I’ve slacked off writing in this blog because I no longer feel like my blog has a cohesive identity. I am guessing that most people follow my blog because it is a “grief” blog. As a result, I don’t hesitate to write grief-related blog posts. But I want to write more about my life in here as well. I know I wrote a post awhile ago, indicating that was my plan…I just haven’t followed through with it much. It’s weird, I almost feel like talking in a public sphere about other parts of my life feels too vulnerable. I tell myself I can share my grief reactions because maybe they will be helpful to someone on a similar journey. But talking about the other parts of my life would really just be for my benefit: to share, document memories, work through struggles and feelings, seek validation and support, and serve no greater purpose than that. I think for that reason I haven’t written many posts outside the grief category. I am going to challenge myself though and share more pieces of me, of us, and our experiences. This is going to be one of those blog posts. And it’s a long one so feel free to stop reading now if you aren’t interested in hearing my mommy/career dilemmas.
So, you may or may not know that I am a Licensed Clinical Psychologist currently working part-time at the BYU Counseling and Psychological Services. I enjoy my job a great deal but want to give a little background on my professional journey and aspirations. After I graduated with my degree in 2010, I started working full time at Center for Change, an inpatient and residential facility for those struggling with severe eating disorders. This felt like the perfect fit for me because it has been my desire to specialize in two areas: Eating Disorders and Group Psychotherapy. I was able to pursue both these goals in very meaningful ways while I worked at Center for Change. Not only did I work with eating disorder patients each day, I also ran 7 groups for the center! However, while this job was professionally and personally fulfilling, it was also stressful and challenging. After I had Charlie, I had intentions of returning to work at Center for Change but wanted to see if I could work part-time. Well, fate changed our life drastically when Charlie died.
After Charlie died, I didn’t feel I had the emotional reserves to work in a high stress, intensive environment like Center for Change, even though I loved the work and the population. I honestly felt like I had NOTHING to give and to do work with eating disorder clients in any meaningful kind of way, I felt I needed to have emotional reserves. For this reason, I decided it was not good timing to return to work at Center for Change.
A part-time position became open at the BYU counseling center and former colleagues and friends approached me to see if I was interested. This felt like a serendipitous opportunity.
This was the perfect environment for me at the time. I worked at the counseling center as a graduate student and so the environment was familiar and supportive for me. I also welcomed the opportunity to work with a higher functioning population and knew as a result, that the stress would be significantly less.
So I have been contentedly working at BYU since Fall 2012. It has met my emotional and professional needs and my bosses and colleagues have been incredibly supportive and flexible (e.g. giving me extended maternity leave after having Cami).
As I work there, I still feel I am able to meaningfully pursue my aspirations of developing an expertise in treating eating disorders and group psychotherapy. However, this is on a much lower scale. About 1/3 of my clients present with eating disorder concerns and I run only 1 group (compared to the previous 7). I have been ok with this as again, as I’ve been healing, I’ve needed to work less and with a higher functioning clientele. It has been really beneficial to go home at night and not worry about my clients. I have also felt I’ve been able to strike a good work/home balance as a mom. Also, since I’ve been at the counseling center, I’ve been working with other clinicians to develop an Eating Disorder program where we offer eating disorder specific groups, trainings, consultation meetings, and supervision. I feel valued as a knowledgeable colleague in this area as I was able to present an inservice meeting last month on treating Eating Disorders to the entire counseling center faculty and even a couple health center physicians. I am also presenting a half day workshop at a national conference in February on group work with eating disorder clients.
So overall, I have felt BYU continues to meet my personal needs and career aspirations.
But I ask myself, “Can I really develop an expertise in treating eating disorders and running groups if my job stays the same?” I often feel frustrated at the minimal progress I’m able to help clients make when we are so oversheduled that I am only seeing my clients 1x a month! And running one group each week, while awesome, doesn’t fulfill my group itch or make me feel like I’m making a lot of professional progress in this area.
Last month a job opportunity fell into my lap that seemed so perfect! Center for Change approached me and asked me to help them with their group program at a new Intensive Outpatient Program in Salt Lake City (15 minutes from my house!). They were only asking for three hours of my time and offered generous compensation! This position fit my career aspirations perfectly. It seemed like a no brainer to take this position.
But nothing is a no brainer when you are a working mom. Or a grieving mom.
Working part-time at BYU, while not nearly as stressful as working full time at Center for Change, is still a lot of work. I often feel “at capacity” with my ability to be emotionally present at work AND emotionally present with my kids. Finding that perfect work/home balance is tricky, and I honestly feel like I’ve found it right now. While my professional self wants more responsibility, wants more progression and opportunity, the mom in me, and the grieving mom in me, doesn’t know if I have more to give right now.
On the one hand, this position was only three hours of my time! On the other hand, that is three MORE hours of my time away from home and my kids.
Being a working mom, I face a lot of mommy guilt. Like when I missed Hailee’s Christmas Sing at school last week. I try to prioritize my kids above all else, and I also have to pick and choose. I took work off to volunteer at Hailee’s class Halloween party, but I couldn’t make the Christmas Sing work. And I felt bad about that and was sad I missed it. I am also sad that as of yet, I haven’t been able to volunteer in Hailee’s class, and I feel like I’m the only mom who hasn’t. I also get sad that our caregiver takes Cami to a Little Gym class on the days I work. I’m super glad Cami has that fun time, but jealous I am not there to witness her accomplishments like hanging from bars or walking a balance beam all by herself.
But in the time I’m home, I feel Hailee and Cami get good quality time with me. Work energizes me and gives me a break from being home. And being home gives me a break from work. It’s a good balance. But I am aware this year, more than ever, that I am not “on top of it” as a mom. I miss notices from school about events, homework, activities, all the time. I also miss important emails from work! Sometimes I feel I’m losing my mind trying to keep everything straight. As a result, Hailee has missed out on some opportunities and I have a reputation at work for absentmindedness. See how precarious this balance is for me?
While I value both being a mom AND working, I feel I settle for mediocre in both responsibilities. And I kind of hate mediocre.
Back to the job offer: I honestly agonized over this decision and had long conversations with Chad and consulted with colleagues and trusted friends. I didn’t feel right taking the job and I didn’t feel right turning it down either. At times, the feminist in me got upset that I wouldn’t be facing this dilemma if I were a man! But then I also remember that I have the privilege of being a mom, a role many women want and don’t get to have.
Anyway, this is long and drawn out and in the end, I turned the job offer down. It’s hard to know I would probably thrive in the position Center For Change offered me. It’s super hard for me to “bridle my passions,” so-to-speak. But I’m also being protective of my time with my kids and my emotional capacity to be present with them.
As time progresses with our family and we continue to heal and grow, maybe the time will feel right to pursue added work or a different career course. But right now isn’t the time.