Adjusting the Sails: Managing Temporary Disruptions in My Job Search

by Claire Schmieder, Head Editor, INALJ New Jersey

Adjusting the Sails: Managing Temporary Disruptions in My Job Search

ClaireSchmiederI have two elementary-aged sons, who, until a few weeks ago, were busy all day at school. Now, they are home for summer. Yikes! I was able to stay at home with them (for the most part) from ages zero to five, and I was well aware that summer vacation was coming, so you’d think I’d be ready for this temporary return to stay-at-home-momdom.

Not so much.

I’ve noticed my job applications have dropped off, my attention span has shrunk, and my job searching time has dwindled to late night (when my brain kinda shuts off) and/or weekends. I love my boys – they are curious, smart, and hilarious. But, not surprisingly, they also demand a lot of my attention. During the school year, they are in the capable hands of their teachers all day, which leaves me with time to volunteer, work part time, research jobs, write cover letters, and prep for interviews. I have a new (but thankfully temporary) reality – I can’t do many of these things while they are at home for the summer. Finances don’t allow me to volunteer on-site since that work doesn’t exactly bring home the bacon required to pay a babysitter. And, writing cover letters is really hard when you have a six-year-old asking you questions every 90 seconds.

“Hey, mom, how many tornadoes happen in Texas every year?”

“Hey, mom, why can’t I have a pet Komodo dragon?”

“Hey, mom, how many miles are there between New Jersey and Australia?”

“Hey, son, can I get an hour to write a cover letter?”

The more important question I’ve been grappling with is this – how can I stay on top of my game while temporarily out of the game? This has proven a bit of a challenge for me so far, but I’m learning valuable lessons.

Lesson 1: It’s OK for me to ask for help. I’ve built a pretty great local support system, and now I’m learning how to use it. Occasionally, I ask a trusted family member/friend/concerned citizen to take my kids off your hands for a few daytime hours here or there so I can write a  cover letter. I’m also working on setting up play date swaps with some of the other stay-at-home moms I know – I’ll take their kids for a few hours one day, and on another day they’ll take mine.

Lesson 2: Accept that I just can’t be as productive right now. Sigh. This has been a hard one for me. I enjoy engaging in professional development, writing, reading, and researching. In fact, those activities are part of how I define myself as a person. So when I can’t fully engross, I don’t feel like myself. But, guess what? There’s not much I can do about the loss of my daytime hours for the time being. Guess what else? This won’t last forever – school starts in 7 weeks, and I’m pretty sure I’ll survive.

Lesson 3: Decide what’s most important to me right now and use my available time for that. I’ve had to give up a few beautiful weekends to write cover letters. But I felt so much better after sending in those applications. And, because it’s hard for me to participate in webinars (something I love), I’ve opted to enroll in a MOOC, which will allow me to learn and engage in a way that works well for my current schedule.

In other words, I’m making the best of a less than ideal situation for my job search. You better believe I’m counting down the days until my sons’ return to school, though.

  3 comments for “Adjusting the Sails: Managing Temporary Disruptions in My Job Search

  1. July 29, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    You’ll survive!

    I was frustrated by the same thing when I was in library school (I had just enough childcare to cover my classes and was otherwise a stay-at-home mom of an infant) — volunteering would have cost so much. Even a part-time library job would have cost me money. So I didn’t do those things, and was frustrated that I couldn’t, since I *knew* they were important.

    My mantra ended up being “constraints are not excuses”. So yeah, I had constraints — we all do, in terms of money or time or skills or geography or childcare or what-have-you — but I knew that I couldn’t walk into a job interview and say “I didn’t do anything beyond my classes, but I had a great excuse!” So I ended up on this obsession to figure out what I COULD do. Because we all have things we CAN do too, right? Things that are special about our skills or passions or network or resources or what-have-you? They may not be the things we’d ideally do, but they’re *our* things.

    For me, this ended up being writing and coding (because I could do it while the kid was asleep, and put it up on the web for everyone to see), and going to conferences (because my husband could take the occasional vacation day and solo the weekends much more easily than we could get regular childcare for volunteering or a part-time job). And you’re finding a way to scratch your lifelong-learning itch, and still write those *%(#*%( cover letters. Winning!

    • July 29, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      “Constraints are not excuses” what a great mantra! I would love to read an article by you on this topic- heck your response was a mini-blog post 🙂 Love it and thanks for sharing! Winning!

    • Claire Schmieder
      July 29, 2013 at 10:51 pm

      I’m so glad to hear from a stay-at-home survivor! 🙂 After my first Master’s program, I definitely used constraints as excuses. No longer! It was completely counterproductive to dwell on what I COULDN’T do instead of figuring out what I COULD accomplish in my situation. Instead of moping, I’m accepting this temporary disruption as the cost of doing business and I’m trying to find other ways to develop professionally (thus the MOOC, which has given me an excuse to do some great reading). I only have 5-6 weeks left before my boys go back to school and then I can get back to my usual pace. Thanks for your great comments!

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