One of the most common questions about the Australia plan—especially if you are my parents, my husband, or a friend feeling protective of me—has been: But what about your job?! Let’s see…how can I explain my complex feelings about it? How about the ever-versatile Facebook category, "it's complicated?"
Last Friday was my last day of work. You know it’s been a short career when the post for my first day of work (see below) is on the same page as the last day! I told Jumpstart early on about our Australia opportunity and they have been nothing but wonderful and flexible about it. We developed a plan to phase out my work so I can (a) be the sole parent here for a while and (b) focus on the huge tasks of packing up, selling the house, and moving. In May I switched to working part time, much of it from home, and then wrapped everything up last week with a farewell lunch with my team.
As I said, my feelings about this ending are complicated, multi-layered. I’m definitely disappointed to leave; their wonderfulness through the transition only heightened my wistfulness about giving up working at such a supportive place. I’ve loved my time there and had truly expected it to be my professional home for a long time…but telecommuting from Australia on a 14-hour time change was a bit much too much to ask! I’m exceedingly glad for the chance I had to do this job, even for just a fraction of a year. It was a blessing in our lives for many anticipated and unexpected reasons.
Like many things, there are tradeoffs. I will give up a nice paycheck, some external responsibilities, meaningful collaboration and collegial relationships. But also, I’ll gladly leave behind 6 a.m. commutes, being perpetually tired, eliminating a lot of extras, and squishing all of the house-and-family related things after 3 every day. I gain more time and a slower pace, different projects, chances to read and write, an uncomplicated summer, and the chance to live abroad with my family—something that has been on our dream list ever since we got married!
At the core, I feel pretty zen about this transition. I’ve never wrapped up my identity much in a paycheck or a title, as fun as those things are—maybe that’s an artifact of being an at-home mom through most of my young-to-mid adulthood. I just want to do something interesting, meaningful, and ideally of help to others. Does being a Mom fall under that list? Yes, definitely. Maybe there will eventually be other options under that category, too (and I will have a work visa in Australia so it’s not outside the realm of possibility). As Sam wisely noted, “Well, there are children who need help in Australia, too, right?”
I remember reading an interview with the author Anne Tyler. She explained that when she finished a novel, she imagined bundling up her characters, putting them on the train to New York, and waving goodbye to dear friends. That’s how I feel about Working Annie. I like to think that I’ve left her in an office somewhere, wearing dress pants and heels and gold hoop earrings, sitting in meetings and speaking up. She found her voice. She was a good egg, tried hard, fell short lots of times, worried more than she needed to. She called Sam every morning at 6:45 and left daily love notes to the family on the kitchen table. I have a tender, grateful, compassionate spot in my heart for her. I don’t regret any of it.
But if you know of anyone who needs an Australia-based developmental psychologist/child developmentalist...you know who to call. Or maybe I'll go ahead and write that novel or learn how to paint.