Back to Work

If you’d told me at the beginning of the year that I’d spend my maternity leave polishing my resume and applying for new jobs, I probably would have laughed at you. I loved my job. The work was satisfying, and I had some really great coworkers. When I started to get burnt out on the daily grind, my manager found other projects for me to work on, allowing me to network with other departments and sharpen my writing and editing skills. I had wonderful flexibility when it came to being able to work from home with a sick kiddo or taking personal time for appointments. My manager and I developed a great professional relationship and even became good friends. It wasn’t a perfect job, but I was happy there, and I was in no hurry to leave.

Back in January, I started working from home full time. I cleaned up our home office, which previously was primarily used as a stroller parking garage and clutter collector, and set up a really nice workspace. Being on daycare dropoff duty meant I didn’t get to be lazy about showering in the mornings, but not going into an office meant it was totally okay to spend my days in yoga pants or my most comfortable (although somewhat tattered) jeans. I got to cook myself whatever I wanted for lunch instead of settling for something I could warm up in a breakroom microwave. (This was Tim’s least favorite aspect of my working from home, as it meant I generated quite a few more dirty dishes for him to deal with.) When Tim and Alexander got home at 4:00, I got to cover Alexander in hugs and kisses, and listen to my two favorite boys play together down the hall during my last hour of work. It was wonderful.

Working from home also meant an easier transition back to work at the end of my maternity leave. The plan was, when I started working again in July, Tim would still be on summer vacation, so he’d be home with Emily, and my going back to work would only take me down the hall from her, not across town. Plus, my last month of leave would overlap with Tim’s first month of summer break, which essentially meant I’d get the whole summer at home with my family. It was going to be amazing.

However, for reasons that aren’t worth getting into, it became apparent a few months ago that it was time to start looking for other career opportunities. And so, although job hunting was one of the last ways I expected to spend my maternity leave, that’s exactly what I did. I knew that applying for jobs shortly after Emily was born meant there was a possibility I’d have to end my maternity leave early if I was offered a job before my leave was over, but I needed to be smart about my situation and do what was best for all of us in the long run.

So when a company offered me a great position several weeks into my job search, I accepted. I asked to push my start date back by two weeks so Emily wouldn’t have to go to daycare while we waited for Tim to finish out the school year, and the company immediately agreed. I spent the last few weeks of my maternity leave soaking up as many baby snuggles as I possibly could between filling out new-hire paperwork and shopping for work clothes that fit my post-baby body. Tim finished work for the summer the last week of May, and I started my new job Monday, June 2.

Starting a new job and going back to work after maternity leave are both anxiety-filled events on their own. Tackling both of them at the same time kicked my stress and uncertainty up to a whole new level. Along with my new-job/back-to-work anxiety, I also struggled with (am still struggling with, if we’re being honest) sadness about ending my maternity leave three weeks earlier than planned and giving up my summer at home with Tim and the kids. I was really looking forward to having a whole summer of family time. Instead, I had only a few days with everyone home together. Throw some extra-fragile postpartum emotions into the mix, and…well. There have been some tears.

Hard as it is to give up my summer family plans, there are so many positives to focus on. Tim is home taking care of Emily through June and July, and it helps tremendously knowing she’s in such good hands. With Alexander only going to daycare part time during the summer, the three of them will really get to bond. And even though I don’t get to be home with everyone, at least I can look forward to lots of family lunch dates over the summer.

On the work front, I am very excited about my new job. It has many of the same qualities I loved about my last job, along with increased job security and opportunity for growth. It’s a slight step up in pay and responsibility, which is always a good direction to move. My first several days have gone really well, and it seems like I’m working with a fantastic group of people. It’s good to be back in an office environment, working side-by-side with my colleagues instead of communicating exclusively over phone and email. This is a good step for my career in a lot of ways, no question.

My maternity leave and subsequent return to work definitely turned out to be much different than I expected. But I know I’m doing the right thing for my family, and I feel good about what the future has in store for us.

What I Did on My Summer Business Trip

Armed with the recommendations of friends and readers, unclear Google Maps printouts, an Austin city map, and only a hint of trepidation at the prospect of finding my way around a new city on my own, I dragged myself out of bed and onto an Austin-bound plane early Sunday morning.

After spending way too long driving in circles trying to figure out the highway/access road system in Austin before finally finding my hotel, I was tired, frustrated, hungry, and tempted to throw in the towel and walk across the street to have lunch at IHOP.

