Before becoming parents, most of us had jobs and other interests, passions, and hobbies – whole parts of our identity that we no longer have now, post-babies.
When our pre-baby existence broke apart and we discovered a love unlike any other, our world was reconfigured. We were reconfigured. It was a time that demanded change.
Many of us opted out of the work force – by choice – to care for our children on a full-time basis. Others leaned out because of special circumstances, finances, or necessity. Whatever the case, there are millions of stay-at-home parents in the United States.
The work of these millions of people is often invisible, undervalued, and unpaid. It’s rewarding in myriad ways, as well, but over time, many stay-at-home parents internalize the prevailing cultural sentiment that what they’re doing is somehow less valuable than paid work.
It may become harder to remember who you were “before” and what you were interested in, what brought you joy. It’s a real identity shift, one that can be difficult to sort through to any level of satisfaction.
So what happens to these full-time caregivers when their youngest child enters school for the first time?
The majority of full-time parents are women who suddenly find they’re left wearing the only hat they’ve worn for many years – mother – yet their children are now out of the house for as many as eight hours a day. There’s an awareness of the opportunities this block of time presents, – one being a return to paid work – but we lack the clarity and confidence to march straight back into a professional setting.
My co-host, Angela Arsenault, and I call this transition “Empty Nest Version 1.0.” We’re both lead parents within our respective families, and Angela is in the midst of her own transition back to work as we speak.
We’ve produced a 10-episode podcast called “Where Was I …?” about this particular time in life for parents who have been full-time caregivers.
“Where Was I…?” explores all aspects of this transition through stories and interviews, while also seeking out advice and guidance from prominent and successful leaders in their fields such as Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of “Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family,” and president of New America; Amy Cuddy, author of “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges;” and Carol Fishman Cohen, founder of iRelaunch.
Angela and I feel this is an important conversation for everyone to hear – regardless of your caregiver status – because the issues raised in this groundbreaking podcast have far-reaching implications for all members of society.