A Message Of Hope For Women Who Choose To Stay Home With Their Children
This is a true story. It is about the choices I have made over the last 25 years and how those choices have affected my life and my career. It is a message of hope and encouragement for those of you who have chosen to put your family first during the early years of their lives. I firmly believe that you CAN have it all– home, family, and successful career–you just have it at different times in your life.
In 1965 I graduated from college with a degree in English education. Because I had met my husband-to-be the preceding summer and he was employed by a Chicago newspaper, my job search was limited to the suburbs of Chicago. That spring I was thrilled to sign a contract to teach freshman and sophomore English at Lyons Township High School in La Grange, Illinois. My teaching career was everything I had dreamed of–exciting, challenging, and undergirded with a deep sense of mission that I was helping young people learn to appreciate the power of the written and the spoken word.
When I became pregnant with our first son Garrett in 1968, there was no question in my mind about what I would do. I taught until the end of January 1969; then I left to become a full-time mother. I still, however, kept up a regular contact with my friends who were teachers, and I corresponded with many of my former students. Although I missed the professional stimulation of my job, I was delighting in learning everything I could about being a parent.
Then came 1971–the worst year of my life! Early in that year my gentle mother-in-law died after an agonizingly long battle with cancer. In September my vigorous father at age 62 had a sudden heart attack in the night and was gone. And in December we lost our second son at birth with no warning whatsoever. Soon after that, I found a lump in my breast. For the next several years my focus was simply on survival, somehow learning to cope with the grief and the losses I had experienced.
During this time I made two deeply important choices in my life: One was to live five minutes at a time. There were many days when the grief was so overwhelming that I couldn’t face even the next few hours; however I could always make it through just 5 minutes! That choice has enabled me to be fully in the present, no matter what I am doing. The other conscious choice I made was to never again try to be something or someone I was not. I was hurting so much that I knew I could never be hurt so deeply again; thus, I chose to take the risk of being totally authentic in my life.
Somehow, over time, I gradually began to rediscover that every day is a gift to be opened with courage and anticipation and joy. Finally I was again able to reach out to others and to feel a sense of purpose in my life. In 1973 we were blessed with our first daughter Gretchen, and in 1976 our third child Erin completed our family.
During those years my focus, my primary “career,” became my children. I made it my job to expose them to the widest variety of life experiences I could. Because of our close proximity to a large city, I was able to take them to many special classes at the museums, the zoos, the Art Institute, and the Aquarium, most of which were free. We attended children’s concerts, children’s theater productions, story hours at the library, and I was deeply committed to reading aloud to them for 30 minutes every day. As they grew older, they all took piano lessons (one of the two “non-negotiables” in our home: they each had to take piano lessons until their 12th birthday AND they could not use a gift until they had written a thank-you note to the giver!)
I also invited people from all walks of life and all parts of the world to our home to help broaden our children’s perspectives. We went to church and Sunday School, we took many picnics, we played many games, we did many crafts together, and we all loved the costume box which I constantly kept stocked from resale shops and garage sales! Although my budget was low, my motivation was high, and I felt successful in my chosen “career.”
About 1974 I began to feel a need for my own professional growth. I had been volunteering in the community, my church, and the school system, and those activities not only taught me a great deal about organizational skills, people management, and fund raising, but they were also deeply satisfying. However, it became more and more important to me to use my education and my teaching skills in a more professional way while at the same time keeping my primary focus on my children.
About that time I heard of an opening in the Adult Evening School to teach English as a Second Language, and I accepted the job. Since I had had no formal training in that area, I signed up for a weekend extension graduate class from Northern Illinois University. That class led to a commitment for the next five years of my life–I took one course every quarter until 1980 when I received my Master’s degree in Adult Continuing Education. As part of the graduation ceremony, the chancellor asked the families of each of the graduates to stand up as they received their diploma. My children nearly burst their buttons with pride for their help in accomplishing this feat! It certainly taught them a lot about the value of education while at the same time it fulfilled my own professional needs.
From that time on, I chose to do a variety of different things part time to keep current in my field: I taught both English as a Second Language and writing skills at Argonne National Laboratory (this became a wonderful source for new family friends from around the world); I taught classes in the Developmental Learning Lab of a local junior college; I presented programs and workshops around the Chicago area; and I edited a book for a friend. These were all activities that did not interfere with my primary career of being a mother.
When our oldest child was getting ready to go off to college, suddenly I had to become more serious about my career, and my focus gradually changed from doing what I could do part time to considering a full-time position. As a transition, in the spring of 1987 I read of a gentleman who did seminars on the English language all over the country. I felt I could do that, so I called him. He was so impressed with my confidence as well as my credentials that he hired me over the phone! That experience ultimately led to a full-time position as Manager of Training for Kaset International in 1988.
From 1988 to 1993 I was a full-time employee of Kaset International, first in a management position and later in an executive position as Director of Quality in Training. During those years I trained trainers all over North America, I developed a facilitator training process to certify trainers to do Kaset’s programs as well as helping to develop a number of new training programs, I wrote several white papers, and I spoke to large groups of executives as far away as Hawaii and New Zealand. I wrote two books which were published by Irwin Professional Publishing Company, and I was selected for Who’s Who of American Women 1993-94 and Who’s Who in the Midwest 1995-6.
