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By Heather Oman

I went to a speech conference last week. It was cool. I’ve been wanting to take this particular course for years now, and finances and schedules and locations finally lined up enough for me to do it. It was long and hard, but it was worth it.

Going to a speech conference sounds like I’m a hard core speech therapist. I’m not. I took 6 years off from my career to raise my kids. It doesn’t feel like a long time to be away from the profession, but considering that 6 years ago, there were no smart phones, no I-pads, no “speech apps” for sale, no Facebook, no Pinterest, no Twitter, and the only places that weren’t still using paper medical charts were the very cutting edge hospitals, I’m actually feeling quite behind. I have a lot of catching up to do, and in terms of my treatment skills, I’m very, very, very rusty.

This was forcefully brought home to me during this conference, as I sat with energetic fresh faced therapists, most of whom have been practicing less than 5 years, one of whom measured her career in months. They were young, and sharp too, processing things and answering questions with whip speed as I was still mulling things over.

I felt old. And stupid.

But after the conference, we all went out to dinner, and had a conversation about therapy and parenting. None of these women were parents yet, and I realized I had a perspective that they didn’t. They are at the beginning of their careers, and I am in the middle, which means that even though I’m rusty, I still, by definition, have seen more than they had. I may not be able to recite off the top of my head which tests I should give to evaluate a preschooler’s language, but I understand better what a parent needs from a therapist, how it feels to wonder if your child has a problem, and how therapy can be overwhelming in terms of time and money. I also remember cringe worthy conversations I’d had as a fresh faced and energetic eager young therapist with patients and families. Those conversations today would have gone very, very differently.

As I was pondering all of this in my hotel room one night, I thought, “Hey. Whaddya know. I’m evolving.”

It was a nice thought.

It meant that even though I often feel like motherhood is sort of an intellectual desert, and even though some days it’s all I can do to get through the day, even though I’d like to think that I love classical literature but actually more often read books about Discworld*, and even though I’m way behind in a profession that I desperately want to rejoin and have no real idea about how to do so, somewhere, SOMEWHERE along the way, I’ve picked up a few things.

Who would have guessed.

Have you had experiences that affirm emotional or intellectual growth? How has the experience demonstrated that growth? Are there are things that you have done specifically to avoid intellectual atrophy, either at work or at home? Are these experiences painful?

*Discworld is a world created by the fantasy author Terry Pratchett, and he’s written a variety of books chronicling the lives of the different folks who live there. The books are quirky and awesome and fun. Death is there a lot. He’s quite funny.

About Heather Oman

(Prose Board) lives in the south with her husband, her two kids, and her wiggly black lab. She is a licensed speech language pathologist, but spends most of her days trying to teach her own kids how to say please and thank you. She is a member of the Segullah Editorial Board, and is the founding member of the blog Mormon Mommy Wars.

6 thoughts on “Evolving”

  1. I think this is great Heather–I started full-time work a few years ago after mostly being in school and/or home with my kids for about 10 years. I felt really weird starting a career when many of my coworkers that were my age had already been working in the field for quite a lot longer. Readjusting to a professional environment was tricky. But, I have also seen how I have personally evolved over the last decade in ways that have really benefited my employment capability. Many of those things are not tangible and cannot be put on my CV like certification or work experience, but I know I am a very different employee than I would have been had I gotten the same job 10 years ago. The workplace often values specific milestones and credentials and that can be intimidating for women who have been out of paid employment for a while–however, it is important to acknowledge the 'human capital' we gain from our life experiences.

  2. Thank you for this post. I'm at the beginning of motherhood and constantly feel like I'm quickly aging and becoming irrelevant to my field in an "intellectual desert." I originally chose my career with strong hopes that I could spin it into a part time job for a few years, but the prevalence of job outsourcing has eliminated so many full-time jobs that part-time ones simply no longer exist. I really fear the time in the hopeful future when I attempt to reenter the workforce.

  3. Almost 8 years ago I graduated my MS and had my first baby within just a couple weeks. Within a couple years I had a substantial "career" job offer in a different state(which I didn't take because my DH had one at the same time that allowed him to stay in school himself.) and 1 semester experience teaching a college class, but I've had no paid work since then. Now I have 4 and my youngest is 2 and I can actually foresee the time when all of my children will be in school, which is when I might like to find a job for myself.

    I feel guilty for wanting to work outside the home when it isn't an economic necessity for our family, though I think it would do a lot for my sanity, but I'm not sure at all how I might manage a "return" after so long to a technical field I was never established in to begin with. I have 3 years and I should probably take classes or something to brush up on things and have something "fresh" in my field(though I don't know what), as well as figuring out whether there's actually any such thing as a part-time scientist (Plus: can I do it anymore anyway?).

    The whole situation makes me feel confused and conflicted ( I was raised on "To The Mothers in Zion"), but I'm distinctly talented in the intellectual arena and dramatically un-talented at housekeeping and the like, and it would be SO GOOD to actually spend some time doing something I'm actually good at again instead of spending most of it failing to maintain tidiness or order and neglecting to decorate my home. If I can and if I dare and I'm not selfishly giving in to the Enticements of The World and the wiles of the devil and forsaking my sacred responsibility to devote my Full Attention to the Things That Matter Most.

    I'm not sure all that means anything to any one else, but the I loved the article and it's always nice to get some hint that you're not the only one with vaguely similar concerns.

  4. I started a career after raising five kids and 18 years of non-paid work. Don't sell yourself short for the skills you're learning being The Mom. All of that volunteer work you do at church and your children's school should go on your resume. Go to those career-oriented classes at regular intervals that keep you current. Go to those conferences now and then so you can be refreshed.

    Don't sweat it if you don't have a house decorated from Pinterest. Blah–some of our talents lie in other areas. If your children are clean and get decent food and they know you love them, you're a good mother. Organize them to be the cleaners and tidiers (it takes a lot of good managerial skills–all good for your resume.) You don't have to wait 18 years (I had to finish college during that time, too.) But be as good as you can doing the homemaking job now, and then you'll also be developing your skills to handle the parts of your next career that are tedious and repetitive. Every job has them! We all have different strengths and skills. Have faith in yourself and your judgement.

  5. Julie, I totally understand where you're coming from. As much as I love being home with my toddler, there are so many days where I feel like I have a "job" that I'm barely mediocre at. It's not a fun feeling. I look off and on for part-time work so that I can have an outlet where I can feel competent, but nothing has felt right yet.

    Heather, I am also an SLP, and I've taken the last year off to be home with my first baby. I worked for almost two years before she was born, and I'm terrified of losing my skill set. I feel like my knowledge has already started to atrophy. I worry I'll never get back into it, or that when I'm ready to dive back in I won't have the skills I need. Thanks for the encouragement–it's nice to know I'm not alone.

  6. Such a great post, thank you. I told my friend all about this concept while on a bike ride this morning. She's applying for a new job on Monday and was a bit nervous about reentering the workplace after many years of unpaid work. With your words in mind, we had fun listing the many skills she's developed over her past 25 years of mothering.


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