I resigned from my job a couple of weeks ago, citing my children as the reason for doing so. But my kids aren’t just the reason I’m leaving; they’re also a convenient excuse.
While it is true that I am choosing to stay at home so I can devote more time to enjoying my children, it is not the only truth. The other truth is that I’m kind of glad that I don’t have to do the whole “working mother of two” thing. Not being forced to manage spreadsheets, diaries and deadlines, alongside sick kids, laundry and daycare drop-offs is a blessing. Being able to let the career ball drop means I am free to juggle the rest of my life. It’s a relief.
When I resigned, my boss labelled my decision “selfless”. I wanted to imagine that this was the case; that I was choosing to put my kids’ needs ahead of my own. But the funny thing is, I feel like I’m being completely selfish. That for the first time I’m putting my own needs ahead of anyone else’s…wow!
I think it’s easy to say that stay at home mums are being selfless – sacrificing their careers for the sake of their families. Putting themselves firmly in second-place as they focus all their energies on raising little snot-faced cuddlebags, and ignoring their greater yearnings to be somebody. But this is only true of women who love their career, have aspirations of high achievements professionally, and see themselves in what they do.
Despite my frequent complaints and gripes about parenthood, I secretly love my role as part-teacher, part-chef, part-doctor, part-driver, part-stylist. For some reason, being made up of so many parts makes me feel whole. Being a mum, like any job, infuriates me, challenges me, and – occasionally – throws me into despair. But at this time in my life I would rather be there for my son’s developmental milestones, than those of my career.
I do not judge women who return to work when their babies are still small; I think universally all mothers need to give each other a break and stop judging each other. I know instinctively that returning to work is not the right path for me. I quite simply could not cope with handing my son over to daycare at his age. Luckily I am not weighed down by a heavy mortgage or household expenses that my husband’s wage can not cover. And while I can’t afford all the luxuries in life right now, I am in a fortunate position that I can choose whether I return to work or not. I accept that not everyone has this luxury, and I’m grateful for the freedom I’m enjoying right now.
I have worked in the advertising/marketing industry for almost two decades. During this time my ego has taken a certain degree of pride out of climbing the ranks, working for great agencies and organisations, and generally getting a leg up onto the corporate ladder. Knowing that I am making a decision that could hinder my return to the world of marketing – the only corporate world I know – is frightening and definitely ego-bruising.
But from my very first job out of university I knew, at a soul level, that this was not the right industry for me. The universe has thrown out a billion road blocks in my way over the years but I’ve chosen to either hurdle them or ignore them as I have pressed ahead with job after job after job thinking “maybe this one will be better?”
I’ve been doing lots of meditation and mindfulness training with my psychologist lately, and a certain degree of truth has been unlocked and unleashed from within. It’s now smacking me about the face with a dead, wet fish screaming “it is time to change, WOMAN!”
But how do we actually stop what we’re doing and activate change? My children have also given me the perfect excuse to put my “professional”cloak back into the cupboard and root around for something new to wear. Something colourful, bright, inventive.
For now, my focus can be on my children which is exactly where I believe my energy needs to be focussed. They allow me to be as creative as I like; I get muddy with them, I splash in puddles, I make cakes that don’t rise and paintings that look ridiculous, I sing stupid songs and I read beautiful short stories…. This is my full time gig, and I do enjoy it. But I know it is a short-term gig, and the powerfulness of this role is that it is a stepping stone to a new adventure.
Being a SAHM also allows me the space I need to focus on myself as a person undefined by career. It’s freaking scary to not be able to answer “what do you do?” with a professional response. But here, in this moment, it is exactly what I need. To find a way to define myself not by what I do, but what I am.
Make no mistake, for me leaving work was not a selfless decision. It was a selfish one. And sometimes, they’re the best decisions to make.
What’s driving your decision to return to work or stay at home?