The Day I Went Back To The Office

April 2016

I am spending a silly amount of time picking out an outfit this morning, and I know it.  But what does one wear to pay a visit back to their old office when they've been a stay-at-home-mom for the last year?  Especially when that office is a dental office, and all I ever wore there was scrubs?  I end up with a floral tank, a cardigan, rolled up skinnies, and my lace-up pointy-toed shoes to add a little flair.

I come with my four kids, packed tight in the minivan, licking my tongue over my teeth.  I am way overdue for a cleaning.  I had been due to come in right around the time Clarice was born, but the post-baby haze didn't allow for a phone call to set up an appointment until she was nearing six months old.  Or maybe I had just been avoiding going back.  Is it weird to go back to your old place of employment for a dental cleaning?  Should I just find a new office? 

But here I am, turning onto a street that still feels familiar.  I drive up and down the hills that lead into the picturesque "downtown" area, where I would turn left and park in the back next to the flowering trees.

The jay-walkers.  I had forgotten about the jay-walkers - combine a nearby college and a touristy town, and somehow everyone forgets how to follow traffic signals.  Today is especially busy.  Was it always this busy before?  Did the college students always look that young?  For goodness sake, it had only been a year.

I circle the parking lot for a full 20 minutes before I finally find a spot.  I pop a mint in my mouth and unbuckle my seatbelt.  They had closed off the back-lot parking where I used to pull in everyday, and there must have been some event going on, because there is more traffic than I ever remembered.  And the trees aren't blooming.

Derek meets me to pick up the kids, four little sets of shining eyes, and 3.5 rounds of "I love you, Mama! See you later!" Clarice just shrieks at me, and I know she is repeating the sentiment.  But I don't look at her too long so she won't start crying when I walk away.  How did I ever leave my babies for a full work day?  I feel sad leaving them now for an hour.

The front looks the same as it did when I left, the brand-new renovation over a year old now.  A fresh face behind the counter, greeting me as if I hadn't worked here for six years.  I sign in and wait.  I ask if one of my favorite co-workers is here today.

"Oh, she doesn't work here anymore."

I bite back disappointment as a hygienist I have never met before brings me back to clean my teeth.  She is professional, and friendly, and does everything right.  No hint that she knows I worked here.  I'm still not sure if she knew.

"So how many kids do you have?"

"I have four."  I state proudly.

"Wow, what are their ages?"

I tell her.

"Wow, good for you.  I couldn't do it." And she looks at me like I'm an oddity.  My old boss comes in later and repeats the sentiment as teeth are poked and x-rays scrutinized.  I need a sealant on #14.  The associate dentist pops her head in to say hello.

"I'm sorry I was late," I say when my exam is finished. "I circled for probably twenty minutes, and they closed the old parking lot."

And they both accept my apologies, and talk about how the office is growing.  "Things keep changing!" my old boss says with a smile.

And that phrase rings in my ears as I walk to the front and pay, as I say hello to old co-workers, and maybe good-bye too.  Because things do change.  And I don't belong here anymore.

I don't belong here anymore.  

And I walk out without looking back.


It was such a weird experience going back to my old office, which surprised me.  I left last year because I was pregnant with Clarice, and the office was growing.  They needed me to work more hours, but my family was growing just as the practice was, and I just couldn't imagine leaving my kids more.  So we worked out our budget, and I left a job that I enjoyed, an office where I was happy.

For a while I felt like this was something unfortunate that had happened, because I wouldn't have left if it hadn't been for the fact that they needed more hours for all the growth.  What rotten timing, I thought.  And it was bittersweet, walking out that door in 2015.

I don't know what I thought it would be like when I went back to visit, but the one thing I realized that day was that this didn't just happen to me.  I chose this.  

For a while after I resigned I was sad that I wasn't working, and I missed my patients and the one day of the week that added some structure.  But going back made me realize that my little family is where I will always belong.  I am an indispensable member of this team.

Last spring I weighed the cost of working more against the joys of raising my children myself, and I chose them.  

And since I have finally owned that, I don't have an ounce of regret left in my mind.  The day I went back to the office was like the period at the end of a sentence, at the end of a chapter.  All plot lines closed, all loose ends tied up in a bow.  And the best parts are in all the pages ahead.

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Natalie @ She Builds Her Home said...

Aw this is so bittersweet! I'm so glad God has given you peace about being where you are!

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