From a very young age, if I've been anything, I've been domestic. There is no doubt that this is my calling in life. It's what makes me happy.
I started folding laundry when I was five, making dinner for neighbors when I was eight and by the time I was 30, I had been blessed with a husband, five kids and a lifestyle that allowed me to be all kinds of domestic, all day long.
But two years ago, that all changed when I found myself surrendering my cherished title of homemaker for that of administrative assistant.
Adrenaline and duty (and shopping for a darling professional wardrobe) helped with the transition, but there was still much to learn. Adopting these seven simple guidelines helped make my return to the workplace a positive part of our family's story.
Make your children your new employees
When Mom goes back to work, everyone goes back to work. Chores you would usually be doing if you were at home are now divided and delegated by everyone. This works about as well as you would imagine, but the important thing here is that everyone is accountable.
You won't punish or yell when things are not completed, but when the neglected chore becomes an issue for the family it's time to say "let's see…that was Emily's job on Tuesday, let's ask her what we should do and see if she can help us." Not only will your family become humble and resourceful but you will be doing some of the finest mothering you have ever produced.
Expect some clumsiness
Give yourself a generous amount of time to adjust to your new responsibilities. Keep the term "learning curve" handy. You are probably used to feeling competent because running a home has required you to be a master of numerous areas of expertise. You're an ace at having all sorts of balls up in the air at the same time.
Most likely this will change at work. You will feel more like the child than the parent as you learn new things. Get ready to drop some balls, ask a lot of questions, and take lots of notes. You're not dumb. You're just learning. It will take time so make sure you give yourself plenty of it and keep a sense of humor.
Texting and instant messaging your children and caregivers a few times a day keeps you in the game. I can listen to my daughter practice her trumpet after school with the help of Skype and headphones while I am still on task at work. Be upfront with your boss about this and demonstrate moderation and restraint. If your employer has zero tolerance for such activities, you may want to look for employment somewhere else that is more current with today's family friendly company policies.
There is a time and season for all things cute like homemade greeting cards and darling hair styles for each of your grade school age daughters. If you try to keep up that show in addition to all the new demands of your life though, you may start losing some stuff… like your mind, or your temper or even your husband.
Let that go. No matter how Martha Stewart you've been in the past, your smile has actually always been the real show stopper. Keep that and lose the rest.
Don't fall in love
Out there in the working world, people put effort into looking nice and acting nice. This is referred to as being professional. It is essential to a productive work environment as well as building confidence in your clientel. But with the abundance of nice looking people walking around you every day, there is the risk of developing inappropriate feelings for a coworker if you are not careful.
Afterall, you're never going to have to wipe their nose or wash their underwear. What's not to love?! If these feelings do arise, it is important to realize that you are probably not really in love with this other person. It is more likely that you are just in love with feeling like an attractive, sane human being again. Keep it real. Make lots of new friends at work, not mistakes.
Cook in advance
Just do it. Your freezer is your friend and there are countless programs that can help you organize a way to prepare meals ahead of time to be frozen now and cooked later, be it a month ahead of time or just a week in advance. You will love yourself for it!
It's even more fun when you pick a Saturday and make your big cooking day a family affair or when you have a friend over. With half the effort, the two of you get a months worth of cooking done together in one day. Plus it's healthy to eat homemade and so much cheaper!
You have friends, family, ministers, and counselors for a reason. Let them know how you are feeling about working outside the home. They are not your jury. They are your allies. (Warning: this does NOT apply to Facebook. Emotional online purges usually end up doing more damage than good.)
I once cried through an entire visit from a friend as I told her about my struggles adjusting to my new job. As a mother herself, she had never worked out of the home, but she cried right along with me. I am still strengthened by her compassion even though it's been years since it happened. Later, when you've adjusted and are having terrific experiences in the workforce, share those too.
When a woman has to divide her time between work and home, the greatest struggle she will have will be between her and herself, but with the right tools, faith and friends this can become a blessing to you and your family for years to come.