I went back to work on Wednesday this week. I haven’t been completely without work during my maternity leave; I’ve been doing some supervision for the past few weeks but an hour here and there having a conversation about someone else’s job hardly feels like work. It’s deeply enjoyable, in fact, and I get to do it on my own couch. Going back to my full-time gig is a different challenge. My maternity leave was a lovely interlude wherein I got to watch every episode of West Wing and clean my house.
I’m not a terribly organized person so this was a good chance to go through some junk and de-clutter. (Anyone who has ever lived with me or seen the inside of my house is laughing right now, I know it. But I made some good progress!) In the process of straightening up, I stumbled across a professional portfolio I made a few years ago during my hospice tenure. There was a case study about one of my most important cases (a young hospice patient, of course). Reading it brought me to tears. I cried for the patient I lost, and for her family, who had suffered so much. And I cried, selfishly, because I really miss that work. As sad as it sometimes was, as awful as it could be to witness tragedy so often, it felt meaningful and important in a way my current work sort of… doesn’t.
Part of what I’m working out here is a feeling of being stuck (a theme in my clinical work, as you may have noticed). I’m stuck in my current job. I have two little kids and my current schedule works for our family. I can’t do the nights and weekends that hospice requires; it doesn’t make sense logistically. So what do I tell my patients and my supervisees when the feeling (or reality) of being stuck starts to interfere? Make it better where you can. For me, that means I have to find some meaning instead of comparing what I do now to what I did before.
And of course, I can find meaning in helping people manage their anxiety or quit smoking. More than that, I’m finding meaning in raising my daughters and enjoying this very short season of my life. Still. These past few weeks, as I look at my old papers and remember the joys of my old work, I find myself longing to focus on my career in a different way. I chose to have children and I’m thrilled that I did; they are the great joy of my life. But it has slowed me down a little, professionally. That’s hard to wrap my mind around. It’s going to take some time to adjust to the idea that I have to pause a little and make the best of what I have: a flexible 9 to 5 and a young family that needs more of my attention than my career does right this minute.
Next time you hear from me, I hope it’ll be about a complex case or an interesting supervision question. Until then, keep me in your thoughts as I adjust to going back to work, having two kiddos in daycare, and try to live my normal life.