“I need to withdraw from the program.”

These are words that my brain would not have even considered in 2019 because I thrive on craziness. 

To illustrate my love of craziness: last year my daughter had spine surgery, we sold our house, I had our fourth baby, and we PCS’ed to Hawaii five weeks later.  On top of those big events, we threw in a handful of work trips for me, a few TDYs for my husband, and an emergency trip home for my grandma’s funeral. I can handle anything life throws at me.

And then, 2020.

After our PCS last August, I finally felt like I was settling into a routine. You know that point. You’ve built up some friendships and are sending random funny memes and not, “I know we just met in a parking lot, but can you be my kid’s emergency contact for school?”  The walls of your house have pictures hung up, and when someone mentions a part of town, you can visualize what they are talking about without pulling up Google maps on your phone.

That is where I was in February 2020, and it was awesome. 

In fact, things were going so smoothly that I took advantage of the Onward 2 Opportunity program. This is an opportunity that will help military spouses or those transitioning out of the military pay for professional certifications in Human Resources or Information Technology career fields. Did I mention it is free? It felt glorious to finally have time for some career development and extending my professional network.

And then COVID hit.

Through the last eight years, I have worked remotely as the Director of Technology & Strategic Operations for a non-profit organization in Louisiana. I have survived the birth of two kids, two deployments, and PCSing two times while working. But when 2020 brought the addition of distance learning, it just seemed too much. 

Although distance learning presents challenges for any student, it is especially hard when children have special needs. My oldest has Down Syndrome; my second daughter is in a wheelchair, is legally blind, and she has limited use of her arms. For them, school is about interacting with peers, having access to therapy, and working one-on-one with their teachers. What do you do when your child can not even see the computer?

new mindsetI said I thrive on chaos. And I do. But everyone has a limit, even me.

As part of my COVID craziness/sanity-saving measures, I’ve returned to long-distance running and listening to podcasts. The other day, I listened to Michelle Obama’s “Working Women: Valerie Jarrett and the Importance of Mentorship”. The whole premise of this episode is about the importance of finding strong females to look up to and build relationships with while we navigate our professions. They discussed the importance of establishing boundaries, scheduling time for yourself, and dealing with failure.

And it finally hit me: dropping the program did not equal failure. Not anymore.

A decision to “drop out” of an optional program may have seemed like a failure in 2019, but it means survival in 2020.

Working strange hours is no longer seen as “slacking” from work responsibilities, but it means that a mom is trying to balance professional responsibilities while making sure that her kids have stability and guidance while they, too, are learning to navigate a different world.

Staying home for date night and enjoying apple juice out of wine glasses and cheese and crackers from the grocery store is no longer a letdown of missed social outings. It is a simple way to laugh together as a family after very ridiculous days of online meetings and school.

The bottom line is that regardless of the challenges in front of us, it is imperative to rely on each other for grace and support.

man with post-its with messages
Photo by Yasin Yusuf on Unsplash

Although how we define success or failure these days might look a bit different, we are somehow figuring out a way to make it all work. Just as women before us have done and women long after us will continue to do, regardless of the challenges.

And even with the craziness each day, take a minute to reach out to the other females in your life. Be that supporting voice that gives confidence when everything feels like failure.  Everyone at some point wants to crawl under that remote learning/virtual work desk and hide from it all.

Be the person who pulls them out and gives them the confidence to simply keep going. And give them the confidence to “fail” or let go of things that are not important.

Redefine failure for you and those around you.