Guest Blog by Vionna Adams, a recent graduate of the Hay There Social Media Training Program
Both my husband and a friend/colleague of mine have commented on how I am able to compartmentalize. I had never thought about it, but it’s true. I have the ability to separate my personal and professional lives.
Let me be clear: I have never tried to hide the fact that I am a mother or have outside interests from coworkers, but I would try to keep work at work. Rather than bring work home, I would prefer to stay at the office late on occasion. Mainly because I have found it difficult to get back into work mode at 9 p.m. after my girls went to bed. Plus, I wanted my home to be home and not sort of where I also work. That strategy worked for me for a long time.
Things started to change when my youngest daughter transitioned from daycare to preschool. The preschool had during-the-day events for parents like holiday concerts, luncheons and a Harvest Day parade. This created an internal conflict for me: I wanted to be able to share these experiences with my daughter, but I didn’t want to have to rearrange my work schedule to do it. Mom guilt won out. I attended the events, and I was always glad I did.
Meanwhile, my oldest daughter had transitioned from preschool to elementary school. Again, most opportunities to be involved as a parent occur during the day. I wasn’t able to attend PTA meetings because of a conflict with a regular work meeting, but I made the commitment to read to the class once a month. Baby steps.
But what has really started me on the path to integrating my work and life is that my family has moved a few times for my husband’s job. We are currently living in California, having moved here from Michigan. I resigned from my position at a great company in Detroit. It was 2018, and I just assumed continuing to work for the company as a full-time remote worker was not going to be possible. I didn’t even bring it up. I had lined up a new job with a reputable company in our new town, so I didn’t think it would be a big deal. The truth is, it took me a while for me to find my niche here.
My experience in California is similar to the experience I had when we moved to Michigan from DC in 2010. At the time, I was self-employed in an industry that relied on face-to-face interaction, so I closed up shop and started the slow process of establishing myself (professionally) in a place where I had limited connections.
We could always move again, and the pattern will repeat itself.
Since I have been able to let go of some of my hang-ups about working from home, working flexibly and changing my mindset about this integration, I’ve begun to see the other benefits it can bring to my life.
I have to find a way to work flexibly, integrating my work and my life.
It will allow me to take longer trips with my family. If I can work from anywhere, the amount of PTO that I have accumulated will not determine how long our family trips can be or how many trips we can take. I could even spend a few hours with my husband on Fridays, his day off, during the day while the kids are at school. And if we move again, I will be able to continue in the same role, eliminating the need to start over.
It’s going to be a work-in-progress for me, for sure. Going from a regular 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. office job to a flexible career will require me to change my mindset about work. Those concerns I had about making up time because I left work to attend an event-those were self-imposed. My managers have always been supportive, and as long as my work got done, no one said anything.
Usually, if I have work to do or an article to write when the girls are home, I ask my husband to watch them or I shut myself in a room with the door closed. I find it hard to concentrate if I can hear them playing, arguing, or watching TV. And if I am in sight, they feel free to interrupt me — often. (You know how that is.) Right now, I am writing this in the kitchen while they are playing a few feet away from me. I will be really surprised if there are not Kidz Bop lyrics inadvertently written into this post.
Of course, this past year, like many of you, I have been forced to figure out ways to work flexibly. I have been working from home, and sometimes my girls are doing distance learning here, too. My oldest daughter is going to school full time, but the after-school program is closed, so I take a break in the afternoon to walk home with her (which has become the highlight of my day) and help her with homework. (Chatting with a 7-year-old about her day is a lot of fun!)
Plus, I really want for my girls to see me working in a way that does not make them think work is something to dread or is something that limits the amount of enjoyment they can get out of life. Most certainly, I don’t want them to think I prioritize working over spending time with them. I hope they will grow up seeing that work is just one positive aspect of life.
I also think if work is integrated into my life, it will no longer feel like work. So that is my goal: To have more control over my schedule (and my life) and enjoy a sense of freedom so that I can be the best mother, wife, professional and person that I can be.
Vionna Adams is a recent graduate of the Hay There Social Media Training Program. She lives in California with her family. In addition to being an engineer and planner specializing in urban development, she is also a project manager, author and a social media consultant. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Instagram.