The Space In Between Chapters
A few big things happened recently:
1. I donated BINS of baby/toddler items
2. My son received his first phone call from a friend “just to talk”
3. The pharmacy profession is causing panic at the disco
A local church was accepting donations for clothes and toys and for the first time, I entered the corner of the basement and pushed aside the cobwebs of the attic looking for bins. I blame my restlessness, Marie Kondo, and my husband for this urge to purge. Opening those bins brought back a flood of memories – holding some outfits pushed all of my maternal buttons and holding some toys had me singing along to our favorite songs. You know it’s time for the stuff to go when your kids see the piles and say, “Yeah, I’m good with that.” It took me a long time to sort, feel, reminisce, and pack 10 boxes full of stuff. On donation day, I loaded the car and ran back to the house to grab the last box when my son says, “So-And-So is calling your phone tonight!” “Oh really! How did they get my number?” I ask. “From the school directory that was sent home,” he answers confidently. My first thought was wow, So-And-So is so resourceful! Wait, what are they going to talk about? The phone rings, he grabs it, and he runs in the other room. I look at my husband in disbelief and say, “What’s happening?”
There’s no time to discuss as I’ve got to make it to the church before 7:30pm. After I unload the boxes, I drive away slowly, as if the volunteers will call me back saying the infant tutu outfit is too cute and I must keep it. I roll down the windows and soak in the last few minutes of an almost perfect (i.e. rare) weather day in Chicago. The warm wind on the way to the church now felt cool against the tears coming down my cheeks – as I say goodbye to one chapter, filled with baby smells, cute outfits, and lots of firsts– and anxiously think about the next chapter – to be filled with phone calls, awkward moments, and lots of firsts. On that drive home, I think about feeling in between two phases of motherhood. The transition from single digit to double digit birthdays. The growth in the width of their shoulders, the length of their feet, and the breadth of their independence. I think of the coincidence of my son receiving his first phone call on the same night I’m letting go of his baby clothes. I believe that saved me from having a complete sob attack. After a few hot tears, I realized I have a big kid who needs me to clear my attic AND my perceptions of a little boy disguised in a big boy shell.
Of course this makes me think about work (we can’t help ourselves, right?). Feeling in between chapters is the best way to describe how I’ve felt in the past when I’ve changed clinics. Similar to baby clothes, I remember donating materials I no longer needed and being grateful for that experience while anxiously awaiting my next pharmacy home. Some of us are between jobs or fear we may be there soon. Some of us have outgrown current conditions yet nervous to make a career move. Some of us can’t imagine working anywhere else yet the current climate encourages one’s imagination. These transitional periods are so tough. We’re planners, after all, and the future needs us. But in what ways?
Our very own founder of pharmacistmomsgroup.com, Suzy Soliman, PharmD, BCMAS, explained the why behind her career switch. She said, “Having kids meant that my 90 minute commute wasn't an option anymore and I needed to find a better fit for the "new" me. I loved what I was doing but I knew that my children and family needed me more so I resigned from my "dream" job as an associate dean and had to find myself once again.”
I find it interesting that some events in life force us to move on to the next chapter, whether we’re ready or not. The panic in pharmacy is widespread and impactful decisions are made every day. Feeling so out of control, how do we navigate this space as working moms? I reached out to my friend, Mary Heidkamp, PhD and Executive Coach,* to help answer this really easy (not) question. She put the power in our hands. And she gets right to it: “You don’t have to save your organization. That’s not on you. If you’re in a role that’s not professionally satisfying, you have two choices: stay or start looking- and there’s reasons to do either. As moms with high-level careers, we desire fulfilling careers AND hands-on motherhood. Maybe your job is not fulfilling but it’s suiting your family well at the moment. Maybe it offers flexibility, hours that work well, and benefits you need. Maybe the craving for more satisfying work weighs more than that, so you start looking. YOU have the choice.”
Suzy opened up about her own transitions between jobs. “I was scared. I didn’t even know where to start. I spent my entire career in Chicago and didn't know anyone on the east coast and had little connections. I loved my job but I knew that moving 800 miles away was going to force me to look for a new job. I still needed to pass my boards for a new state; the hardest part was believing I could take an exam almost 10 years later. It wasn't easy.”
Here’s the superheroic plan: Let’s make a pack not to rush through transitions. If we take a step back and reflect on how far we’ve come, at home or work, maybe we can ease into the next chapter with more gratitude and grace. Let’s give ourselves time (in my case: years) to be ready to say goodbye to things that are just things. Let’s give ourselves mental space to process everything that’s going on at work. Let’s give ourselves credit when we actually DO let go of things we don’t need and let go of momentum that can’t change. When we find ourselves in the spaces in between chapters, let’s just breathe and give ourselves a moment to cogitate over what’s really important at the intersection of home and work.
Suzy adds, “What I learned is change is good. It has helped me to grow. Helped me become a better pharmacist. It helped me make new friends. New connections. I am now comfortable with being uncomfortable.”