At this writing I have begun my own company, Barbara Glanz Communications, Inc., to do more speaking, writing, and consulting in my areas of expertise. I have also just finished writing a third book, my “heart” book, called CARE Packages for the Workplace–Dozens of Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit at Work. My children are now young adults, and I am deeply proud of the people they have become. While for many years my passion was to make a difference in my children’s lives, today I am deeply committed to making a difference in other people’s lives by helping them see the choices they have in each one-on-one interaction, no matter what their job or their life experiences may be.
As I look back on my experiences, here are some tips I can share:
MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR LIFE EXPERIENCES.
No matter what happens in your life, grow from those experiences. Don’t allow difficult situations to diminish you or your dreams. Find positive ways you can use them. I made some extremely positive choices in my life as a result of my pain, and many of the most powerful stories and illustrations I use in my speaking and writing come from those life experiences.
CHOOSE A PRIMARY FOCUS FOR EACH STAGE OF YOUR LIFE AND BE INTENSELY COMMITTED TO IT.
If you have decided what your primary focus is at this point in time, it will help you to make hard choices a little easier. A primary focus gives you a FRAME for the way you approach the world. For example, if you have decided that your children are your primary focus at this point in time, then it will be easier to make decisions when you are offered a promotion in your part time job. One of the things I used in my “self talk” when I was confused and struggling with being torn between a desire to be successful in my career and to stay home with my children was to remind myself that other jobs would always be out there if I kept my skills honed, while my children would only be young once. I was merely postponing one wonderful thing for another!
NO MATTER WHAT YOUR PRIMARY FOCUS IS, ALWAYS MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE IN SOME WAY KEEPING YOUR PROFESSIONAL SKILLS ALIVE.
Read current writings in your field, rent tapes from the library, talk to others periodically who are still working full-time in your area of expertise, attend conferences and workshops, go back to school part time if you possibly can. Start a file system and collect clippings, articles, cartoons, poems that interest you or relate to your professional area. I still today use things from the files I started many years ago at home.
RE-EVALUATE YOUR PRIORITIES AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR, ALWAYS KEEPING THE LONG TERM IN MIND.
When the time is right to change priorities and focus, communicate that clearly to others and make decisions that support that change. Be confident in yourself and your skills and aim for the top. When I was about two thirds of the way through the manuscript of my first book, I decided to handwrite a note to all of my professional heroes and ask them if they would be willing to look at my manuscript and perhaps write an endorsement. Now, that was a pretty gutsy thing to do, especially for a first-time author! However, I believed in what I was doing and I decided that all they could do was say “no” and then I could ask someone else. Amazingly, EVERY SINGLE ONE of them said “yes,” including Og Mandino, the wonderful Christian writer who has sold35 million books in 19 different languages. In fact, we have become friends as a result of that request and write one another often.
Whatever your life situation may be, do the very best you can within the focus you’ve chosen. In the 60’s there was an expression I loved: “Bloom where you are planted.” Find fun, unusual, creative ways to approach tasks and experiences. Use all available resources, especially if your budget is limited. At one time I knew the “free day” of every public place in the Chicago area, and I planned our schedule accordingly! You can also be creative in ways to earn extra money while still staying at home or being with your children. One year I taught preschool and another I gave piano lessons in our home.
Get to know people in your community, your church, the schools. Get involved wherever you feel you can make a difference. Let your skills and talents be known by others. Then, when your focus changes, you will already have a group of people who can recommend you.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOUR DREAMS.
Even though you may have chosen to put your career “on the back burner ” for a while, always approach each life task or experience like a professional: What did I do well? What do I need to work on? How can I get better at whatever my chosen focus is? What can I learn from this experience that will help me later? I strongly recommend keeping a personal journal to record your thoughts, ideas, and experiences during your time at home. As a speaker, author, and consultant, I find much of what I share with others comes from the experiences I had when I was home raising my children. Think of your years at home not only as your “chosen career” FOR THAT TIME, a temporary situation yet a vitally important one, but also as a special gift of preparation to truly make a difference in the world when you re-enter the workforce.
For 19 years I chose to stay home with my children, making their education, values, and experiences my primary focus. Even though I have only been back in the work force full-time for 7 years, I feel I have accomplished a great deal, and I am making a difference in another realm. I have been blessed to “have it all”– special time with my children as well as a successful career. It just happened at different times in my life. With creativity, a definite focus, and a belief in yourself and your dreams, the same can happen for you!
© Barbara Glanz Communications. All Rights Reserved.
Barbara Glanz Biography
A member of the prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame and one of fewer than 700 Certified Speaking Professionals worldwide, Barbara Glanz, CSP, CPAE, works with organizations to improve morale, retention and service and with people who want to rediscover the joy in their work and in their lives. She is the first speaker on record to have spoken on all 7 continents and in all 50 states. Known as "the business speaker who speaks to your heart as well as to your head," Barbara is the author of twelve books including The Simple Truths of Service Inspired by Johnny the Bagger®, CARE Packages for the Workplace, and 180 Ways to Spread Contagious Enthusiasm™. Voted "best keynote presenter you have heard or used" by Meetings & Conventions Magazine, Barbara uses her Master’s degree in Adult Learning to design programs that cause behavior change. She lives and breathes her personal motto: “Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.barbaraglanz.com.