In some ways I feel like I've been experiencing a mid-life crisis at 35. Or at least a point in my life where I felt it was time to stop, re-evaluate and re-invent myself. You can choose to let these moments pass and go about your normal routine or you can take the time to evaluate what the top priorities are in your life and make sure you are living accordingly. After a lot of soul searching I'm re-defining what success means to me. And here is how I made the decision to become a stay at home mom…
I was a marketing chick long before I was a mom. I say "marketing chick" because "professional" sounds too stuffy to me and I think my career has been pretty damn cool. I'm not one of those people that hates their job. I think marketing is the bomb-diggity and was definitely the right career choice for me.
I always knew my husband and I wanted to bring children into this world and I expected to fit them into our life. That's how it works, right? Not exactly. Having kids changed me. And the change was immediate. In fact, when I went into labor for the first time it happened to be THE most “important” week the company I worked for had each year. And in an instant it drifted into the background...
There was nothing like that first time I held my baby boy.
Women had described it. I thought I could imagine. But then it happened to me and I experienced an incredible rush that I’m certain cannot be matched by any other life moment. THIS is the reason Moms love to tell their birth stories. It's not because we want rewards for the pain we endured, it's because we will never get enough of THAT moment. And we will re-live it as much as we can for the rest of our lives.
I was the happiest I'd ever felt and my life would never be the same...
As a new working mom I quickly became jealous of “It doesn’t make sense for me to work. My salary will basically cover the costs of childcare so what’s the point?” I’d heard this frequently from other Moms and I was frustrated that the decision wasn't that straight forward for me. I’m a spreadsheet addict but Excel was not my friend with this. It refused to support me quitting my job. We are fortunate my husband has a great career and could support us but the way I saw it the opportunity cost was too high. It just wasn't logical. And in all honesty, we've enjoyed the lifestyle that two incomes have afforded us. While we've always lived well within our means, there are plenty of places we splurged. We ate out a few times a week. We treated ourselves and our children to new clothes, toys and clicked-to-buy on Amazon way more often than we would like to admit. And more importantly we didn't stress about unexpected expenses and were able to save money for rainy days. Letting go of that level of freedom was scary.
So I went on being a marketing chick. I fought for flexible arrangements which I did receive. And my new mission was to rock it all - be a superstar mom, wife and employee. During this time, I was blessed to experience that incredible moment again when I brought my second sweet boy into the world. He brought even more love into my life. And as second children do, he also brought more hurdles to overcome. With two children my world got even better and harder all at once. I lived the secret life of a working a Mom for 3.5 years. It was challenging but I was doing a good job, the best I could at least. There were days I felt like I had it all together... followed by days I couldn't keep my head above water. It certainly can be done if this is the path that is right for you. For many women it truly is. There is no doubt that working, especially if you like your job, can be very satisfying. And I have seen some amazing moms rockin it! I was getting a lot of personal satisfaction out of my job but I was still constantly battling internally. My kids are so little and the time is going by too quickly. They will be off to school with a blink of an eye.
When I was with them in public, empty nesters would frequently smile at us and stop me to say "It goes by so quickly. You have to enjoy every minute of it." I was filled with so much emotion every time I heard this. Am I enjoying every minute of it? In the mornings I'm racing to get myself and my kids ready and after work it is a race to do chores and get them both to bed. On the weekends we spend a lot of quality family time together but they go by so fast and it never seems like enough. And on a daily basis my boys made it clear that they could not get enough of ME. My littlest guy would hold on to me for dear life at every chance he got. My older son would say things to me like “I was brave at school today, Mommy. I didn’t cry but I was sad because I missed you.” Could they tug at my heart any harder?
The longer this internal battle went on, the more crystal clear it became that my deepest satisfaction and happiness at this point in my life comes from these two little boys that I brought into this world. Getting recognition, raises and even a promotion at work were awesome and certainly made me feel good. But watching my little ones discover the world around them, learn to recite their ABC’s and even finally go poop in the potty brings me a deep happiness that I never expected possible. (Yes, poop in the potty can really do that!)
I finally realized that logic and spreadsheets were never going to make this choice for me. This was a choice I had to make for myself based on family, experiences, and simply, what I want out of my life. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year trying to narrow in on what actually makes me happy. (If you haven’t seen the documentary, "Happy", I highly suggest it. It brings perspective if that is what you are looking for.) And during this time I was so impressed with the many amazing moms I met that had given up their careers to focus on their children. I was particularly humbled by a single mom that managed to stay at home with her daughter while supporting them by watching other kids in her home. She would have made more money with job opportunities she had outside the home but it was more important to her to have that time with her daughter. And she was happy.
Did I have to give up some things? Yes. But we've all heard time and time again that money doesn't buy happiness. And even recent research suggests that experiences actually lead to more happiness long term than possessions.
I don't want to miss out on THIS experience! I can always go back to work. But I can never get these years back. My children are growing too quickly and life is just too short to not take this leap of faith.
It was not easy to take this leap. It was emotional. I literally walked out the doors of my corporate life crying and grieving a previous version of myself that felt so passionate about my work. But I did it! And as I entered my house that night, I heard little voices saying "she's here! she's here!" I was greeted by my precious boys and my handsome husband holding balloons for me. My younger son yelled "WOO HOO!" and I knew everything was right in my world.
I’m not the first mom to quit her job and certainly won’t be the last. This particular journey is not for everyone, but I hope it’s a reminder to constantly re-evaluate your life and make sure you are living it the way YOU want to. Whether you are a stay at home Mom, a working Mom, or not a Mom at all, be HAPPY. Live your life to the fullest. And if you’re not, remember that you always have a choice. It may not be a clear, easy or logical choice, but there’s always a choice.
For now, you can find me at the park enjoying every minute of it with two little boys covered in dirt.
Enjoy the little things in life... for one day you'll look back and realize they were the BIG things. ~Robert Brault