This week was supposed to be my first week back at work from maternity leave. Instead, I quit last Thursday and, for the moment anyway, am living the life of a stay at home mom.
For the record, this was never my plan. I liked the sense of accomplishment and independence that came with holding down a job and earning a paycheck. I liked having something tangible to reflect my hard work.
But things change. I changed. You see, I have a 12 week old daughter who likes to take her naps lying on my chest. And I have a 3 year old son who likes to make up stories so that I can write them down and help draw the pictures to go with it. And to be honest, I’m tired of missing these things. Not just during the hours at work, but because I wasn’t my best when I came home from work either. Other people were getting the best of my attention, my creativity, my patience. My husband and my kids got what was left. And maybe that’s on me, for not balancing things better. For not having anything left in my tank when I came home at night. But in the end, something had to give, and it ended up being my career.
It’s not an easy choice, mind you. And it’s not just the immediate challenges of learning to live on one income and changing my mindset, either. I’ve read all the articles and studies about the damage that “off-ramping” does to your career and long-term earning potential. I’ve heard the calls to “lean in” and how important it is for women to pursue leadership roles in the workplace. I understand that I may be torpedoing my career with my choice. That’s a tough pill to swallow sometimes, when it’s just me and my thoughts.
But then my son asks, “Mom, can we snuggle?” Or my daughter looks right in my eyes and gives me the biggest grin. And I know that it’s this that I want to lean into. Memorizing the smell of the top of my daughter’s head. The weight of my son’s hand as it clasps mine. It’s not big stuff around here. Some days, it’s mind-numbingly little stuff. But it’s fleeting, ephemeral – the good and the bad stuff. And for me, in this season of life, I just want to be here for the stuff.