I can’t remember what triggered the comment and I’m not sure I want to. I probably said something uncharacteristically nasty. Or I looked like crap. Or maybe my dearest friend could simply see the frustration I was trying so hard to hide. It doesn’t really matter now. I just remember her turning to me and saying, “Sister, you need to go back to work.” At the time, I was filled with instant, burning fury. What was she talking about? I had the luxury of being the stay-at-home mom to three beautiful children. I was on social committees. I had a beautiful house in a leafy suburb. My fabulous Volvo still had the new car smell. I was meeting friends for lunch. My daughter was killing it at KinderMusik. I was centering myself at yoga several times a week. I was incredibly fortunate. Couldn’t she see that? What the fuck?
I was so mad, I stayed up all night thinking about why I was so mad. Until it hit me. She was right. While I loved my children—and I was deeply grateful for the chance to have been home with them when they were little—I needed something more. I missed my job as a newspaper reporter. The urgency of a deadline. The creativity of writing. The challenge of learning something new every day and the stimulation that comes with interacting with adults in a professional setting. The routine of getting up each morning, getting dressed in something other than yoga pants, and going into territory that is strictly mine. Returning to the workforce wasn’t easy or quick. I started by writing white papers for a family friend in the investment business. That led to writing brochures and website copy. I took freelance journalism jobs and wrote stories such as “Ten Ways To Prevent Bloating.” (When I took that gig, I didn’t realize how many of my friends actually read Ladies Home Journal. I forgot about doctor’s offices. Awesome.) Soon, I was writing for a private equity company full time. But working from home soon began to feel more like living at work. So I set out to find an office job.
I considered the qualities that made me love working in a newsroom and went looking for them in a job that also would allow me to leave by 6 and not work on Thanksgiving. I found it at a national law firm, where I oversee media relations and the writing and production of marketing materials. I work with smart people on the cutting edge of developments in climate change, health care, infrastructure, energy and finance. I learn new things every day and I work with reporters on breaking news stories. My oldest daughter is in college now and I like to think that watching me taught her that women can love work as well as family—and that money buys you choices in life. I learned that you can only push down the truth for so long before it seeps to the surface. I learned that my skills were solid and translatable. I learned that I was fearless enough to try something new and good enough to make a success of it. I learned to pivot when something isn’t quite right for me. And I learned that sometimes, when my inner voice is too small to hear, you need a good friend to hand it a microphone.