Creating Safe Spaces

I had the honor of sharing these thoughts about transitioning from full-time work to part-time work to truly staying at home over at the MOPS blog a couple weeks ago.

creating-safe-spaces-1002x539When I quit my teaching job right before having our first daughter, my principal told me he fully supported my choice to stay home. But he didn’t think it would last long. I thought that was an interesting thing to say. I was committed to raising our kids and being completely content focusing on them full time, at least through the beginning of elementary school.

Just five weeks into being a new mom, a position at a new museum opened up and I decided to apply. This seemed like such an incredible opportunity: A job that combined my undergraduate degree in art history – a notoriously difficult field to find work in, my master’s degree in teaching, a brand new program committed to best practices and the flexibility of part time.

Partway through the interview, all of my postpartum feelings surfaced and I found myself faltering, wondering why on earth I had squeezed into a dress that had fit just last year, left my baby with my dad and driven across town for a job I didn’t want. I think my future boss felt the emotional shift, too. As kindly and HR-correctly as she could, she wondered if this was a good fit for me at this time? It seemed as though I needed to focus on being a mom for now.

I went home and focused on those whirlwind first six months with Bea. We settled into a good routine. I started going to MOPS, we made friends and even ventured on a play date or two. In January, I got an email from the museum: Would I be interested in applying for the role of Gallery Teacher? They would love it if I’d consider putting in my application.

This time, during the interview, I felt confident and ready for a new adventure.

My old principal was right – I didn’t stay home long, not really. Work at the museum definitely had its challenges but overall, the hours weren’t too demanding and the work was exactly what I loved: Teaching in front of priceless paintings, guiding kids in new ways of looking and thinking, and then going home without the grading and stresses of classroom teaching.

When I got pregnant with our second daughter, we were in a really good rhythm. On paper, life looked pretty amazing. I was balancing it all! I was play dating and teaching and figuring out self-care!

Until … I started feeling like I wasn’t doing a good job at anything. I was resenting my time commitment at the museum; I was too tired to be as engaging of a mom as the girls needed.

My ever-supportive husband gave the most unhelpful advice: Do what makes you happiest; what makes you the best mom. I’m behind you! What I really wanted was for him to just make a tough decision for me. Ultimately, I knew what I needed to do.

I talked with my boss and told her I loved the job and I loved working for her, but it just wasn’t a good fit anymore. After that last conversation, I felt a sense of relief. With Bea starting kindergarten next year, we’ll have a lot of changes as a family. It’ll be the only year Elle and I have, just the two of us, before she starts preschool. I want to be mindful and intentional about this coming year.

My last day was bittersweet as I said goodbye to colleagues I had worked with for over three years. My boss told me that I had a job there anytime. I left knowing I had given my best and yet, there was a sense of peace and closure.

I recently wrote my purpose statement with a life coach: “I claim creativity and curate safe spaces for discovery.” After we crafted this statement, I was talking with her about my decision to quit my job. She laughed and said, “It sounds like you’re already creating safe spaces for yourself.”

I guess that’s my takeaway so far on this journey of motherhood. I am creating a safe space. Sometimes this is in the form of working in a field that invigorates me and excites my passions. Sometimes it means letting our playroom get messy and seeing this physical space as a place for the girls to create. Sometimes it means carving out time to write and pursue other unpaid passions.

What I do know is that I’m learning to hold these moments as sacred. I don’t take lightly that I had the opportunity to work at a world-renowned institution – a job many would dream of. I equally don’t take lightly the privilege and opportunity to stay at home during these precious, formative years.

One concern I had when I decided to quit was what I would say at a social gathering. Stay-at-home mom doesn’t keep the conversation moving nearly as well as gallery teacher. I worried about this new loss of identity. I was talking with an older friend the other day about these feelings and she reminded me that my identity, no matter what I’m doing, is in Christ.

And that’s so true. Regardless of working or staying home or some hybrid of the two, I’m remembering to place my identity in him, above all.

How has your identity changed over the years? What are ways you are creating safe spaces for yourself? 

Originally posted on The MOPS Blog: http://blog.mops.org/creating-safe-spaces/.

One Word: Capacity

Last weekend, some plans changed and Frank and I found ourselves already dressed and packed for snowshoeing with a babysitter booked for the day. After the smallest of seconds of wondering if we should cancel, we decided to continue on. Instead of the planned hike, we decided to revisit the trail where we first met, nine years ago.

capacityThe weather was perfect: Snow enough to need snowshoes, cobalt blue sky that makes Colorado famous, sunshine to keep us warm, and a trail that isn’t too popular so we had plenty of time as the only two on the path.

