Just about a year ago now, I was presented with an opportunity I ultimately could not pass up: a chance to re-enter the workforce and join the awesome staff at JWU’s College of Online Education. As the mother of four small children (I guess I can’t say “small” anymore as the oldest is now 14), including one who is profoundly disabled, I was on the fence about returning to the workforce.
On the one hand, it had been 14 years since I worked full time. I was quite nervous about getting back to the “real world” (although anyone who stays home with their kids knows just how real that truly is). As hard as it was at times, I sincerely loved being home with my children. I also knew I was fortunate; not every parent who would love to stay home can afford to do so. It wasn’t always easy, and more than once I had to return to waiting tables part-time at night just to help make ends meet. But, my husband and I felt strongly about one of us being home with the kids and ultimately we made it happen.
On the other hand, it had been 14 year since I worked full time. Fourteen years since I spent my days around adults, using my brain for something other than remembering when my daughter’s various appointments were and who had which activity on what day and what time the birthday party was next weekend and … did I feed the dog? By the fall of 2017, all of my kids (today ages 14, 12, 11 and 7) were finally in school all day and it was time for me to start thinking about what was next for me.
I was a reporter and editor in my previous life, B.C. (before children). After earning two bachelor’s degrees from the University of Rhode Island — one in journalism, the other in English — I worked for Beacon Communications as both a reporter for their newspapers and an editor for one of their magazines. I even had my own column! In spite of the measly pay, it was a job I sincerely loved. Over the first few years of motherhood, I, unable to quit the job entirely, went from full time to part-time and eventually freelance. By the time my disabled daughter was a year or two, it was evident her needs were much more involved than we had hoped and it was time to move on. Truth be told, there are days I still miss it, especially the people I met along the way.
Getting out into the community and befriending so many of its different characters was something I never tired of. Whether it was spending the day getting my brand-new white tennis shoes filthy on the banks of Buckeye Brook with Steve Insana, the brook’s quirky self-appointed caretaker (and later fearing for my life as he barreled along Tidewater Drive in his beat-up old red pickup truck, laughing joyously) or catching my first (and only) bluefish in the waters of Narragansett Bay with Jody King, a fisherman I’d met after his brother Tracy died in the Station Nightclub fire, each week was a new adventure. And then there was the time I was on assignment at Toll Gate High School and as I walking through the halls, the hustle and bustle of students racing from one class to the next, the chatter of teens and all their silly nonsense filling the air, I was taken by an overwhelming sense of belonging. Suddenly, in that moment, I decided I needed to be there. I needed to teach. Writing, specifically.
To make a long story short, which, according to my friends is a joke as I am incapable of such a thing, I announced this new career choice to my husband and set a plan in motion to make it happen. By May of 2004, at eight months pregnant with my first child, I completed my first two terms at Providence College and was just one year away (give or take) from earning my teaching certification.
I never went back.
Motherhood consumed me. Though we are happily adjusted today, caring for a disabled child, as well as two other small children, was a lot. Too much at times. Imagine this: a precocious (an overused word, but surely fitting in this case) four-year-old girl, who was already reading and writing and more than ready for Head Start. An ornery 2-year-old boy, with boundless energy and an impish smile that won his mother over every time he misbehaved. And an adorable one-year-old-girl with special needs, whose eyes speak to your soul, with three, four, sometimes five appointments each week. Dad works his tail off each day and hits the books studying to become a CPA each night (and most of every weekend). Mom, by any account, is exhausted.
Yep, that was my life. But we muscled through and long before our youngest was born in January 2012, I had this whole motherhood thing down pretty well. I talked about going back to school, but never pulled the trigger. Before I knew it, all the kids were in school and I started to wonder what was next for me. One thing I had decided was I no longer wanted to become a high school English teacher. It wasn’t that I no longer wanted to teach, on the contrary I still very much wanted that, but it just didn’t make sense anymore. There were a number of reasons I felt this way, but the biggest one was because I wanted to teach writing, not literature, and high school English teachers are expected to do both.
So, there I was, 41 years old, with six full hours every weekday entirely to myself. At first, it was glorious! I cleaned in peace, shopped alone, met friends for lunch, caught up on my favorite shows. Somedays, I did nothing at all. I even napped!
Soon, that started to get old and I was ready for something else. A new opportunity came along and I swooped it up without hesitation. I started my job here at JWU COE (which, by the way, I love), and it didn’t take long for me to think beyond the job itself and wonder what this new path meant for me. Should I get my master’s? What program would I take? What is my end game? Do I want to stay where I am and work my way up the ladder? Would I like to join the “loud corner” of the office and work with our fantastic academic advising team? Should I think about joining our faculty and teach writing? Maybe even follow my first true love and charm my way onto the PR and communications team here at the COE? (And they thought I was writing this out of the goodness of my heart. *wink*)
Truth be told, I am not sure. But what I do know is I need my master’s degree to move forward with any of those possibilities. So, here I go …