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Can I Handle the Stress of Going Back to Work Full-Time?

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I worked really, really hard at the beginning of my career. I managed to stumble into the perfect field for me: an internship led to a job as a production assistant on a low-budget TV show nobody ever watched, which led to another TV production job, and more hard work. There were long hours, lots of intensity, a crazy fast pace, and no shortage of daily, solvable crises. It was all right up my alley.

Then I fell in love. The long hours (and ritual post-work drinks) started to lose their appeal. Marriage didn’t interfere with my job, but becoming a mom did: When I had my first kid, being a TV producer just wasn’t viable anymore.

Fate (and an amazing boss) stepped in and I switched to a career in digital media, happy to stay in TV but deal with late-night hours from home instead of the office, the set, or the edit room. It worked. I took some grief for insisting on leaving the office in time to be with my kids, but I got promoted anyway. A year after I had my second child, I was offered a bigger job at another TV network, and I took it. As a family, we settled into a rhythm.

Then my mom got sick, and my whole perspective changed. I stopped liking my job and I stopped caring about the details. I was sad all the time, and it showed. When my mom died, it struck me that life was too short to invest so much time in a job I’d lost interest in, and I knew things had to change. My company realized it too; they laid me off about six months later. I got a generous layoff agreement, my reputation intact. It didn’t matter. I was happy to be gone.

I started over.

I’ve spent the last year and a half learning and growing in a completely different way. I took an internship so I could finally try my hand at food writing and food photography, and eventually that led to paying work. That led to more paying work as I built up my chops as a writer, and as I got more assignments, I got happier. I also got to spend a lot of time with my kids. I was there when they forgot stuff they needed for school, or got sick in the middle of the day, or had performances, evaluations, and conferences. I was around for the endless parade of half days, days off, and delayed starts. I volunteered for something at school for the first time, and ended up in charge of the yearbook.

Through it all, I kept this idea in my head: I am not a stay-at-home mom. I don’t have an attitude about it, it’s just not me. Except I guess it sort of was, for the past little while, minus a few jobs I had in the interim.

And now I’m heading back into a full time job, and our whole family has to adjust.

I won’t be able to take my daughter to school in the mornings anymore. I never did that when I worked full time, but she’s had me around for almost two school years now and we’ve both gotten used to it.

I won’t be getting home before the babysitter leaves, I’m guessing. Will my husband be stressed out when I get home because of that? Will I miss out on knowing what needs to be taken care of for the next day? Will I get to know the babysitter at all?

I won’t be able to eat an early dinner and then spend the evening snuggling with my daughter before her bedtime, a ritual we both rely on. I don’t think she realizes how much I love feeling her body resting on mine as we watch her TV show of choice. Is she going to be mad at me? Is she going to have trouble winding down? Worse yet, is she going to stop needing me?

I’ll still get time with my son, whose bedtime is later, but I’ve been thinking about how he’s about to turn 12, and how important it is to be around for him now, so much more so than when he was a toddler. What if we don’t have enough time together? Will he still tell me what’s going on at school, and what’s going on in his head?

And when will I write? I can’t give that up. Can I handle a full time job, two kids, a husband, a household, and a writing career?  

I have two weeks left to fret about these things, and fretting is what I’m doing. “Busy about busy,” my friend used to say when I got so wrapped up in my to-do list that I let the IDEA of it stress me out before I even got started on anything. Am I fretting about fretting?

Yes.

Wish me luck.

Photo: Getty