Sweetpea eyed me suspiciously across the breakfast table.
"Why are you wearing that?"
The that she referred to was a fairly unremarkable outfit of dress-casual black capris, a blouse, and a light sweater. A year or two out of vogue, perhaps, but she wasn't questioning my sense of style. What she meant was Where are the sweatpants and baseball cap that you usually wear when you take me to school?
"A friend from Mommy's old work is in town--my boss, Miss Patricia--and I'm meeting her for lunch," I replied.
Her eyes widened. "NO!"
I must admit, six months after ditching my high-stress but concretely rewarding consulting job to focus more energy on home and family, I found her reaction a wee bit validating. Observations about the benefits of putting my career on hold are not my kids' strong suit. I am more frequently compensated with comments like, "But I want Daddy to come on the field trip with me--not you again!"
So, a look of horror at the thought of me going back to work? That's about as good as it gets around here.
Nonetheless, I have been missing my work life lately. Sure, it has something to do with the dwindling savings account and the closet full of clothes that "will just have to do" for now. But there's more to it than that.
Last Friday, I happened to be in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle around lunchtime. I was checking out the gluten-free bakery there, on my way home from yet another exhaustingly thorough appointment at the Bastyr Clinic. Homeopathy this time. Countless questions about every aspect of my life from a team of earnest student clinicians.
It was a beautiful day, and everywhere you looked, 9-to-5-ers were taking advantage of their lunch breaks to soak in some rare Seattle sunshine. I found myself eyeing them with more wistfulness than usual: the 20-something co-workers with their bag of sandwiches on a park bench, clearly in the throes of a serious office flirtation. The corporate types who had loosened their ties and kicked off pinchy shoes while picnicking on nearby steps. Even the group clustered around a table just outside their company's cafeteria, working through lunch, seemed to brim with an enviable energy.
I'll bet they haven't just spent the last two hours talking exclusively about themselves, I thought. No, I'll bet they're working on Real Issues. Solving Problems and making a Difference out in the World. That world I used to be so much a part of, before I made this strategic retreat.
So yesterday morning, when I put on my presentable, grown-up clothes (jewelry, even!) and sat down to breakfast, I enjoyed the sense of purpose I felt--not greater than usual, perhaps, but different. I had a Schedule for the day, an Appointment that didn't involve discussing the failings of my digestive system. I relished it all--from nosing my car into morning traffic, to pulling my ticket crisply from the machine at the downtown parking garage, to keeping pace with brisk city-dwellers crossing at a light.
I enjoyed making my way through a crowd of badge-wearing, booklet-consulting conference attendees to find my friend. Being seated in the expensive hotel restaurant and catered to with care. Catching up on the projects I'd left behind, as well as the latest office gossip. These pleasures I had grown to take for granted all seemed shiny and new again.
But when lunch was over, I was equally content to leave it all behind. The conference topics held no strong pull on my attention. My cell phone didn't ring once during the meal; I was alerted to no urgent problems requiring my attention. I raced home at full freeway speed, hours before the traffic would begin to jam up again with commuters heading home. I met my daughter at school, heard about the deliciously mundane ups and downs of her day, and started garlic broth for the vitamin-packed risotto I planned for dinner.
As I kicked off my work sandals, I winced a little. Though I hadn't noticed the pinch as I was rushing through my day, the shoes had rubbed the outside of each of my baby toes raw. I only felt the pain when I stopped moving.
I made a quick mental note to wear stockings with those next time, to better protect my tender feet. Or better yet, find a pair with a more comfortable fit. Next time. Whenever that may be.