Saturday, September 04, 2021

Back to School and Back to Work

The first week of high school was exhausting.

I'm joking, but only a bit. Everything is fine - better than fine, even - but helping a child who inherited my tendency to worry about and overthink everything navigate her first week in a new school (remember, she was at a K-8 school before this!) and the fact that music at this school turned out to be different than expected... well, that's been a challenge.

At one point I asked her why she didn't talk to her father, who doesn't tend to worry about much of anything, for advice and she said that he doesn't worry so he wouldn't know what to do about worrying. Fair enough! But I don't know either, or I wouldn't be (in)famous in the family for worrying about things!

Anyway, we made it through. She ended the week on a real high note, very happy with how her schedule has ended up.

(And yes, she approved me posting this. My kids are old enough now that I ask permission before sharing details like this.)

The start of middle school for Petunia has gone well, too, although there was a communication failure around the in school COVID testing plan and so she missed her first weekly test. I'm sure they'll get it sorted out and she'll be tested next week. 

We made it through the first week without any exposure notifications. We came disturbingly close to running out of the KF94s the kids wear at school, so the high schooler went with a cloth mask with a filter one day. Our new supply of masks arrived yesterday and we're set now.

As for me... well, work continues to be tough. The vacation and my rocky return from it have clarified my thinking on work, though, and I now think I know what is wrong and what I need to do. Basically, as my company grew the role of project manager morphed into a more traditional project management role and that is no longer a great fit for me. I can do the job, and in fact from the feedback I get I'm pretty good at it. But I don't enjoy it. I liked it more when the lines between roles were less well-defined and my job involved more of the analysis and design I enjoy. 

Basically, I realized that I was so slammed upon coming back from vacation because I'm doing a bunch of things that aren't technically my job, but I don't want to jettison those things because they are the things I like doing the most. I can't jettison the other things because they are a required part of my job. And I can't keep doing all the things because it is too much.

So I have started talking to the appropriate people about finding me a role that is a better fit. I have caught up enough that I don't have to be in a huge rush - work will feel manageable again within a week or so, I think. But it isn't sustainable in the long term so I want to fix that.

I decided to try to fix it at my current company instead of just starting a job search because I really, really like the people at my company. They are all really great to work with and I've been in the work world long enough to know how unusual that is. 

There is another small part to this decision, too - the people at this company know me and value me and will give me any flexibility I need as we ride out the rest of this pandemic and indeed as I navigate this new phase of parenting.

I am reading This is How it Always Is, by Laurie Frankel, and there is a passage that I read last week that really resonated. The woman in the story is a doctor and the book is explaining why she's stayed in the same place where she did her training:

But Roo followed by Ben followed by Rigel and Orion had put a stop to that plan too, children being the enemies of plans and also the enemies of anything besides themselves. UW knew her work ethic and track record, never mind her taking yet another maternity leave, never mind the final months when she couldn't even fit bedside, or the months before that when she couldn't lift patients or much of anything else, never mind the mornings she was too nauseated to work and the nights she called in sick because the only place more germ laden than a hospital is an elementary school. She was worth it. But no one outside UW Hospital new it. And so she stayed.

Oof, that hit hard. It is not an exact parallel to my situation, because I have enough former colleagues scattered around in other companies in my industry that I could find another place that would mostly know I am worth it. But that is different from being at a place where pretty much everyone knows you're worth it and also you've all covered for each other through various family emergencies big and small. There is a value to that I would have struggled to put my finger on before I read that passage in the book.

I feel better now that I've figured out what needs to happen and started the discussions to make it happen. 

My general lessons from this are: 

  • Just because you're good at something that doesn't mean that thing is what you are meant to be doing
  • There is a big difference from knowing something in the abstract (e.g., job roles tend to solidify and reduce down to the key aspects of a job title as a company grows) and recognizing it happening in your life
  • If you're struggling at work sometimes what you need to do is take a vacation so that you can get enough head space to figure things out.

So, I'm feeling better heading into this long weekend but still behind on a bunch of things. It will be another busy weekend, but at least with the extra day I will probably get some more relaxation time.

I have still been restricting my social media time because so much of what is in my feed just makes me want to either scream or cry and that isn't really what I need right now, so I decided not to try to do links. I am not sure when they'll be back. Sorry to anyone who misses them!

I do have one funny thing for you:

And here's a rabbit:

Have a good weekend everyone!


  1. Love what your daughter says about needing to talk to the anxious parent. I totally understand! It's kind of like if you have a hard time with math, being taught math by someone who struggled with it too: they get it.
    And I think that's great that you're going to pursue addressing things in the current job rather than looking for another. Good people and a good overall environment mean a lot--but not so much that you shouldn't address problems, obviously.
    And I agree very strongly with the sentiment that just because you're good at something doesn't mean you should have to do it.

    1. Thank you! I get what she's saying about her father not being able to help someone prone to worrying learn how not to worry but oh boy, I don't feel qualified to help, either! We did come up with some strategies that seemed to help a bit, which is I guess all I've come up with for myself, too!

  2. (... Asakiyume = Francesca Forrest)

  3. This was so helpful to hear - I joined a startup last year and the position has definitely morphed and evolved.

    1. Oh yes, jobs at startups change A LOT as the company grows and matures and because everything at start ups happens fast that can really take a lot of people by surprise. When I joined this company it was well past start up but still on the small side where a lot of people where a lot of different hats. It is bigger now, which is a good thing because that means we're doing well... but the number of hats per person has gone down dramatically and I found myself left wearing the wrong one!

  4. Anonymous8:29 PM

    THANK YOU!!!!Each and every post! Much appreciated.

  5. Welcome back! Yay for surviving the first week of high school!

    I hear you about the links. My links on Friday took a really dark turn. I'm glad that I've found less dark ones for this coming week.

    We had a decent first few weeks of school and now the exposure notices are rolling in and my gut is clenching again. I know we have to stick with this a while longer because this is what we can handle and I keep crossing my fingers that the measures we're taking with JB's masking are effective and protect them sufficiently.

  6. This post is super helpful - absolutely articulates why I've stayed where I am and not gone hunting for better paying, or just plain fancier jobs. Also probably helps that I don't actually have a job title. I've been introduced by my boss as the person who "does all the things".

    I'm looking forward to any more stories you've got about high school - my daughter just started this year (basically took last year off) and is loving it so far. She's gone from being one of the youngest in the class to being one of the oldest, but in a way that didn't leave her feeling like she'd been held back a year, and I think this is working so much better for her.

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