The Point of Birth2Work for Me
Birth2Work Staff, mother
When I was in my late 20s, a tumultuous year would upend my life as I knew it. Within the year, my boyfriend of five years proposed and my father was diagnosed with advanced liver cancer. I was dumfounded at the extremes of life suddenly in my lap. Immediately after both of those significant moments I knew, to survive, I could only get through it all by taking things day by day. I began to plan a small wedding, and then my father got worse. I quit my job and left my apartment to move 450 miles home to be with my dad.
We discussed the ceremony while he underwent chemo. I wrote my vows while he slept. Eventually, I was designing a program for the wedding and a program for my dad’s funeral simultaneously. We had the funeral in early June, had the wedding three weeks later, and went on a seven-day honeymoon. Then I sat down in a monstrous haze wondering what the hell I was going to do next.
I was married. My father had passed. My husband and I now lived in an apartment we shared with another guy. I had no job. Time for some big decision-making. It certainly wasn’t at all where I thought I would be in my life. I never considered any of those things happening as they did, and I didn’t have a scaffold for how to bear it.
From our wedding
What I Knew at the Time
I knew my husband and I wanted our own place to live. (As opposed to having a housemate).
I knew we wanted to have a child within a few years.
I knew I wanted to be there to raise that child every day. (As opposed to having a nanny.)
I knew I wasn’t independently wealthy and would, therefore, need to plan for a flexible job.
The last of these points meant I needed to start doing some personal reflection and preparation for establishing a career that met my needs going forward. (Or, at least, try.) The opportunities in front of me for work were varied, but I had my future goals in mind and a mandate to earn some money quickly, so I got going.
What I Know Now
My personal process for determining my work life was complicated—as anyone’s would be. My process is not even relevant to share here as it was specific to my circumstances and skills set. What is relevant here is that almost 12 years later, I can clearly look back to those few weeks after my father passed away as the most critical turning point of my adult life. The writing, discussions, nerves, phone calls, and planning were all necessary for me to be able to build my scaffold for the adulthood I wanted.
Planning then for what I wanted to be as a parent and a spouse in the future was the best gift I was able to give myself! And I openly discuss the choices I made then with my 6-year-old today. My work life doesn’t look like other people’s and I tell her why so she understands. Life is a series of choices and, after the insanity of my marriage/family death year, I didn’t want to be blown asunder again if I could help it.
Many people end up rolling into their lives almost haphazardly. On the other hand, no one can ever plan for everything that will happen in life (difficult or otherwise). But I will say that having a strong scaffold for what I wanted to see happen in life meant that the gusts of chaos that inevitably blew at me again, didn’t break me down. I kept it together.
My greatest opportunity in sharing the work that Birth2Work does now is in helping people build their own life scaffolds—for themselves and their families. Whatever they are building toward is immaterial to the process we help folks work through. Personal reflection and making conscious, aligned choices with partners, family, and anyone else immediately involved in the raising of children makes life so much less complicated!
In Other Words
Thinking ahead—being proactive instead of reactive as a habit—allows a person to react with calm to the inevitable crazy of life. It’s why we ask children to run fire drills at school; think and make a plan and then if $h!t goes down you’re ready to respond like a boss instead of running around like a crazy person yelling, “I don’t know what to do! I never thought about it!!”
Having and retooling my scaffold has built me up and keeps me strong.
That’s the point of Birth2Work for me.
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