However, I’m not one to travel to new places just to eat boring franchise food, so I pulled on my Big Girl Pants, got into my blue Sebring (Michael Scott-style), and successfully navigated my way to Chuy’s and my first meal in Austin.

Oh, it was good. (The queso enchiladas were good, too.)

My hunger satisfied and navigational confidence restored, I explored downtown a bit and ended up spending a very relaxing afternoon at Town Lake.

All in all, not a bad first day in Austin.

Of course, I was in Austin for more than just margaritas, queso, and lakeside walks. First thing Monday morning it was back to work. In between a couple of very productive and informative days at the office I got to hang out with some pretty cool coworkers, enjoy a lot of delicious local food and drink, and see thousands of bats fly out from under a bridge in a wholly underwhelming display of tiny flapping wings.

While the bats lacked the thrill and entertainment factor my coworkers and I had hoped for, that particular evening’s entertainment was far from over. Later that night at a wine bar, we had the pleasure of sipping delicious wine flights across the bar from an octogenarian and his…well, his date, I guess you could say. Though something about her mid-twenties appearance and skintight leopard-print dress tells me she was there more for the Benjamins than the romance, if you know what I mean…and I think you do. It was quite the experience.

Awkward experiences aside, three days of good food, good drink, good company, and yes, even good work came together to make for a pretty great summer business trip.

I Hear You’re Supposed to Keep It Weird or Something

Friends, I need your help. I’m traveling to Austin in a couple of weeks for a business trip, and it just so happens that I’m going to have to fill some time while I’m there with non-work related activities. Trouble is, I’m traveling alone and am the teeniest bit nervous about venturing out in my rental car and finding stuff to do without getting lost and/or being That Girl Sitting Alone at the Bar. But I also definitely do not want to spend my entire stay in a new-to-me and rumored-to-be-cool city splitting my time between the office and my hotel room.

This is where you come in. Have you been to Austin? Do you live there? What’s a solo traveler to do during one afternoon and three evenings? Is there any shop/bar/restaurant/event/whatever that I absolutely should not pass up? I think the office I’ll be in is near downtown, and I don’t yet know where my hotel is (though I imagine/hope it’ll be close to the office), so recommendations in that general area would be preferred to lower my chances of getting lost. Also, please keep in mind that I enjoy cocktails, music, pedicures, being outdoors, Mexican food, and all things awesome.

Ready . . . set . . . recommend!

Loving It Lately

Dancing. My first (ever) dance competition is in just under two weeks, which means we’ve been having extra practices to perfect every last step. Not only is our competition piece fantastic (if I do say so), but I’m also loving getting to dance more than once a week. Gets me thinking about whether I might be able to make another class or two fit into my schedule and budget next year.

Big Love. Even if there is excessive nudity on the part of Bill Paxton.

Hunger (and not being afraid to satisfy that hunger). After more than 48 hours of stomach flu-induced starvation, few things are more exciting than feeling hungry and not having to shy away from foods that have never been marketed by Bill Cosby.

My job. Seven months in, and I still can’t get over how much I love my career. There are a lot of really good things happening at my office, and I’m very excited to be a part of it all.

Jury duty dismissal. I know it’s my civic duty, and I should be happy to trade a minor inconvenience for the freedom of democracy. And I am happy to make that trade, really. But after missing work Thursday and Friday (see above), I was anxious to get back into the office on Monday (see above again). So when the Jury Commissioner turned off Apollo 13 mid-way through the morning and told those of us still waiting for our numbers to be called that we were excused, I was relieved not to have to miss another full day of work…even if it meant I didn’t get to find out whether Tom Hanks ever got to walk on the moon.

My husband. Any man who caters to every whim of his pukey and unshowered wife — going to the store for ginger ale, going back to the store for jell-o, making chicken noodle soup and straining out the broth because he knows the chiken and noodles will never be eaten — is a definite keeper.

Wednesday Smalls ‘n’ Bensday! National Holiday

Did you know that today is National Grammar Day? I had no idea such a day existed until I got to work this morning and saw an email from the senior editor announcing the holiday and advising the office to show some extra appreciation to the editing staff. What a glorious day!

Ben and Smalls wanted to join me in wishing you all a happy National Grammar Day. (At least they did until I told them “grammar” wasn’t code for “treats.”) May your apostrophes be apropriately placed and your sentences be properly structured…if only for one day a year.

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