How I Went From Working Mom to Stay-At-Home Mom to Writer/Mom
I love the term “reinventing oneself.” It’s full of possibilities. It can mean a new wardrobe, a new haircut or something more profound, like a big life change.
For me, reinventing myself came out of necessity after I abruptly quit my corporate job when I was eight months pregnant with my second child. Burned out, exhausted, stressed and running myself into the ground, I decided to call it quits. The work environment wasn’t conducive to having one child, never mind two. I had negotiated a “part-time” arrangement, which meant I worked from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Still, client responsibilities and evening events stretched the 5:00 p.m. until much later into the evening. I’d had enough and I quit. It wasn’t my best moment. I didn’t handle it as gracefully as I should have. But at eight months pregnant there was nothing graceful about me or my attitude.
Suddenly, I was a stay-at-home-mom to a three-year old daughter, with my second child due in a month. The first few days, I was in a wonderful, calm, zen-like state of mind. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. For the first time in years, I wasn’t on somebody else’s schedule. I took long walks, picked up my daughter early from preschool, grocery shopped and enjoyed my newfound freedom.
Before long, the reality set in. I was a stay-at-home mom, without a network of friends. My friends all worked. Who could I call to get together with? I couldn’t think of a single person. I realized that if I was going to be a full-time stay at home mom, I’d need to reinvent myself. So I did.
After my son was born, I joined a Mommy and Me class, something I’d never had time to do before. Mommy and Me classes have their own playground pecking order: the pretty, popular moms, the frumpy moms, the sleepy moms and the moms who just don’t care. But, I digress, My son and I had fun, even though I didn’t really click with anybody. I made friends with moms in my neighborhood and we took our kids to music class together. This transition to staying home full-time wasn’t without some very lonely days. There were times when I spent the entire day alone with my son. It was more difficult than I ever imagined. I had more than my share of ups and downs. My husband was relieved when I quit my job. He couldn’t stand to see me so stressed. Still, this was a big change for our family, financially and for me, emotionally.
After I quit my job, when people asked me what I did, I said, “I’m a mom.” I never felt I needed to explain further. Whenever somebody would press me further about what I used to do before I had kids, I’d get a kick out of evading the question. I’d had the six-figure corporate job and I didn’t have anything to prove. By insisting I couldn’t be “just a mom,” people were underestimating my quest to reinvent myself. I no longer had to detail my resume for people I barely knew. It felt great!
A few years passed, my son started preschool and it was time for me to reinvent myself again. I didn’t consciously set out to create a “new me.” Instead, I thought about what I wanted to do with my career. Whatever I chose, it had to offer flexibility and the ability for me to work from home. This is where the cliché, “do what you love,” is really true.
For some time, I had been interested in writing about the intensely competitive, mysterious and secretive private school admissions process in Los Angeles. As soon as I applied to private elementary schools for my daughter and she was accepted, I knew this would be my next project. But, I didn’t want to tackle it alone. So, I enlisted my step-mom, a head of private schools with 30 years experience and a friend of ours, a former teacher at one of LA’s elite private schools to co-write a book with me.
The book was self-published through CreateSpace (an Amazon company). Writing it took nine months publishing it took another three months. In September 2009, our book was released. We also started writing a blog on the same topic. To market the book, I used everything I learned working in public relations, from writing to pitching products. We also hired a local public relations firm. It’s very difficult to promote your own product, at least initially. My co-authors asked their private school contacts for help to create a buzz about the book. The result? With several great reviews on mom blogs and local publications, the book is now sold in all the Los Angeles independent bookstores and on Amazon.com. The self-publishing process had its ups and downs. Rewrites and editing took longer than anticipated. Files refused to upload. We acquired debt to publish and promote the book. Somebody left a not-so-good review on Amazon.com. Despite the downsides, I wouldn’t change anything because every start-up venture has its frustrating moments. Overall, I’m pleased to say the book is selling well and the blog is really taking off. I enjoy working with our guest bloggers and I’ve been flattered to write guest blog pieces for several blogs I admire. And, my co-authors and I hold about five speaking events every Fall for parents who are going through the admissions process.
It took some time for me to start telling people I’d started working again. I don’t know why I hesitated to call what I do “work.” I spend about five hours a day on the book and blog. That’s work! Interestingly, I love every minute of it because I’m passionate about the subject and I know there isn’t nearly enough information out there for other moms who are applying to private schools in LA. The emails we get at 2 a.m. from panicked moms going through the admissions process are enough to convince me I made the right decision. When we speak to parent groups, sometimes we stay well past the event time, answering questions and chatting with moms and dads about the admissions process. They are so appreciative and welcoming, I can’t imagine any other career.
Writing in More Magazine (Febuary 2011), Emily Listfield sums it up, “A life of engagement and accomplishment brings inner change that we may not think to outwardly express.” I relish the power that comes with personal and professional transformation. I look forward to the next opportunity to reinvent myself, although I have no idea when it will be. Or what it will be. I’m biding my time and waiting … patiently.
Christina Simon is the co-author of “Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles.” She also writes the blog, www.beyondthebrochure.blogspot.com about applying to private elementary schools in Los Angeles and life as a private school mom. Christina is a former vice president at Fleishman-Hillard, a global public relations firm. She has a 7-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. Christina lives in Hancock Park, Los Angeles with her husband and children. She has a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and an M.A. from UCLA.