What do you do?

It’s not like anyone’s counting (me, I’m definitely counting), but the 15th of this month marks the one-year anniversary of my last day of work. And I’ve noticed the longer I am on maternity leave… it is still considered “maternity leave” after a year, right? my response to this question no longer flows like muscle memory.

Before my leave and moving across the country my answer would go a little something like this, “I am a Licensed mental health therapist & coach working for ___ company and I have a part-time private practice.” Since I’m in a new place this question constantly shows up in introductory conversations. And I’ve noticed the longer I am away from work the harder it has been to answer. Suddenly my muscle memory of a response does not come so easy. 

So, if you haven’t guessed I’ve had A LOT of feelings and internal dialogue surrounding the oh so dreadful question, “what do you do?” Which really means the therapist in me is trying to process my irrational thoughts surrounding this matter.

Earlier in the post you got a sneak peek into my thoughts… remember the statement, “it’s still considered maternity leave, right?” Well, my mind has been swamped with several other thoughts on that wave length like, “what do I say, what do I say”, “do I mention the move”, “what about my private practice since I still have my LLC?”, “oh, just say you’re a therapist and coach”, “but then you’ll have too explain why you aren’t working right now”, and the list goes on and on.

So why have I been struggling with this question?

In a previous post I mentioned that I am a planner, and my plan to return to work completely changed. Initially, I was supposed to be on maternity leave for 16 weeks, but it was involuntarily extended after my husband and I moved. And let’s not get started on trying to secure childcare… ugh! We have been on a waitlist for months!

I’m not sure how you feel about your job or what you do for a living, but I have another secret for you, I like working. I like what I do. I love working with clients. And since I’ve been working since high school this is a weird space for me. So, all these factors are why I have been resistant to this change.

So, where does this leave me?

How do I accept my new role as a stay at home mom, and remain connected to my professional identity? Well, one good thing about being a therapist is the luxury of having therapist friends to bounce these thoughts off.

During one of my many talks with one of my therapist friends she labeled this time in my life and more specifically my career as a “pause period” where I am a “paused professional”. So, what exactly is a “pause period” or “paused professional”, you ask? This is a planned or unplanned duration of time where you’re not working in your profession at a traditional 9-5, not actively pursuing your own entrepreneurial ventures by selling products or providing services, or you’re not receiving a paycheck of any kind.

After that conversation something just clicked. That was all I needed to hit the reset button to move forward and cease the back and forth I was having surrounding my time away from work. Despite my internal desire to work, it doesn’t make sense for my family right now. We are in a temporary location while my husband completes training and are unable to secure childcare due to the lack of availability. These are two huge red flags that have been waving in front of my face saying, “it’s okay, keep your behind at home!”

Quick side note: I have to give a big shout out to all of the stay at home moms because this is hands down the hardest job I’ve ever had to do.

So instead of being conflicted when faced with the question “what do you do?” I decided to change my mindset (this is a huge concept I work on with my clients and as you can see myself). While I’m embracing my role as a stay at home mom, I can remain connected to my professional identity during my “pause period” by focusing on areas I can control.        

  1. Stay connected with other professionals in your field: As I mentioned earlier, one of the luxuries of being a therapist is having other therapists as friends. As a therapist this is extremely important because consulting with other professionals is a step in our process for ethical decision making. Oftentimes, I have received phone calls from colleagues needing consultation on a case (all information is kept confidential of course), resources, tips, or advise on working in private practice. Even though I am not the one actively working with clients, I am still using my professional knowledge and expertise to assist and have decided to stop taking my part in these interactions for granted. 
  2. Continue learning: It is important to stay up to date with what is going on in your field. This can be done by learning new techniques, theories, resources, laws, procedures, etc. Luckily for me, keeping my knowledge and skills current is required to keep my state licensure up to date. So, since I have been on my “pause period” I have attended webinars, received an additional certification, completed online trainings, and attended a 2-day training in person since my husband was able to take a day off of work. Other ways to keep the juices flowing are to listen to podcasts, follow social media pages, or read books from others in your field.
  3. Review your professional goals: This is a perfect time to review, establish, or tweak your professional goals. As I mentioned earlier, I had a job with ___ company and a part-time private practice. Without the distractions of my 9-5 I have been able to use my “pause period” to focus on the goals I set to grow and expand my private practice. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes; therefore, I have been working on the business side of my practice since I am not actively seeing clients.

Taking back control has made a huge difference in how I see myself as a stay at home mom and professional woman. So, instead of dreading my current role and the question “what do you do?”, I have changed my outlook on my “pause period”, and trust me it’s a more peaceful and productive space to be in.

Have you ever been in a “pause period” or are you currently a “paused professional?” What are you doing to maintain your professional identity? Leave your recommendation in the comment section below.

❤ Patience       

If you need any additional support as you navigate motherhood schedule a 15-minute consultation with Patience today. You are not alone mama.

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