With my maternity leave coming to an end, it probably comes as no surprise that I’ve been feeling sad and anxious about returning to work. My last day at the office was back in March. The transition will certainly be difficult, especially because Mr. Smith is going to be at home by himself with five kids for the next few weeks, until school starts for Goofball and Tornado. It’s a lot to process. Yet, one of the issues wearing on me most is where we’re headed over the next few years.
In looking forward, and I’ve also been thinking back. There was no birthday post this year, but I recently celebrated number 35. I’m smack dab in the middle of my thirties, what will likely turn out to be one of the longest and most defining phases of my life.
A lifetime can easily be divided into different phases. There was childhood, my teenage years, and then the period of four years that I attended college. The next couple of years are best characterized as the “learning to adult” phase. Mr. Smith and I bought a house, made poor financial decisions, got married, wasted time, and had a fair amount of fun. Then, we needed more money to pay for our unreasonable living expenses, so off I went to graduate school. Our current phase is sure to be defined as my “working mom years.”
We had Goofball during the first year of my professional career (2010). Life since then has been very busy, but in many good ways. These years have been dominated by the constant balancing act of being a good mom and work responsibilities. Working moms know all too well the struggle to try to do it all . . . the work assignments and appointments, sick children, teacher conferences, finding opportunities to pump, drop-offs and pick-ups, and staying up late to bake birthday treats. It never ends.
But wait, there is an end in sight. If all goes according to our plan, then this “working mom phase” will end in about five years, when we embark on our new adventure of financial semi-independence. I’m actually past the midway point of this phase then, heading towards the light at the end of the tunnel.
I guess what has really been bothering me is that there are no significant breaks from work coming up during the rest of this phase. Every other time I returned from maternity leave, we were already planning on having at least one more child. Caring for a newborn, or two, is certainly no vacation. However, I always enjoyed the break from work responsibilities and having time to devote entirely to my family.
Thinking about what lies ahead over the next few years is daunting and intimidating. Raising five kids while working full-time is going to be difficult, but we also have a lot of extra work to do (frugal living efforts, the rental property, side hustles) before we can pay off our debt and reach financial semi-independence.
I am finding some solace in the idea that you can survive most things for a little while and that unpleasant experiences are usually more bearable when there is an end in sight. This phase will only last a few more years. Instead of dreading my return to work, I need to embrace the hectic, busy days that I have left to be a working mom with young children. I need to focus on the positives, like being an example of diligence for the children, and make the most of my time at home with the family. I can’t afford to waste away entire years just looking ahead to the future, so it’s time to dig deep, power through, and give my all to finishing strong during this phase . . . it won’t last forever.