I have my first interview for a new job since taking time off to have my son. I wake up early, invigorate myself with a citrusy, body wash in the shower, and dress in my very official “interview outfit.” I feel empowered, that is until I go to wake up my eight-year old step daughter for school. She promptly throws up all over the bed, and my skirt, as am sitting next to her, trying to get her to open her eyes. This is when life intrudes on my perfect plan. After cleaning her and the bedding, taking her temperature, and rushing to find someone to watch her until my interview is over, I am now late. Seeing the obvious panic in my eyes, my son has decided that today, he wants to be a two-year old. Okay, he is two, but he usually acts like a perfectly behaved two-year old, not like the tantrum throwing “I am not going to school today and you can’t make me” two-year-old that is writhing on the floor at the moment. I manage to stifle my frantic, internal screams, and get his pants and shirt on, while waiting for his waffle to toast.
Today is the day I will learn to let go.
After the chaotic start to my planned to be perfect morning, I finally get in the car, re-dressed in an alternative, not so official interview outfit, and start the engine. Warning: Battery is in a low state of charge. Seriously? My car chimes at me as I try to figure out exactly what I am supposed to do. I feel the electronic beeping is really just laughter from my car, telling me to give it up. I make the best possible decision and ignore it. I cross my fingers in hopes that I will at least arrive at my interview. I can figure out getting home later if need be. I keep the car running as I drop my son off at his daycare.
My son has just started a three-day a week program at a Montessori school, and the separation anxiety is killing me. Mine, that is. He cries as I am taking his coat off, but the teacher assures me he stops the second I walk out the door. I kiss and hug him, race back in the car, and drive. I am so stressed right now, and I can already see the traffic up ahead. I am at least 20 minutes late. My shoulders are scrunched up to my ears, and my hands are shaking. Slowly inching along the freeway, I take a deep breath. What am I doing? Should I turn around and forget this day ever happened? Should I rethink my plans to work, and be a mother? Am I making the right choices?
Traffic suddenly starts to flow again, and I am on the move. No time to think while looking for my exit. I finally arrive. Harried, late, and nervous, I approach the front desk ready to explain my dilemma. “I am so sorry,” the perfectly manicured receptionist declares, “Our HR person is running really late this morning. Can you wait for about thirty minutes?” A wave of relief washes over me, I smile, and melt into a squishy, brown chair. I wait, ironically, not thinking anything about this interview. What I am thinking about is how I can learn to let go of the things I cannot control.
- What is it that I am really freaking out about? Am I worried I will not get this job? Yes, but not really. I know there are other jobs out there I can interview for. By asking myself this question, what I figure out is that I hate to be seen as unprofessional. After not working for two years, my confidence is shaky. I feel as though I might not be seen as a serious contender for a position I know I have the skills for. I cannot control if I get hired, but I can control my behavior.
- Control my behavior. I cannot control if my car starts or not, but I can control how I handle the situation. No matter what happens, I can control the way I conduct myself. If the HR person had been on time, the only thing I could have controlled would have been my actions. I could have called and let the office know I was running late, offering to switch times, if necessary. It may be the kiss of death, but then again, I might have averted an angry hiring manager who was waiting for me, instead of the other way around.
- Focus on my priorities. During my silent freak-out session in my car, I thought about if I was making the right choices. I run through a list of my priorities: My family is number one. I want to be there for my children when they need me. I want to spend time with my husband, and as he works out of state during the week, our time together is precious. I want to show my children that life is about balance, family, fun, work. I want them to learn that you have to love everything you do, or else it is not worth it. With my priorities in front of me, I feel better, knowing even if the HR person was on time and I was late for the interview, crossing myself out of the running, my kids were looked after before I left for the day.
- Nothing is perfect. My perfect day was ruined. My perfect interview outfit was trashed. My two-year-old’s perfect behavior flew out the window. Bottom line; nothing is perfect. I bet even the perfectly manicured receptionist gets a chip in her nail polish once and a while.
- Keep a sense of humor. Three weeks later my son throws himself on the floor in a screaming tantrum in the grocery store. I can only make sure he doesn’t hurt himself (or knock anything off the shelf), and laugh. A middle-aged man walks by and laughs at me laughing. I shrug my shoulders. He leans over to my son and says, “I feel the same way some days.” Keeping a sense of humor has helped me relieve the tension in a messed up situation. It has also let others around me know that I can be easy going, and I am not going to get flustered in a stressful position.
When I get home (yes, my car started), my step-daughter is up watching TV, feeling better. I open my mail to find a product update letter from my car maker, advising me that a software problem in this make has been detected, flashing an erroneous message that my battery charge is low, and it will be corrected simply by making an appointment at my nearest dealer. I literally laugh out loud.