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Summer vacation is over. For my family, the last week was topped with a week full of back-to-school activities from open houses to mandatory meetings. And then, just like that, Monday morning came, and we were back in full swing.

I have a lot of friends who stood on the steps of the school with tears in their eyes (or possibly fear in their hearts, if their kids were heading to middle or high school) bidding farewell to their kids. Okay, I have to admit, that wasn't me.

After I pushed the older one out of the car and the little one out the front door, I was ready to finally have six and a half hours to myself with no obligations, no work, and nothing to do. I like having the kids around, but I also like time on my own. The first day of school has become a day of Mollie Zen time. It's a day where I can focus back into my own life and what I want to do. It's fantastic for the mind and spirit.

Three years ago, I watched my youngest boy venture off to his first day of kindergarten. For the first time in 11 years, I didn't have a sidekick. I didn't have to make lunch or mid-day snacks. I didn't have anyone tagging along for trips to the store. I didn't have to keep glancing at the clock, so I didn't miss the 11:30 preschool pick-up time three days a week. I didn't have to play cards or Monopoly Jr. I didn't have another voice that was constantly talking about Pokemon or telling me to look at the cat, because she is so cute and funny. Yes, it was weird and frankly, a little lonely.

I remember wandering around the house that day thinking about what I would do next. The kids were carrying on in their lives, and I was standing still in stay-at-home mom mode with no kids to mother for six and a half hours a day. What did I want to do with myself? What was I supposed to do?

I knew for sure that I wouldn't spend my days cleaning; I really hate having to do that. I'm not much of a TV watcher (I can honestly say that I have never seen Oprah or Ellen), so I wasn't going to discover new daytime shows. I wasn't going to join a gym; I like my private early morning work-outs running the streets of Omaha while most of the city is still sleeping. I wasn't going to join a club or do more volunteer work than I already did. Yes, I had a huge list of those things that I wouldn't do, but I couldn't come up with a solid list of what I would do or wanted to do.

So, the first few days were spent reading, knocking around the house, and contemplating. On about day three, I was bored to death. I was pretty sure that if I kept up at this pace, I'd become some kind of shut-in that couldn't find a good enough excuse to wash her hair. That was not going to be me. I needed a cause, a place to go, a place to define myself beyond the kids. And that, to me, only meant one thing…I needed a job.

I started putting together a resume. Wow. I hadn't done this in years. And how on earth would a hiring manager take me seriously with an 11 year gap in solid employment? Sure, I'd done my share of freelancing over the years, so I had somewhat recent work experience, but still… I thought about all the things I had done over the years. Lots of volunteering at the schools, community volunteering and some special projects. I didn't know how to put it all together into something compelling. I started researching how to put together a resume, how to go back to work, and how to conduct a job search. And then I simply hoped that I'd find something. Anything. (Oh yeah, but it had to be part-time and flexible, so I could be there before and after school, holidays and vacations.)

About a week into the search, I got three calls. Hmm... maybe I wasn't so bad on paper. My confidence soared. 

I went into the first interview wearing borrowed business attire from a couple of my girlfriends. I was nervous. I was unsure. I felt like I was going to have to justify my decision all those years ago to abandon a career for days on end of playdough and people no taller than four feet. Was I making the right decision to go back to work?

My fears were quickly abated. We had nice grown-up talk. We talked about my strengths and weaknesses (None- ha!). We talked about the job. The hours. The expectations. The company. Oh my gosh, my head was spinning. But I liked this feeling. I could do this.

Needless to say, I got offered that job, and I took it.

Going back to work has been great. For me. Maybe not everyone wants to or ends up liking it if they do, and that's okay. It's what works for you. What works for me is going into an office, working hard, talking to other adults who have ideas and creativity, being challenged and engaged, and then, making sure I'm home when the kids are. Yep, I guess those kids are still my priority and will be forever.

And so, every year for the past three, on the day when the kids go back to school, I think about how I made a decision and took a little bit of my life back.

Mollie Protzman


Mollie is an Omaha native and a mom of two boys ages 13 and 8. She's been married for 20 years and spent most of those first 10 years living in various cities around the country. Before kids, she was in marketing communications and public relations and then stayed home with her boys for 11 years while doing freelance writing on the side. The day after her youngest one went to kindergarten, she just about went berserk with the quiet in the house and nothing constructiv ...

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