We talked about goals and hopes and dreams and wishes. We wondered what this next year would bring. It will be one of big changes for our family. Hopefully, we’ll see the end of a long business plan come to fruition; Bea will start kindergarten; Elle is becoming more active and articulate; I am still seeking a way to blend mothering and teaching and writing and volunteering.

Last year, my One Word was Enough. I centered my choices and decisions on the fact that I am the right woman for the roles I’ve been given. I am enough of a mom for these two particular girls; I am enough of a wife and partner for Frank; I am enough of a blogger (though I would love to figure out a way to write more often!); I am enough of a teacher (though I’m learning to draw clear boundaries around my work and life); I am enough of a reader (even though I missed my goal last year).

This year, the word that kept coming to mind as I thought of an extension of enough was Capacity. We are finding our groove as a family of four. I’ve been working and volunteering long enough that I feel I have a fairly good understanding of the time commitment both expected and that I’m willing to commit.

I know there are some commitments and dreams I have that I have the capacity to spend more time cultivating. I know that other enjoyable, life-giving areas already have my maximum time and energy. My hope is that I make space to discern which areas really could have more of my time and which areas are realistic, or even could use less.

Knowing the way this whole “one word” challenge goes, I wonder how capacity will show up unexpectedly. I have goals and ideas, but I’ve learned that this word often takes on a life of its own; that I am surprised at the ways in which it helps me grow and learn throughout the year.

What is your One Word for 2017? How do you maximize your time and energy?

Check out OneWord365 for word ideas and to find others with your same word.

Letting Dreams Simmer

We have friends who recently sold their house and many of their possessions to pursue a dream. They have a few short term plans, but are long-term open to wherever life leads. They are dreaming big and are taking big steps to follow that dream.

My sister-in-law is pursuing a career as a motivational speaker. She jumped in with both feet, quitting her job to pursue this dream. She is learning as she goes and is taking big steps to make this big dream a reality.

We have other friends who have had a dream of opening their home to missionaries in transition. After over fifty years of serving as missionaries themselves and encouraging others, their dream has just become a reality. They waited and saved and prayed and quietly pursued this dream.

Dreaming of more family time
Dreaming of more family time

Work has been insane lately for Frank. This is tough as we anticipate a change in our family dynamic, but also because summertime is supposed to be a quieter spell at the business and it has felt similar to a tax season schedule. (Maybe not that bad, but still long, hectic hours!) We’ve been dreaming about how we can make changes to this schedule to allow for more family time and flexibility to pursue more life-giving dreams. The reality is that we’ll have to dream and save and wait for a few years before making this change. It’s not just about us, but the employees and business model that depend on Frank’s hard work.

It’s easy for me to look at big, loud dreams and wish for immediate change and results for our own family. And, sometimes those big dreams are exactly what is needed to make a change or pursue a vision. But, I need to remember that dreams often simmer for quite some time. That as they simmer, we shift and prepare and become open to possibilities that the initial dream may not have been.

On the busy days, I want our dream to happen right now, but I’m learning to be content with letting our ideas simmer, knowing that we’re making small changes toward a bigger goal.

Are you a big dreamer or do you let ideas simmer?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Keeping the Future Open

I never paid much attention to my LinkedIn profile before Bea was born. I had been at the same job for seven years and, while the lure of other districts or overseas experiences was tempting, I was content to stay put. About a month after the newborn fog started to lift, I had sudden stress about my resume. Who would hire a stay-at-h0me mom? What does one even put for that gap? Would I ever be employable again?

Who needs a job when you can have hammock time?
Who needs a job when you can have hammock time?

Fortunately, these anxieties were calmed as Bea and I found a routine and I settled into a groove of enjoying my baby and getting to know other moms. About a year later, I got a part-time job working at an art museum. As an art history major with a graduate degree in education, being on a team of gallery teachers seemed too good to be true. The job’s flexibility and the fact that I was able to combine two of my passions has been an amazing experience.

As we think about our next child, some of those same marketability fears have started to creep in. What do I want maternity leave to look like? What are my priorities in this phase of life? How can I keep my foot in the door but also focus on my family?

One of the most amazing things about working part-time and having a more independent child is the ability to pursue interests that had always been put on the back burner while I had a full-time job. Is now the time to pursue those other interests?

And then I step back and realize I’m trying way too hard to control the future. I am amazed at the doors that have opened for leadership opportunities, for teaching experiences, and for use of my time and talents in ways I could not have imagined. As we near this next phase of family life, I need to stop and let go. To remember that when I stop trying to over-plan my life, doors open to possibilities far beyond my imagination.

What is your view on women and family and work? How do you find life-balances and holding careers loosely?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.