This Doesn’t Have to Be Your Life

So I am going to begin this at the end. There are 2 things I want you to remember as you read along:

  1. YOU are in control of your life
  2. Nobody is going to take care of you better than you despite their best intentions.

I decided to bring this up for 2 reasons: 1. I am SOOOOO tired of hearing people bitch about things being unfair or how their life turned out AND 2. I also realized there may be people out there who don’t believe things can change. So here is my story on how I went from feeling trapped and complacent in life to feeling there is a world of opportunity.

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So I was born a worker; I started working as soon as I could get my workers permit at the age of 14. I worked through high school, worked and paid for college and continue today. A few years ago, we had a house built and moved into a really nice, well-known neighborhood in our county. We were kind of pushing the envelope on the price but we made it work. A few years in, my husband got hurt on the job and anyone who has ever had to deal with workman’s comp understands what a pain in the ass this is. We had put our kids into private school at this point and now we had inconsistent paychecks. Being the fixer I am, this meant I needed to find a way to make all of this work. I have always made more money than my husband so it only made sense for me to get a second job. So that is what I did, I got a second job and then a third because we still weren’t making ends meat. We had exhausted all the loans we could get to help pay the bills and I sold all the jewelry that was worth anything.

This was a pretty dark and depressing time for us. My husband and I would do our best to try to keep life normal for the kids. I mean, they were little and they shouldn’t have to worry about family finances…that is our job as the parents, right?

In my head, I just kept telling myself….”you are the provider and you need to take care of your family no matter what.” So I kept plugging away with my 3 jobs. I would go to work all day, come home and get back on the computer every evening and weekend for the other 2 jobs (thank GOD I could do them from home for the most part). I figured at least I am home so they can see me but I wasn’t really present.

It was not until my sweet Ella came up to me one day and the conversation went something like this:

Ella: mommy, you are never here.

Me: sure I am, you see me every night.

Ella: yes, but you can’t play with us, you can’t watch tv, you never come on field trips or volunteer at school, you always have to rush off to do work when you put us to bed. It feels like your not here.

God love her, She was only like 9 or 10 at the time, maybe younger…. My heart completely dropped. I had become that mom I didn’t want to be. In my mind, I was helping my family by keeping a roof over our heads and food on the table because that is what I was SUPPOSED to do; that was my job. I figured they had their dad at home to do all of these things with them so they did have a parent. But that simply was not the case, they wanted their mommy and I wasn’t there.

This moment would be the turning point for me. I was feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, exhausted, and completely lost. I was tired of being tired. I was already crying myself to sleep most nights but finally got to the point where something had to give. I was not going to be THAT parent who worked herself to death thinking it was the right thing to do. Then blinking one day, the kids are grown and wondering what happened to my life. That was NOT going to be ME.

So I began with a deep discussion with my husband and took inventory of what was TRULY important. We made a list of our absolute priorities and went from there. Turns out, my husband was having trouble with me working all the time too…. I mean, he understood it and he could only help so much. But to make change, you have to make some hard decisions.

So step one was to quit my part time jobs. In doing this, we realized we were going to have to make some sacrifices. Our biggest sacrifice was the choice to either sell our house OR take the kids our of private school. We decided after a lot of discussion that the kids education took priority. We sold our house and moved in with my parents (not a proud moment but I do feel blessed we had the option).

Moving in with my parents was a very hard adjustment but it did mean more time with the kids. I was able to start volunteering at school and go on field trips. The kids had their mom back and it really showed. Although, it did take them awhile to adjust to having me back. They were always on edge that the shoe would drop and I would go away again.

You know, its funny how we think sometimes. I used to think “my kids will know I was that mommy who worked really hard so they could have everything they wanted.” But in reality that is not what they thought at all. In their mind, mommy was never home, mommy was never there. Funny and sad all at the same time. I am so grateful Ella had the courage to say something to break me out of my trance.

So things were good but I decided I wanted more. It finally sunk in that I was in charge of my life and only I could make it happen. This is the moment I took inventory of my life. What did I want my life to look like and how did I want to live it? I made a mental list and knew I needed to take some further action. It was going to be bold and probably not work but it was worth trying.

