My sister-in-law is awesome. After ten years of being part of my husband’s family, my brother-in-law (who I also adore) finally met someone who seemed to be “the one”. When they were dating and I was asked about her, I would always report how deliriously happy I was to finally have a sister-in-law, not only because she is a cool chick, a great mom but she is smart as hell. She has an amazing career, where she is kicking ass and taking names. I instantly loved this about her because, at the time, we had that in common.
Recently I was bragging about her to a girlfriend, admitting that while I’m crazy proud of her, I’m also a teeny, tiny bit jealous. When I hear about all the incredible things happening in her career, I find myself waxing nostalgic about my own career. Or rather my lack of a career now that mine is over, ending a little less than a year ago, when I left a job I loved and a company I was honored to call home for over 16 years.
My friend – who recently took some time off work herself and has been loving her days of leisure – however thought I was crazy. From her vantage point, what’s not to love about being home? It made me wonder…am I crazy? I love my family and I know that staying home with your kids is not something everyone can do. I left work for medical reasons so perhaps that changes my perspective about now being a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t make this decision; it was made for me. But no matter what the reason a woman leaves her career, I have to imagine there are many, like me, who miss it more than a little bit.
I am not the type of person who typically quits things. Well unless you count diets, so let’s not. But I’m a doer. I get things done. I’m the girl who jumped up on a couch, ala Tom Cruise, the first day of my sorority pledging to rally a group of girls I had never met before (an act I still get mocked for, 20-something years later). I am usually the one people look to in meetings or at volunteer events, expecting me to know what we should do next. Yes, I am that person (don’t hate me…I have many redeeming qualities also.)
I stick with things when they are hard, partly because I am not a quitter but also because I am also nosy as hell. I need to see how things turn out. I always finish a book even if it’s clearly a dud. I don’t walk out of the theater if the movie is obviously the latest Gigli. I stick with TV shows even when it appears they have jumped the shark (I’m talking to you, Scandal…).
But now I’ll never know what would have been. There are things I was a part of and I don’t get to see how they played out. I worked in Human Resources (insert groan here…) and despite the fact most people cried when they walked into a room and saw me sitting there, I still loved what I did. Not every day was a walk in the park but, by and large, I really enjoyed my work. In my job I had responsibility for helping to navigate the careers of our employees and developing strategies for our businesses. Now I don’t get to see what is happening to these incredibly talented people and someone else is executing my ideas.
My friend said I’m crazy to miss it but the truth is I do. I miss it a lot. I don’t necessarily miss the day-to-day aspects of being a full-time working wife and mom. Make no mistake – that sh*t is HARD. Granted I am still rushing around like crazy to keep our family of five (six if you include the dog) on track. I don’t miss the stress and aggravation of working 50+ hours a week while balancing homework, soccer, hockey, Girl Scouts, endless play dates…the list goes on and on. I don’t miss putting the kids to bed and then working for several more hours, because I may have left work “early” that day to get to one of the kids’ activities. I also know that when I was killing it at work, I felt like I was dropping the ball at home and vice versa – and that wasn’t making anyone happy. And this new “work” wardrobe of cute athleisure wear? Now that, that I got used to FAST.
Now that I am home, I am able spend more time at my kids’ schools. I was the parent volunteer for one of our after-school clubs and on the last day the instructor gave me a special shout out to thank me for helping, explaining I could have been doing other things with my time, such as be at work, etc. My daughters almost broke their arms to raise their hands and share “My mommy doesn’t work” and “Nope, that’s not true. My mom doesn’t have a job!!”
And this is true. I no longer work outside my home. But this truth made me feel instantly smaller. I wanted to scream to this room full of elementary school-aged children “Damn it, people, I had a career I loved for 17 years! I was good at my job!” (note to self: you really MUST stop worrying about what everyone thinks of you. These kids had a median age of SEVEN and last week I had to remind this same audience that we don’t pick our noses and wipe it on other people. Their level of interest in me and my lack of a job was ZILCH.) But inside I felt like everything I had done before had been reduced to nothing.
Being a mom is hard no matter how you do it – it was hard when I was working full-time and it’s hard now as a stay-at-home mom. I think no matter what path we take – sometimes it’s a choice and sometimes it’s a decision made for you – we may always wonder if the grass is greener.
Given the choice to be at home with my family or go back to work, I wouldn’t change a thing. With both options put before me, I would make the same decision EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I know that, for our family – and for my health – being at home is absolutely the best thing for us all. But I can’t change how I am hard-wired. I have always been ambitious, an over-achiever. I had a CAREER, not just a “job” and I wanted to advance in that career. And now it feels like I invested all this time reading an amazing book and someone ripped out the last page. I’ll never know how the story would have ended.
Given everything that has happened over these past two and half years, I am grateful that I am still here to tell my story. I am grateful that I am strong enough, healthy enough to start a new chapter, with a fresh sheet of paper and I get to determine what happens next. I get to decide who I am if I’m not a full-time working wife and mom, a title I proudly clung to for nearly a decade. I have come to realize I can still kick ass and take names, only now as a stay-at-home mom. I can live vicariously through my fantastic sister-in-law and happily and proudly cheer her – and every other working mom – on from a distance. I can still be a leader, an over-achiever – but on my own terms, on my own schedule. And I can do it all wearing yoga pants.
Until next time, #gameon….