It’s a New World!

By Jackie Collins Hullar

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{Jackie at Girls Innovate! June 2013 with volunteers Hong Truong & Joyce Yee}

What is happening in your household right now?

As I was volunteering at the Girls Innovate event and wishing it had existed when my daughters were in middle school and high school, it occurred to me that something pretty amazing is happening in my family.

My 56-year-old husband just retired from his 32 year long career and is now consulting independently. He is learning how to brand and market himself. A lover of team-work and group settings, he is developing into an entrepreneur and satisfying his strong need for affiliation and collaboration by networking, such a crucial activity these days – he is translating himself into the 21st century! He is growing, challenging himself, learning about himself, catching up with all the changes out there.

I have “retired” from the 24-7 stay-at-home parent role of the last 22 years. Our two daughters are now in college and I am on a break from caring for my parents during health care crises. All of a sudden, I have the time and space to peek out of the nest. And WOW! What an unfamiliar and fast-changing world it is!! My minutes, days, hours behind the wheel of car-pools, making lunches for school, attending PTA meetings, having birthday parties, pushing a shopping cart, managing overly filled schedules, volunteering at the girls’ schools and for local organizations, hanging out in hospital rooms, talking to doctors and nurses and physical therapists, parenting “in person” and being the dutiful, super-responsible daughter are over.

It has been a long time since I worked for pay…. At first, I felt out of touch, under-respected, unengaged, isolated and obsolete. And it was uncomfortable to be focusing on myself after all these years of supporting others.

But I am now enjoying this new phase in my life. I have undergone intensive personality testing (so much fun! I wish I had done that years earlier, as I recognize it would have helped me with my post-college career on Wall Street, my parenting, my non-profit work). I have forced myself to look back over my life and reflect on ups and downs, positive and negative experiences, my accomplishments, my skills and talents and interests. I am developing a much stronger awareness of who I am and what makes me “me”…. This is helping me to discover my passions. I can now start to plan what I would like to do with the rest of my life.  It is a very scary experience, to be honest. Things are gradually becoming clearer to me. And I am trying to find my confident voice.

As I re-orient my focus and deepen my awareness of what is happening in the outside world, I am amazed at how incredibly different it is from my days of working, growing up, going to college and graduate school. Of course, I was aware of big changes in technology during my parenting years (internet, Facebook, cell phones, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Google, LinkedIn…), but I mostly left those to my two daughters. Now I am trying to educate myself and catch up! And I am beginning to understand the huge cultural changes in the workplace and in job-hunting. Every day, I have regrets that I did not do things differently, such as go to grad school for a PhD, become totally expert in all the software packages out there, keep a journal or portfolio of all my work, work part-time, write and publish articles or write a book….

But I am forging ahead.

Meanwhile, my two daughters are ALSO on the precipice of leaving academia to enter the brave new world of the 21st century.

That means that every single member of this family is making a transition from a circumscribed arena to the broader, unknown and rapidly changing world – all at the same time!

This is incredible for us: we are dealing with so many of the same issues. I realize that  this concurrence of focus is both a serendipitous opportunity for us to stay close and benefit from our family structure, and a reflection of the newly hyper-dynamic rate of change in these times. Because change is the new normal, this scenario is probably going to be very common from now on.

I do now wish that I had parented a bit differently, to better prepare my daughters for today’s very different world…. That is a subject for a whole other article!

I am so grateful for the chance to re-bond with my daughters and husband over the shared experience of career development. We illuminate the process and model it for each other. We reflect back to each other our varied perceptions of the workplace. We share tips and ideas and suggestions. We gain understanding of our respective values and interests. We are growing more because we are doing this together. In a time of chaos caused by warp-speed technological change, the family structure is a good community for support. I think Girls Innovate! is also another great community for support: its message and method of conveying it is so tuned into what is needed right now.

So, you see, I am still very very much a parent! And I always will be. Even as I engage with the outside world on a full-time basis.

How do you think the role of parenting is changing?

About Jackie: Jackie Collins Hullar is reinventing herself after years of being a full-time parent, including time as an expatriate in Tokyo and London. She is exploring ways to bring self-awareness and career development into the educational arena in order to prepare young people for the dynamic workplace of the 21st century. She has had over 20 years of non-profit experience and a career on Wall Street. She graduated from Yale with a BA received an MBA from NYU-Stern.

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