I struggled to stay calm and hold back tears as I lovingly, but quickly, ushered my two boys on to the front porch to take the annual “First Day of School” picture. I mean, does it even count if I don’t post a picture on social media of them holding their signs?!
My snaggletoothed first grader held up his sign, followed by my less-enthused thirdgrader as I snapped the pictures, trying to forget that this morning was unlike the previous four first days of school. This year was going to be the first time I would miss taking them to class because mommy had a class of her own to get to; I had to work.
After six years as a stay-at-home-mom, I returned to the workforce in fall 2017 as an adjunct journalism professor at The University of Oklahoma. I kept my schedule light in the beginning, but over time added more classes, always mindful of being available for after-school pickup and other activities. But one activity — the first day of school drop off — is one I didn’t take into account when planning my fall semester.
It was in that moment I really felt the struggle of working outside the home.
Going back to work is something I always planned to do once both my kids were in school full time. While I loved my time at home and will forever be grateful for that opportunity, preparing to reenter the workforce was something I was always working toward, and I sought opportunities to freelance and network in between potty training, library trips and quiet time. Keeping my toe in the industry was a good mental break that, luckily, turned into a job opportunity at the right time.
The transition from home to work definitely came with a few bumps. I can’t make it to every class party, star-shaped sandwiches don’t make it in every packed lunch, exhaustion sometimes wins over a homecooked meal and the phrase “Mommy can’t, I have to work” is uttered more times than I’d like.
But the road back to work has also been so fulfilling, especially as I think back to six years ago when I decided to stay home and got puzzled looks and questions from friends and family. They voiced the concerns and fears already in my mind: Do you think you will be able to go back to work after all those years home? I’m so proud to get to answer them: Yes I will. Yes I did.
ReRe Lunsford is a Norman mom of two boys and an adjunct journalism professor at The University of Oklahoma. She wrote a a two-part series examining career change questions and challenges women often consider after becoming moms.