We had been plodding along the past little while, adjusting to life with 2 kids in school now, no more nanny and just trying to get the daily grind sorted between work, school, kid’s activities and everything in between. It had been the usual, busy family stuff.
Then, toward the end of January, we had the proverbial perfect storm of events that sort of churned up our lives. And now, 3.5 months later, I think the clouds are slowly parting, and as I start to see the sky again, I notice that the storm has shifted things in our world a bit.
In January, my work situation left me in a position where Brian and I started talking about whether it was time for me to leave my job. The work situation coupled with the kids recently transitioning from having a nanny to going to out-of-school care and then dealing with stuff with Josh, led me to believe that it might be time to slow down the pace for awhile and focus on the kids.
I have never been in the position where I was unemployed and not fully looking for work (except for maternity leave, which was, mentally, a different kind of unemployed). It was a scary idea for me to contemplate that I would be unemployed with my first priority as the kids, and not finding another job. But Brian and I decided we could manage it financially, so we decided to go for it.
At the beginning of February, I left my job. It was strangely cathartic. The day after, I felt mildly exuberant. I was so relieved to not have to worry about work stresses, but I knew there was a long, unknown road ahead. It was strange to admit, but I had just made the choice to be a stay-at-home mom for the next little while!
Here’s the thing though: I’m good at my job. I’m good at work. And I like work interactions. I have previously come to the realization that for me, work is easy. The things I do at work are intuitive and come natural to me. For me, it’s the parenting part that’s hard. I have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to raising my kids. Not only do I have no clue, but I also can’t hear my intuition when it comes to parenting. So, I had just given up the thing I know, that comes natural to me and replaced it full time with the thing that daily makes me feel like I’m incompetent and not worthy. Ha.
For the first month and a bit, all I did was decompress. It took me this long to get myself to believe that now that I was not juggling my career job with my mom job, I was still just as ‘important’. I found myself continuing to network, getting in touch with past colleagues and tried to keep my finger on my career pulse. At the same time, I was figuring out how to deal with Josh’s stuff as well as trying to reconnect with family life (our nanny had just left us at the beginning of January, so reconnecting with family life was on-going).
It was very strange for me. I felt a bit lost in understanding what I ‘needed’ to be doing. Remember: even though I was technically a stay-at-home mom, there were 2 distinguishing factors:
1. The kids were still in out-of-school care. We didn’t want to lose our spots and we didn’t want there to be too much change to the kid’s routine. So, I was a stay-at-home mom with child care. Can you say ‘Real Housewives of New Westminster’?! Ha.
2. I still had looking for a job hanging over my head. How could I be unemployed and not be looking for another job?! I was having trouble accepting this.
I don’t think I ever fully accepted that it was ok for me to be at home and not doing some sort of job search. I guess the responsibility is so engrained in me. But I think that one thing that I was able to finally accept, was that there was a place for me as an unemployed person who was spending more time with her family. And in accepting this, I was able to reaffirm some of the truths I already knew about myself. Like, I hate house cleaning and even if I have all day to do it, I still won’t. And I need the different kind of mental stimulation that my work brings. I need the work challenges that I can solve intuitively and feel confident about my decisions. And, as selfish as it sounds, I can never get enough “me time”.
So, after the dust settled and I accepted the truths about myself, this is where the real learning began. This is when I got to see the side of parenting that I never saw before. The part where I suddenly had some time to enjoy it. To really get a chance to sit down and look at the gobs of artwork and paper that my kids generate. To get to see them off to class every morning and watch them interact with their friends. To volunteer for activities in and around school. To bring order to our household in a way that allowed my kids to thrive. To get to go to all their different activities prepared and with purpose, as opposed to feeling like we’re just rushing them from one activity to the next. I feel like I’m an active participant in my kid’s lives, not just an overseer of it. I feel closer to my kids than I’ve ever felt before.
Here we are now on Mother’s Day and, ironically, on the eve of me starting a new job (because I just couldn’t stop looking!). When I go back to work, I will have had almost 4 months to sort out what I’ve needed to with my family. That person, in February, who had trouble letting go of her career self, is now terrified of what she might be letting go to bring her career self back in. I don’t honestly know if I’m ready to go back to work. I don’t know that I’ve accomplished all I set out to accomplish at home when we decided I should leave my job. And I don’t know if I can keep that connection with the kids when I’m balancing a full time job again. I found a new level of presence and patience with the kids that I don’t know if I can maintain when I add the burden of work stress. I know when I go back to work, it will be easy for me to fall back into ‘work’ mode. And I’m not sure I know how to have that connection to my work and maintain the connection I’ve made with my family life. It’s making me feel very torn.
But I do know this: for 4 months, I had the opportunity to experience a different way of being in my family. I got to step outside my normal self and see how else I could be, not just as a mother, but as a person too. And as torn as I am about going back to work, I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything. In fact, I would do it again in a heartbeat.
So, as I sit here on Mother’s Day, eating breakfast in bed and contemplate how life-changing it’s been being a mother, I have to thank Brian for all his support as I navigated my version of stay-at-home-mom-dom. I couldn’t have done it without you and I love you. And I have to thank all my parental family and friends for their advice and non-judgment. I think, in the end, its the fear of judgment that can kill us.
But mostly, I have to thank my kids. Josh and Aves, thank you for showing me pure joy, honesty, unconditional love and resilience that I never knew existed. You are the most amazing human beings I know. You make me want to be the best mother I can be each and every day. I love, love, love you guys like nothing else.
And to all the moms I know, who get to have the best job in the world, Happy Mother’s Day.