It’s a very cold Saturday morning in January. I want to sleep in—for once. But our 125-year-old staircase is a squeaky burglar alarm and I wake to the sound of small feet sneaking down to play video games. Six not-so-quiet feet, to be exact. They are the feet of our older boys ages seven, seven, and five. Unable to sleep through the sounds of this mass exodus to the “Land of Wii,” I hear other noises starting to stir. Our one-year old son is now awake as well. There will be no sleeping in. Probably ever.

And that’s okay. There are too many interesting things to do today besides sleep. I am one of those action-biased, people-loving, glass-half-full, connectors who values having a collection of interesting experiences and challenges. This might explain my 20 years of working in seven different industries, small and large companies, in various roles for Human Resources—mostly in Talent Acquisition and Talent Management functions.

Leaving My Job to Focus on Family

In 2006, after a high-risk pregnancy and bed rest, I gave birth to preemie twin boys who lived in the NICU for three weeks learning to eat. My boss at the time was wonderful and understanding and most importantly, flexible. After an extended leave—and with help from family—I returned to work in a part-time role, and later, in a contract/consultant position.  I tried to make it work, but I was tired all of the time and didn’t feel like I was doing a great job at anything.

Turns out that I was tired because I was pregnant with our third son. With two 2-year olds at home and a baby on the way, my Talent Management role with a nuclear power company was fading into a brownout. I was very busy trying to help their executives at regional plants construct viable succession plans to backfill the many executive and specialized roles of a retiring workforce in an industry that lacks large pools of up and coming talent. Working in an ex-military, mostly male, highly structured, urgent environment was a personal challenge that I enjoyed. It was very different than my mostly tech background.

But when I couldn’t get into work one day because my “pregnant” fingers were too swollen for the biometrics security entrance, I saw it as a sign. For me, it was time to focus on my family only and luckily, because of my husband’s job, I had that choice.

Realizing that I Love and Want to Work

I had settled myself on the idea that my career “collection” was in the archives room for restoration. Years passed and we had a fourth son. I volunteered at school, formed playgroups, built amateur websites for others, sold my photographs, designed a kid’s coloring book, became a food allergy advocate, gathered signatures on petitions, and founded two community fundraising groups (one that built a new playground, one that added public art to our downtown landscape). Some people like to run. Some people do scrapbooking. Some people cook. I like to work. I can’t stop myself from doing it.

I had this “ah-ha” moment in 2013. Working IS my hobby. I was doing so much volunteer work while raising my kids that there had to be a way to fit a paycheck into the mix. But this time the paycheck had to have more meaning for me personally and have a positive impact on others. I didn’t need this job. I wanted this job. It had to be flexible and from home. Had to be. Good luck with that, right?

Heading Back to Work After Being a SAHM

Like many busy parents I found the task of looking for flexible work overwhelming and near impossible.  I didn’t have time to scour the internet to look for the flexible gems on crowded job boards or hard to search company pages.  Work from home scams were everywhere.  I joined FlexJobs because it offered me something that I could not accomplish on my own—thousands of legitimate, professional, flexible jobs with great companies at my fingertips.  Lucky for me, one of those jobs is the position I hold today.  I am now the Director of Employer Outreach for FlexJobs, using my background to help companies with their flexible hiring needs and in turn helping people like me and others find flexible opportunities. I love it. I am able to work part time from home, with help from family, sitters, friends, and school. The work has an entrepreneurial spirit and is rewarding. I also continue to work on my Malvern Community Arts Project “hobby job” in my spare time.

It’s a constant juggling act, but one that I’ve learned to manage by setting realistic expectations. The things that used to stress me out early in my career or family seem minor now and I have a much better perspective about what’s possible and what it means to be successful. I am trying my best and having fun doing it. I can’t volunteer at every school event, but I can make it to some and that’s okay. I can’t work 40 hours a week, but I can work 25 and still make a big impact and that’s okay.

Check out Part Two of Kristin’s story, where she talks about how a cancer diagnosis solidified her need for work flexibility.

Readers, do you love to work? Have you gone back to work after staying home to raise children for months or years? What’s your experience?

photo credit: Kristin Thomas. Family photo in front of the train portion of a large historical mural in Malvern, PA, funded by Malvern Community Arts Project.