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The Re-Entry: A Mountain to Be Climbed

For nineteen years I was a stay-at-home mom of four, an involved volunteer in PTO, eventually an elected member of the Board of Education—I called myself a “patio princess.” For me, the priorities I chose created a balance, as long as I followed them: stability for my children, a consistent presence at home, education, and a glass of mediocre wine. 

My corporate business husband bought and lost a company and everything we owned with it. My monarchy crumbled, and so did the patio. Four children heading for college, passing my mid-forties, and it didn’t help that my entire formal education was in Medieval French Literature with a back up in Medieval Spanish Literature. No one needed one of me.

I set the stage with this story because I want you to know that happenings give you different choices, and often change your priorities. If you lost your job, had a baby or need a change … read further.  I became an immigrant with no royal status to the American Business World. People who could recommend me were either retired or dead. I networked with the Pediatrician, the book store owner, and with women in line for dressing rooms at the 50 percent off sales—everyone was a contact.

I was desperately unstoppable in my pursuit of work. After my husband and I quit blaming each other, he became my coach, “Whatever they ask you to do, say, ‘I can feel comfortable with that.’ Come home and we will figure out how.” Eventually, I secured a three-day contract with Motorola to learn and give a “Presentation” training workshop. A year of hard labor later, Motorola asked, “Could you go to China and train?” I could feel comfortable with that!

The advantages of being older were many: my judgment matured with me, my decision making was guided by my principles which were now solidly grounded, and my experience as an elected official supported an intense focus on issue vs person, and a confidence to say it aloud.  All of these assets were built on a variety of situations and relationships. And each aided in building trust and a new business in less time. The urgency of needing a job overwhelmed any fears of inexperience or being too old to have my hair blow in the wind.

My volunteer work groomed me to focus on the needs of others, perfect for negotiating new business. Raising my children reinforced in me a resiliency that welcomed change and at times prayed for it.

Including my children in each step of my development established a dynamic of mutual respect and a value of each other’s perspective. The Chinese taught me the tenets for ‘a harmony’ to accomplish much and to love the present in people and in thought.

I remember a neighbor saying, “You can’t have it all.” She forgot the end of the sentence,” at once.”  

By author and international business consultant Catherine Lee, for Work Her Way


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