I left the workforce when my oldest was 6 months old. That was 5 years ago and since then, I’ve done a variety of freelance work to make ends meet so that I could stay home with my kids. While I’ve had a certain amount of responsibility, I’ve been in control of how little or how much I work. Recently, my husband and I took over a full-fledged business and I now have real responsibilities. I have a desk and an inbox. I cut payroll. I answer the phone and speak to actual live people. I wash my hair and wear shoes, a couple of times a week at least. I feel terribly official and important. It brings to mind a scene from Romi and Michele’s High School Reunion where they’re dressed in ridiculously stylish suits and they walk into a truck stop and ask, “Do you have some sort of business woman special? Well, we’re business women. We’re due in Tucson later…some business thing, you know.”
Going back to work, even part time, has reminded me of what I used to be like. Put me in a “real” job and I have the tendency to be a total spazoid-stress-freak. I had forgotten this about myself. I can take any single task and write a full page checklist on how to get it done (single-spaced in tiny print). I have an innate ability to over complicate anything, no matter how simple and straight forward. I attack everything with an emergency room life-or-death sense of urgency, which is great if you’re a nurse or a doctor but completely unnecessary in most every other profession. I forget to eat. I forget to pee. I can always find something else that needs to be done and this is exactly how I was when I was in the workforce 5 years ago. Back then, I’d come home exhausted but still wound up, pop open a bottle of wine and commence with relaxing. I couldn’t conceive of relaxing any other way. I was a business woman, don’t you know.
Some people are workaholics because they care about what other people think of them. They think they earn respect because they destroy themselves to get things done. For me, it had more to do with trying to control anxiety. If I had 10 things to do, I wanted to get them done as quickly as possible so that I didn’t have to worry about them not being done. Drinking after work was my way of forcing my mind to shut off. Anxiety wasn’t the only reason why I drank but it was a big part. But, after I left the workforce and was faced with mommy-stress, I found that drinking actually increased my anxiety. Is it too early to open up a bottle? Should I really be drinking if I’m trying to lose the baby weight? Do I really want my kids to always remember me with a glass of wine in my hand? For the first time, I started to question if drinking was a good idea. Ultimately, the answer was no.
Going back to work hasn’t been a trigger for drinking as much as for perfectionism. I had an Oprah-esque aha moment when I found myself wanting to approach work the way I used to and said something is wrong with this picture. I’m the one creating the stress. I’m making everything harder and more complicated. I’m not giving myself a break and am expecting perfection. I’m a tyrant to work for and if I don’t change, I’m going to burn out. Years ago, it didn’t occur to me that I was part of the problem or that I couldn’t drink it/me into submission. Now, I know better. I refuse to berate myself if I forget where I filed something and I recognize that most things can wait until tomorrow if there isn’t time to get it done today. Keeping a list is helpful but I don’t need to stare at it constantly as if something is going to fall off and get forgotten. In fact, it’s assured that I’m going to forget things. After all, I have two kids on summer vacation and a whole lot of Frozen to watch.