Seven years ago, I left my career in newspapers and became co-chief executive of a growing company. I would later call that company FiDO, a title crafted using parts of my children's names, and describe my title as co-chief executive, kid wrangler and poop inspector.
While the decision to leave my job was made for me, it turned out to be exactly what I'd always wanted: to be home full time with my kids while they were young. Seven years ago, I asked the question: Will I work outside the home again?
The answer back then: Probably. If it's sooner rather
than later, it will be out of sheer financial necessity. If later, it
will likely be a more well-thought out reentry that fits a job around my
family; not the other way around.
Both scenarios played out but, thankfully, sheer financial necessity was met with a minimum of disruption to our family life. Thanks to prayer, severance pay, unemployment checks early on, freelance work that appeared as needed and a handy husband with a sense of thrift and self-reliance, we made it to the youngest child's first day of kindergarten in good financial condition. That was one year ago today.
My youngest is now in first grade. He's thriving and is a sweet, friendly, easy going kid at school. His kindergarten teacher wanted a whole classroom full of Owens. At home, he's still the Incredible Hulk. The other two are in second and fourth grades.
A lot has happened for me, too, this year. I began freelance editing and got some interesting gigs early on. While editing and communication are marketable skills for me, the work is only marginally exciting. It's a do-it-when-the-work-appears job that I can take only in small doses. I can't imagine doing it long term as a freelancer or a behind a desk. It's hard to let go of that job description, though. After all, I invested in a college degree.
But a college degree does not define me and my loans are paid off. I owe no allegiance to that degree. I thought about what does define who I am. What do I like to do? When do I feel best about myself? Where do I spend most of my free time? What do I read about when given a choice?
The answer to all of these was swimming and working out. The committee in my head said, "You cannot get a job where you basically work out or swim all the time. You'd never make enough money. Be practical, woman."
I took that advice, the "be practical" part, anyway, and headed over my local gym where I am a member. I applied for a job as a swim instructor. The job fuses communication and parenting skills with swimming expertise. The best part of the job is that I'm getting paid to be in the water instead of behind a desk. I get to wear a swim suit instead of uncomfortable clothes. I don't even have to wear shoes or pants. It's totally acceptable to take a hot shower at work. And, sometimes, between lessons, I go into the sauna to warm up. I also took a Lifeguard Certification Course. I'd always wanted to
lifeguard, but did not have the self-confidence as a teenager or young
adult to go for it.
I now attend all my staff meetings in a swim suit. I swim a couple hundred yards and spend most of the meeting in the water. I get paid to swim laps and practice strokes and rescue scenarios.
When I asked my boss what kind of schedule to expect, he said that I'd get a blank calendar each month to fill in my availability. That's about as family friendly as a job can get.