If I had to label the past 10 weeks with one word, it would be "transformative". I didn't really go into this thing thinking that I'd come out feeling like a changed person, but I do. I can't say it's some major, jarring change, but I definitely feel like I've evolved. I realized shortly after the layoff that I had put so much of my identity into who I was at work, and that no longer applied. I had to reset my sense of self, and I've had 10 weeks to work through it.
Obviously the most significant part of this experience has been the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom for a while. While I've been a mom for nearly seven years, the opportunity to stay home and focus on my kids has been limited to maternity leave and a few week-long vacations here and there. Having 10 weeks to concentrate on home life has been great. I could truly make the kids a top priority and still have time to do other projects around the house. It was a luxury to spread out my daily tasks to a full day instead of a few exhausting hours at night. I think that put me in a better mood in general, though admittedly, I'm still not exactly a model mom. I've spent more time with my butt on the couch and my computer on my lap than I probably should have, especially with Carter around. I like that he can play on his own, but I know I probably should have been even more interactive than I was. He's hard to keep up with sometimes as he jumps from toy to toy! But having the extra time to enjoy his silliness, his post-nap smiles, his skilled lunchtime yogurt-eating, and having a fun little errand buddy, has been priceless. I'll be happy to get him back to consistent instruction and social interaction at daycare, but I will miss him and his hugs all day. Jacob didn't benefit from my time off quite as much, but it's been nice to be the one picking him up and having a little time to hear about his day, since that's not always the case when I'm working.
Through this process I proved to myself that while I could stay home and not lose my mind, we're all probably better suited to having more of a balance. But exploring my "mom side" a little more was enlightening and I truly loved spending extra time in that role. The extra spare time has also allowed me to rediscover my creative side and my love of reading. It was nice to know those elements still existed after so many years of focusing on just work and family. Hopefully I'll take that as a reminder once things get back to normal that I need to make a point of visiting those parts of me a little more often.
I've definitely watched a lot of TV during this time, and I've noticed that a lot of the shows I've been gravitating to have had a common theme of transformation. Early on I was really into "My Big Fat Fabulous Life", which is a reality show following a fabulous but obese woman who's at peace with her weight, but still working her way through life as she hits 30. I've also started watching "My 600-Lb. Life", which I somehow never got into before. While it's hard to watch at times, it's amazing to see people finally figure out how to reclaim their life. I've also watched a lot of "What Not to Wear", which has probably been the best parallel of the transition I've been going through. So many of the subjects are in a tough spot in life, often coming back from a tragedy, or between jobs, or having simply lost sight of themselves to a busy life. They forgot how important it was to present themselves in a certain way, and over the course of the show their new wardrobe and makeover reconnect them to a confident version of themselves that they forgot was there. I've had a similar experience as I've worked to rebuild my dress wardrobe after years in jeans. I've tried to modernize my look and I've bulked up my accessories to give my wardrobe a little more personality. Seeing myself with a little extra "polish" has been a huge mental boost.
In addition, I've spent the last couple months focusing on selling myself--pinpointing my skills and showcasing them to convince people I can do a job. Having to pull out those positives and focus in on things that I'm good at has been a nice ego boost, as well. Even if you know you can do your job, sometimes it's easy to forget that your abilities don't end there. It's nice to know that other people, specifically people that don't really know you, can see potential in you, as well. I've felt more confident than I expected throughout this process, and that's been a nice change of pace for me, since confidence has never really been my strong suit.
Add in some time in the gym and an extended chance to relax and recharge, and I'm coming out of this experience with a fresh perspective. I know what's important in life and I love being productive when it benefits my family. I am ready to get the "new me" out into the world and share what I have to offer with a new group of people. I'm sure it won't take too many long days at work or busy evenings at home to suck some of the life back out of me, but I hope that I can take some of the lessons I learned during this time with me into the next phase of my life. It's been a huge blessing to have this time, despite the inherent stress, and I hope to carry this experience with me for a long, long time.