more.” My 14 month old son’s face quit lighting up when I came into the room and it was clear I wasn’t at the top of his list of favorite people either. My husband and I were like ships passing one another and my 17 year old stepdaughter made a comment to me one night about not wanting a job in Corporate America if “that’s what it’s like where you have no life other than work.” I wasn’t proud of how much I had clearly let things unravel at home and the example I was setting for my kids.

So when the opportunity presented itself for me to get out of the industry I was in and return to the company where so many of my early mentors in my career still worked – I jumped. It was an opportunity to make a change without having to take a step back or make a career sacrifice like many have feared for working moms. The move wasn’t as much about the company I was leaving behind as it was about me needing to be in a different environment in a different industry that I felt both me and my family could thrive in during these uncertain times {#2020}. The company I worked for was a great company – it was just in a very turbulent industry and wasn’t a fit any more with my current family situation in the middle of a global pandemic.  I remember exactly where I was on the day I was asked if I would be interested in returning to my former employer. I was in my living room with both of my boys who were being loud while my husband and stepdaughter threw dinner together in the kitchen. I had abruptly ended my work day to relieve our sitter, knowing that I had probably another 2-3 hours of work that night to get to after the boys went to bed. I was already feeling guilty about wishing my husband would just take care of everything that night with the boys on his own so I could get ahead and dig out of the email hole I was in for that week. When I was asked if I would be interested in returning to my prior company, the prior 4 months flashed before me in a moment. The late nights, the times I frequently lost my patience with those closest to me, the preoccupied mother behaviors I’d been engaging in for months – they all came to mind.

Slow Down, and Focus on What Matters

In that moment, I realized that I was no longer driving my own career development – a global pandemic and the tiny humans I am responsible for were. #2020 has shown me that I need to slow down, breathe and focus on what matters. It has also shown me that I need to embrace the season of motherhood that I am in right now and stop trying to hit the fast forward button so it will somehow “get easier” and also stop pretending I’m not in a hard season of motherhood with kids that range in age from 17 years to a year and a half and can “do it all.” STOP.THE.INSANITY.

I am now several weeks into my new job and I am so appreciative of the opportunity to work once again with my very first “work family” in an environment where I know I can thrive which translates into my family thriving. I have reconnected with my family and established some healthier work behaviors to keep myself in check. Things will continue to evolve in this part of my life over time, but my advice to all of you is this:: If you find yourself in a rut or in a work environment where you simply aren’t thriving as your whole self – there is no shame in making a change. It’s not giving up and it certainly isn’t defeat.  And it does not mean that your current employer is a bad employer.  It just means that there is a mismatch with priorities and something needs to change.  It takes serious courage and self awareness to look yourself in the mirror and admit that there has to be another way. And if it takes a global pandemic and the tiny humans you are responsible for to get you to see that, that’s cool too. 


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