I knew I wanted to spend as much time with the kids while they still wanted me around so that meant I needed a drastic work change. I worked 5 days a week at a hospital about an hour to an hour and a half (one way) away with the possibility to telecommute 1 day a week if permitted. I do love what I do and my director so finding something else was not ideal. So how do I make this work?

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So I decided I would take a leap of faith and ask to work from home more days a week. It was kind of a scary notion to ask this of my director, mostly because I was fearful she would completely reject the idea all together but I decided to move forward anyways. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. I would be no worse off than before I ask minus a little disappointment.

Now, I didn’t just go in there and say “hey, I want to work from home more” shit doesn’t really work that way. I spent a few weeks reviewing my work, reviewing the hospital policies and came up with a plan. The last and most important step was to come up with the courage to ask….. this was probably the absolute hardest step….it sucked.

So as it goes, I scheduled a meeting with my director. I was fully honest and told her I was nervous about having the discussion. Then I presented her with facts, justification, and a plan. I told her I didn’t want her to respond right away but to just think about it and ponder it. In my explanation, I told her it was very important to me to be present in my kids lives while they were young and still wanted me around. I also told her I knew she needed to do what was best for the organization but would like her consideration. I thanked her for her time and left.

I was not exactly sure what she was thinking. Her and I have always had a great rapport and over my years at the organization, I had earned my place and respect within the department.

I gave her a few months to ponder, then I approached her about her thoughts. I asked her if she had considered my proposition and she said she had. She appreciated my honestly and the fact that I had a plan. She said I could proceed with working 2 days from home on a trial basis. Of course, we agreed on stipulations, such as the needs of the organization where I may need to be onsite more.

It has now been several years and several discussions later. I now work from home more often depending on the needs of the department. I volunteer at my kids school to the point that both the teachers and students know me by name. I am able to attend every event and we have so much more family time.

From a work aspect, I find I am much more productive from home. When I am onsite, I am interrupted more than I work. I never mind helping others but that does take away productive time. I have also found that in defining the process for me working from home; I have also set expectations for my time within the organization. My customers are 100% supportive of what I am doing and take my time into consideration. This means they only invite me to meetings if they REALLY need me there. They understand I am always reachable by either email or phone and can usually address their needs in that manner. I also make routine face to face check ins with them “just to say hi.”

So this post was a little longer than I intended and I thank you if you made it this far because I have a little more to share…..

Today, we have family time, both my husband and myself are exploring new career opportunities in our own businesses, we go on a ton of camping trips a year with our camping family, and we have a sense of hope and optimism.

I decided to take control of my life and make it what I want and continue to do so. Writing this was not easy….it is not easy to share and throw dirty laundry out there for the world to see and criticize. But I need you to know, it is possible. I know there are many of you out there with terrible stories and situations. And I am not saying this is easy by any means. I am just saying its possible; you just have to make the choice.

There are a few key points I want to make in addition to main ones above:

  • I earned the respect of my director BEFORE I decided to approach this. I was not a slacker so she could trust I was doing what was necessary.
  • If you are new to a job, don’t expect to get a yes for anything; you do still have to do your time
  • If you are a slacker and spend your time bitching about life is unfair, don’t expect a damn thing….you haven’t deserved it yet. You still have to do your part.
  • You’ll notice I presented my request with facts, justification, and a plan; I didn’t just go in there and say this is what I want, give it to me.
  • If you have a plan, why not ask….the worst they will say is no and you will be no worse off than you were the day before.
  • keep in mind, you may or may not need to sacrifice something in order to get something else.
  • Lastly, you are going to have to WORK for it; shit doesn’t just magically appear.

You know, at some point….my dear director is going to have the discussion with me about me no longer being able to work from home. I know she will not want to tell me and I know it will not be her decision. But that will be life when/if it happens. But at that time, I know I will have a choice….. I will either need to abide by the changes or it may be time for me to move on. Not really a decision I want to have to make but the good news is it will be MY decision to make.

So take a leap, if you are not happy in your life…change it; only YOU have the power to make it happen.

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