THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Going Back to Work at 46

After almost twenty years of being a full-time mom, volunteering, working various part-time jobs from home, I recently returned to the office with a more traditional, structured work setting. When I learned about the job opening, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work for the organization that I’d admired and supported for many years. Not only was it part-time, but my schedule would be flexible, and the role sounded stress-free. What a dream for someone like me who was still a little apprehensive about jumping back into the workforce and losing the freedom and flexibility with my time. Right away, it felt like a great match—my coworkers were so kind and passionate about their work, and the office vibe was great. However, here are some things that I wished someone had warned me about when returning to work twenty years later at age 46:


  1. Office vibe: same as 20 years ago. Workflow: same. Office rules: same. Work tasks: same. Office chatter: same. It felt as if I’d picked right back up where I left off at the marketing company twenty years. But do you know what wasn’t the same? ME!!! I discovered that I am nearly 15-20 years older than most of my coworkers and well-past their life experiences of planning a wedding, having babies, and buying their first homes. As some of their issues are about which daycare to send their kids, my worries involve sending my third kid to college and planning a college graduation party for my firstborn. It’s been so much fun hearing all about their exciting life milestones, but it’s been an interesting revelation to realize what once felt like I was a part of the conversation, now feels like I’m just an observer. It has taken a bit of adjusting to accept that I may relate to them, and it’s ok that they may not necessarily relate to me.


  1. There’s an art to skillfully joining a conversation. Let’s face it—other than volunteering once a week at school and making some small talk with familiar faces at a yoga class, most of my conversations have been with my family. No thought ever went into questioning if I should or should not speak. Now, I’m in a room with 8 cubicles with at least 8 coworkers within a few feet away as multiple conversations go on at once. Do I chime in or not chime in on a conversation that doesn’t involve me? I can hear them, and I know they know that I can hear them. But….do I just pretend that I can’t hear them? What’s the proper etiquette for this?!? Someone please help me out with this—none of this was in the employee handbook!


  1. Either my chewing is magnified by a million in the office, or I’ve always been a loud chewer and just didn’t know it. Geesh, I am LOUD. And, for some reason, the office is always at its quietest when I’m starving and want to eat my lunch. Sadly, the luxury of crunching, slurping, and chomping has come and gone. Instead, with each bite, I get to suffer through a ping of apologetic guilt. I apologize to everyone in advance and to everyone from the past for having to tolerate my chewing. I am deeply sorry.


  1. Have you ever streamed a movie when the screen freezes at a very pivotal scene and you’re forced to wait until it finishes buffering? Well, that’s sort of what I feel like happens in my brain when I’m working with any tech related task in the office. I don’t ever recall this being an issue back in my twenties, but now, locating that dang Transfer key on phone feels like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I’ve learned that I, too, buffer now.


  1. Sitting is hard work. I’ll say it again. Sitting is hard—so hard on the body! After sitting for five hours in front of the computer, my body felt awful, and I felt mentally drained. To counteract it, I now must drink a giant mason jar of lemon water (which makes me pee every 30 minutes, literally!) and I have to strategically plan a walk or a quick yoga session just so I don’t feel like I’m 92. When did sitting require so much work and planning?


Of course, these were only silly thoughts that I didn’t let interfere with the gratitude I had for my new job. But, if I’m being honest, there was a nagging question that I was unable to shake that had me doubt my intentions about going back to work. You see, earlier that year I attended a leadership conference and was moved by one speaker who spoke about the importance of being absolutely crystal clear about what we say we want in life. That includes our thoughts, words, actions, and the choices we make. Otherwise, how will The Universe know how to guide us in the right directions of our dreams and goals? At that time and for several years before that conference, I wanted to write a book and had dedicated most of my time working towards this goal. It’s still my dream. I know in my heart it’s something that I’m meant to do, and I indeed plan on doing. But I took on a job that ultimately takes time and energy away from my book.

Does that mean that I’m not being clear with what I want in my life?

Am I just avoiding doing the work that’s needed to complete the book? Did I take the easy way out just to make some income? Am I just convincing myself that this is what I’m supposed to be doing because it conveniently fits within my life right now?

The truth is, maybe. Like many things in life, the answer may not reveal itself further down the road in my life. In the meantime, all that I can do is trust the instinct that I had when I made the decision to take the job. I trust that the skills that I’m gaining right now are not only valuable for any future work but helping me grow as a person. Working with new people in a new environment has provided much reflection of many parts of myself. I’ve not only learned about myself, but I also recognized parts of me that still require some TLC. These new experiences can only help me ground my roots even deeper and help me spread my branches wider than I ever imagined for myself.  I’ve come to the conclusion that though, the process might not feel or look crystal clear now, but as long as I follow my heart and instinct, I know it will lead me to where I’m supposed to be.


Anna French is a mom, wife, and yogi who recently stepped back into the workforce after being a full-time mother to her four children. During those precious years, she mastered the art of multi-tasking, problem-solving and organizational skills and had part-time positions as a production coordinator for Kiwi Magazine, a yoga teacher and volunteer at her children’s school. She joined WNY People Development in July 2022 to help with their events and stepped into the role as Operations Coordinator in January 2023. Anna graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Communications and worked as a production manager for a marketing company before becoming a full-time mom. Originally from New Jersey, Anna and her family have been living in Wilmington, NC since 2013 where her daughters attend high school—her boys are, at NC State University. Traveling is a must for Anna. Getaways with her family is what she lives for, along with eating her way through all the local eateries! When Anna isn’t working or traveling, she works on her writing—stories, lessons and gained wisdom from her life experiences that she plans to share with her children one day.