My Year Off Update- My Walk Continues

Photo taken by Marta Zumwalt, outside Cambridge, England on Newton road in Harston

It now has been a few months since I let my college know I was not returning to my position. In a way it feels like I’ve come through the fog and can see clear out to the coast. In prior posts I have compared my year of maternity leave as walking the California Oregon Pacific Crest Trail and the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) in Spain. So keeping with the walking theme, I update my year off with this; my walk in the fields of motherhood has led me to become a published writer.


My Camino

The more you think about, the more you realize that each day, you’re walking your own Camino.

My husband and I use the term “camino” as shorthand for the The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), a pilgrimage across northern Spain that many have walked for centuries. Some day we will walk it. Until then, we try to see that each day is another day on our figurative camino. Some moments are harder than others, but we keep walking.


3 Months left to go Along my own Pacific Crest Trail

My First year of Twin Motherhood.
Currently, 9 months into my year off as a stay at home mom with twin girls, 3 months to go.

If I was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail I’d have entered the last 10 miles in CA and would be in Oregon by nightfall. 3 months left to go. If you have had the chance to read Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild – From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”, you would remember that when she made it to Oregon, she still had a long way to go to the top of Oregon, but it felt like a major millstone. She knew she was close. Very close. This morning, I feel close, yet I know there is still time and much more to see. Yet, the planning mode kicks in.


The Back Burner

“In attempting to having it all, never forget that if we don’t have love, joy, peace, tranquility and an ability to be truly present in our lives that we don’t have it all anyway. We really don’t have anything.” -Carolyn Anderson, June. 26, 2012, “Why Women still Can’t have it All (at the Same Time)” Huffpost.

It’s the morning after our housewarming/welcome our twins party. I’ve got iTunes Radio Jazz playing in the background, my son Sam chilling in his room, the husband out picking up the Sunday paper. The dining room table is filled with left over dips, bread and Cheetos bowls. The twin girls are sound asleep in their bouncers next to me. Leaning in to motherhood has given me more than I ever imagined.


Being home in time to play soccer.

Today my son started a new preschool. It also was the first time I’ve picked him up from preschool as early as 3pm. Early enough to get some afternoon playtime with him. Before today, my usual pick up time was 5:30. Then I would rush home and get dinner going, maybe some play time, etc. As weird as it might sound, our twin girls have really slowed down time and given us the chance to see how precious anytime we have with our children is. Before the twins came into our lives, I was ready to have another baby and then take a few months off and then send both my kids back to day care/preschool full time. Now, I am experiencing being a stay at home and sending my son to preschool part-time. With the help of my in-laws and my husband working in a field he loves, together we can give our children some extra time with us before they get too big. It’s not going to be for long, but I can tell right now, I’m really glad I’m having this experience and that I’m home in time to play soccer.


My Year Off

4 1/2 months into my year off as a stay at home mom with twin girls

How do you really take a year off?

If someone offered you a year off from your job, would you take it? What do you think you would need in your life to really take a year off? Lose a job? Earned some extra money? For me, it was having twin girls and my husband and I deciding not to send them to daycare. I’m 4 1/2 months into my year off and I’m discovering a whole lot about myself. As part of my professional and personal blog, I would like to share this journey with you. I am hoping with writing about it, it will help me to stay present and learn something new about myself and help you too.

The last time I took a year off was my junior year of college when I went on National Student Exchange. Even though I was still in college, if felt like a year off from my regular school life. I attended Rhode Island College and as I look back at my life today, all I can say is thank God I had that experience. So many familiar feelings are coming back. When I decided to take a year off from work to be home with my twin girls, I thought, I can do this! I’ve been working in student life for 13 years. In higher ed, faculty can apply for sabbaticals and on some campuses, so can student affairs professionals. For my district, the one chance I was going to have was taking a 1 year maternity leave.

I will be honest, the first 4 1/2 months have been hard. I’m experiencing a lost of my life before the twins. Having twins is a lot for anyone to take on. The biggest challenge I have faced is identifying myself as a mom first. When I look back, it seemed I would talk more about my work, my students first. Now, I share about my girls, my son Sam, my family, and our new home we are about to move into. Then I have to stop and hope that is enough for the person I am talking with. I have to hope it is enough for me too. Some days it is. Some days I miss talking about the college experience. I miss advising my students. But then, I pick up one of my girls and she smiles and laughs and I think, I wonder what I will teach her.

So, how do you really take a year off? Here are a few lessons I’ve learned so far:

1) Stop checking your work email. I know.. I know.. I had to let my mail box go to full to really stop checking it.

2) Stop checking your Work Facebook. Especially for student affairs crew. Your students will be fine and you will advise again.

3) Move off campus. Even though I look out my apartment windows and can only see the baseball fields, I still have to drive by campus on my way out. I can’t help but think of work. Happy to share, we will be moved off campus by the end of September.

4) Pay attention to what is triggering you to think about work. For me, it has to be this new Lean In movement. Even though I am leaning into motherhood right now, I still think about what Sheryl Sandberg wrote in her book Lean In about women choosing to stay home vs sending your child to daycare. Her research showed that investing in daycare will pay off more in the long run than saving money on daycare by staying home. It’s when you are at work that people will see you and offer you more money. If they don’t see you, then they might forget about you.  I wish I could tell her that being a twin mom is hard and way different than taking care of one baby. I am no where ready to go back to work. I know because I’ve already experienced having one child who I sent to daycare at 4 1/2 months. Can I get a break for being a twin mom?

5) Do not be afraid to enjoy your new life. If you do find yourself with a year off to spend with a new baby or get to work on a new project, don’t be afraid to enjoy your new life because your life will never be the same. You are going to learn a lot! Some will be exciting and some will feel unfamiliar. You might even wonder where your old self went. Then you will have a moment when someone asks you when you will be going back to work and you will finally be proud to share you are taking a year off. After 4 1/2 months, I think I’m finally there. Let your year off be enough for you right now. Just think of how much more life experience you will bring to your students, to your campus after your year off is over. More than you ever imagined.

6) And give yourself an outlet to write or reflect on this year off.  It could be a journal. A blog. I’m amazed how taking these last 2 hours to write this post has given me the peace I needed. Thank you for reading.


Leaning Into Motherhood-How’s it going you might ask?

Written on Sunday morning, July 28.
Back on March 10th, I wrote an entry about how I have chosen to lean in to motherhood and take a 1 year unpaid maternity leave. The last time I did not have a full time job was 14 years ago in college and even those were part-time. So, for this career women, taking this time away from work was going to be a big change. If you did not get a chance to read that past blog entry here it is: When do you lean in and when do you lean back


When do you Lean In and when do you Lean Back?

This weekend, the hottest topic up for discussion is the launch of Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg new book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” and her non-profit I was excited to see Sheryl make the cover of Time. The cover story and the essay by Sheryl are excellent reads. I highly recommend you pick up a copy for yourself. After reading the article on Friday night and catching the response from the panel on “This Week” this morning, it got me thinking about my own personal journey.