I have vivid memories of myself at 5 years old crying and pulling at her clothes, begging her not to leave. I couldn't understand why my mother had to work while my friends' moms stayed home and picked up their kids after school, greeting them with milk and cookies. It became my daily routine to make my mother feel guilty -- not out of pure selfishness, but rather out of loneliness. OK, maybe I was a little selfish, but then again what 5 year old wouldn't be?
I had wrestled with that same sense of selfishness until my first few years of adulthood. As I grew older, it became very clear that my mother's 4 hour daily commute in addition to her 10 hour workdays was the sacrifice she made to provide her family a good life. I have nothing but the utmost appreciation and admiration for all the years my mom had spent raising her children while working full time. The memory of my mother not always being there has left a certain impression on me so I have made a decision to be a stay-at-home mother when I one day am blessed with my own children. That is -- provided I am afforded that luxury. My mother was not. She worked for the United Nations. Her job gave our family visas to live in America. My mom couldn't quit and stay home with me. If she did, our American dream would quickly diminish and off we would go back to Syria.
While the thought of spending years raising my children yelling "Charlie, don't bite your brother!" and "Kimmy, there will be no sex, drugs, and alcohol!" is exciting to me, I continue to ponder what happens when Charlie and Kimmy become busy with their own lives and I have time from 9 to 5 to do as I wish? Will I be the ambitious and fearless person I am now? Will I be as courageous and self confident to go back to a career I long took a break from to raise my children? I'm not even at that point in my life and I'm already beginning to worry about my ability to transition back into the workforce 20 years from now. Many mothers share these concerns, and according to Emma Gilbey Keller's new book The Comeback, it is more than possible to go from a career, to family, and back again.
I had the opportunity to meet with Emma Gilbey Keller at the Santa Monica Public Library where she was interviewed by HuffPost's Senior Editor, Willow Bay. Mothers from their 30's through their 50's, as well as a minority of men scattered the auditorium and listened as Emma told her own story and the stories of 7 women profiled in her new book The Comeback. Keller drew inspiration for her book from her own experience. She was an accomplished journalist before she decided to be a stay-at-home mom. After 7 years, Keller was devastated when her daughter Alice said to her, "I go to school. Molly goes to school. Daddy goes to work. And mommy goes to... gym." Ouch! Upon hearing that, it was Keller's calling to overcome her insecurities about going back to work. Her comeback was The Comeback.
The 7 women profiled in Keller's book also came upon their own "callings" that defined their own respective comebacks. For example, Sherry Goff was as a teacher until motherhood replaced her career, she then returned to the workforce as an occupational therapist. Ellen Warner started out as a photojournalist, and after leaving her line of work to raise her children, she became an active volunteer within her church and eventually transitioned back to her roots as a photographer. Sherry, Ellen and the other women in the narrative struggled to conquer feelings of isolation and inadequacy -- which were the result of their extended hiatus' from the working world. Keller provides solace in offering suggestions that have helped her situation. She encourages "talking to other women," and for mothers to gradually ease back into their new environments by volunteering, working part-time, or freelancing. While Keller offers all kinds of suggestions resulting from her own experience, I feel that it's always motivating to find a role model and follow in her footsteps. Take for example first woman Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who didn't run for political office until her youngest child became a high school senior.
Keller wants every woman to know that it is everything but impossible to make a comeback. This book presents a positive look for many women who are unsure about their own reentry into the workforce. Keller mentions that when looking at her own experience and the experience of the women in the book, "how hard it can be to be your own advocate, especially when you are coming back to work after a long time away." The Comeback says that all of us women are in this together. However you decide to live your life, Keller wants you to know that you can always rely on your girlfriends. And if everyone around you seems too busy to talk, then pick up a copy of The Comeback -- where Emma, Judith, Maxine, Sherry, Lauren, Ellen, Peg, and Elaine will be your advocates.
The Comeback says that women -- all of us -- are in this together.
Do you have a comeback story of your own? Post it in the comments section below. Like the women in the comeback, you have the power to inspire other women, too, by sharing your story with them.