For twenty years, I worked steadily and diligently, climbing the ladder to a director-level job at a top company in my field. I swore I'd never live in the suburbs or drive a minivan, not me. Then I married and had several children and found myself exactly there. Commuting from a suburban home, I found the transition from single working woman, to mom-of-three with a husband whose job took him on the road three of four weeks a month, to be overwhelmingly unsatisfying. I surprised myself by discovering I didn't want to miss all of the little firsts that were happening for my toddler, that I wanted to be the one to take my middle son to a reading specialist, and that I ought to be around to catch the daily download from my oldest as he navigated middle school. So I became a member of the work-at-home mom army, doing bits and pieces of jobs that had been tangential to my previous executive life. Not having to commute? Wonderful. No endless run-on meetings? Bliss. Working at my most productive times? (Not always 9-to-5.) You can guess: heaven. I extolled the virtues of my home office, my flexible schedule, and my connection both to home and to professional life, rather than the either/or choice I'd been making up until then. I swore I'd never commute again. I felt deeply satisfied and balanced in those years.
Twenty years of professional life goes very slowly when you're young. Ten years of work-at-home life goes much, much faster when you're ... ahem ... ten years older to start. In these last ten years, my youngest child turned thirteen. Bound for high school. And the older two? In college. Unfathomable from where I had stood, as three little kids came rushing at me the moment I entered the house from my big city job, feeling defeated by the very poor juggling job I believed I was doing. Now, many nights, it's just the teenager and me, eating parallel dinners while he reads a book and I read the paper. While I wouldn't trade those years at home for all of the company cars in the world, I wonder why I never thought of this when I made that career choice so many years ago. I never realized I would not continue to feel as satisfied being the work-at-home mom of one child as I did with three.
So, once again my old motto of “never say never” is coming back to bite me. I have to admit, I even have days where I'd love to be pulled into a long, all-hands-on-deck “we just want to see your face” meeting where everyone surreptitiously checks their iPhones under the boardroom table. Now that very well might be bliss.