by Elizabeth Horn
I used to be somebody.
Well, somebody at my job, anyway.
I was the assistant director of a large hospital department, and the day I returned from maternity leave I found out that the director had been fired and I became the big boss.
I dressed up, I went to meetings. I carried a cell phone and a pager. I knew the innermost scuttlebutt of the hospital and lunched with important people. I was a member of the all leadership groups because hospital administrators are all about calling each other "leaders"
I had demands 24 hour, 7 day a week demands and I was compensated for it. The extra money was indispensable what with the addition of the 3rd child (whom we had no idea we needed until he came to be) who needed, you know, food, clothing and shelter.
But, I also had a boss who didn't like me much, I never was really sure why. I suspect that she was given the directive to get rid of the old administration, but since I had just been on maternity leave it would have been sticky to eliminate my position.
I'd never been in that type of situation before, she worked very hard to make impossible demands of me and essentially made my life miserable.
I had a new baby and two other young children at home and I would come home in tears every day, often after they were in bed. I knew I couldn't go on like that, but there was no way we could give up the money.
But, when I found myself on the bathroom floor in tears (at home, because, well "eeew" if I had been on the bathroom floor at work) something had to give.
I began searching for a new job within the organization because there was no way I could leave the benefits and it was a good thing because my boss had started to drop large hints that it would be OK with her if I looked around and she mumbled something about "because of the baby", but I left that alone.
I couldn't find a job to match the pay I was making, and I was in a panic. But, when it became apparent that time was running out, I took a job that I wasn't wild about, but the people seemed nice.
The pay cut was dramatic, but we somehow sucked it up, though it wasn't pretty. But, the social and professional "cut" was even more dramatic. I found myself in a cubicle and I had to beg for a computer, I didn't have to keep a calendar because I had no meetings to attend. I had no one to worry about except myself.
It was really hard to get used to, but to my amazement, I could leave work at the same time every day, I saw my children, I didn't get calls in the middle of the night. We were broke, but I had a life. Although, it was still hard to grasp why all that had happened to me.
But the higher plan became apparent when my mother was diagnosed with cancer not too long after I started the job.
I'm an only child and though my father was still living, much of the burden of her care was on me.
The wonderful new department that hired me let me take the time off that I needed, few questions asked, and, between my young children and my parents, there were times that I was gone a lot. I had flexibility to come and go as I needed as long as I got the job done.
My mother was ill for 3 years, and things got pretty tough, but my boss and coworkers stuck with me. Much to the dismay of my one employee, I eventually deleted the "management" part of my brain and became a normal person (that was a joke).
My mother died 2 years ago this month, and I'm still in the same job that, way back when, I couldn't understand how I got there. I have a great situation, I work full-time, but I have the flexibility I need for my family.
Though I didn't realize it at the time, the new job was a gift that money couldn't buy, and because of it, now I'm truly somebody.