At the beginning of this month, I quit my job. I wasn’t due back until November, but I knew in my heart I wasn’t going to return so I decided to cut my losses and let my office know so we could both move on. This didn’t come as a huge surprise to those who knew me best, but when it came right down to making that final phone call it turned out to be harder than I thought.
I wasn’t always sure I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. In fact, if you had asked me in college I would have assured you I would not be staying home. (I also expected to get married sometime around 30 – shows how good at predicting the future I am!) I always said I wanted to have the opportunity to choose and I’m blessed beyond belief that our circumstances did allow me that and that my husband supported my decision. Once I got pregnant, I was about 98% sure I’d be staying home… but there was still that 2% of me that wanted to leave the door open to make a choice. Which is how I found myself hanging on to my job even as my paid leave ended after 6 short weeks.
The 2% of me that wasn’t sure was having a hard time letting go of a thread of myself – my independent self, my bread-winning self, my “hey I went and got a Master’s degree, shouldn’t I be using it?” self. But these are mostly matters of pride. I knew in my heart I wanted to be home with Bo, and my reasons for returning to work were more about external judgments and perceptions than what I truly felt was right for me and for our family. When it came right down to it, my deciding factor was realizing that I’ll always have my education (or can get more), I’ll always have a passion or interest in my field (or another one) and there will always be potential to work. (Yes, I believe this is true even in our current employment state.) I’ll never, ever have the opportunity to witness first hand the daily growth of my firstborn child.
That’s not to say there’s a right or wrong answer to the decision to go back to work or stay home, and even my feelings on it weren’t black or white. If I had loved my job and going there each day provided me with a senses of fulfillment or leaving would have interrupted my ability to reach certain career goals, I think the decision would have been much harder. I still waver on the decision some days… but what affirms my decision is ultimately how happy I am. Right now, at this stage in my life, at home I feel content and blessed.
These last 11 weeks have been the best season of my life. And that says a lot – I’ve had a very happy and fulfilling life and have loved many stages of it. There’s also a lot that you give up the moment you become a mom and it’s hard sometimes to reconcile those losses. You give up feeling well-rested (will I ever, again?), the ability to just run to the gym or a coffee shop whenever you want, you give up your body, time spent with friends, large chunks of your bank account and a huge piece of your sanity that is now devoted to a section of thought called “incessant worrying that harm will come to your child and you won’t be able to stop it/fix it.” And despite the fact that every single mother I’ve met had told me being a mom would be the hardest thing I ever did but the best thing – I didn’t understand that until I spent a few weeks at home with my son.
And to be honest, it took a few weeks. The first couple weeks, Bo felt more like a baby bird to me than my own child. I felt like I was on a cycle of feed, entertain, then employ every available tactic I could think of to lull him back to sleep. But over the weeks, we found a rhythm together. The days (and nights!) become easier, he became more responsive (smiles!) and each day when I think I loved him the most I could yesterday, I find it’s grown a teensy bit more.
I just know there’s no place I’m supposed to be right now than safely guiding and teaching this child about his world. Teaching him to sleep (!!), how to lift his head, how to stick his tongue out. Teaching him that he is safe and secure and so loved. There is a quiet and gentle pace to our days together – something I know I will never have again and I’m cherishing now. The next time I have a newborn, there will be a busy toddler running around and I’m quite certain quiet and gentle will not describe the rhythm of our days.
With every big change in life, even good ones, there is loss. It was harder than I thought to say good-bye to my job (and my paycheck) and the freedom to work out at whatever time of day I wanted and the opportunity to blow dry my hair every day and sleeping in on Saturdays. It was hard, but it has been so, so worth it. I heard that so many times it began to feel like a cliché, but now I understand that sentiment inside and out.
This is indeed the best season of my life right now and I can’t imagine it being any other way now.