The past few weeks have been kind of crazy. We traveled for two weeks over the holidays, which was glorious, yet simultaneously annoying as hell. Dean and I are both in the middle of some major stuff at work, and my mind has been going crazy: trying to balance the internal struggle between working and not working, not getting to love and loving on my sweet baby every day.
It’s January, so my quitting timeline is becoming more near-reality than far-off mirage. I should find out from my boss in the next week or so what my bonus looks like, and come pay-out time in March, it will be time to say my goodbyes. Or will it? Thus the question I ponder at least every five minutes of every waking hour of every day. I know there are a zillion articles about the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom, and to be honest, I always hoped that we would be in the financial position to allow me to stay at home if I wanted to, but it feels more like a crazily confusing quandary than a luxury.
The financial luxury of all of this was and is being put to the test, which has made things interesting. Over the holidays Dean and I took a break to soak in the hot tub at my parents’ condo after his day of skiing and my rough day of baking cookies and walking with Bruce in the snow. Dean was talking about work and the major events they have going on at his small start-up company. We were also talking about potential significant life decisions for the year, primarily 1) shooting for baby #2 (YES!), and 2) buying a new house should baby #2 come to fruition (will be a necessity – we are completely out of space and overflowing our storage unit as it is with Bruce). Dean then casually mentioned that we will need to evaluate quitting my job based on what happens with his company in the next few months, which will have job/salary implications for him and for a new house and our finances, and it’s good to keep things status quo since I work at a very stable Fortune 500 company with dependable benefits and job security. All of that makes sense, but it was the first time I had heard Dean voice any concerns about living on one salary. While it wasn’t all that surprising, and I have those same thoughts more often than not, it was interesting what him saying those thoughts made me subsequently feel:
What??! But I’m quitting my job, this is what we’ve talked about. You. Said. I. Could. Quit. My. Job. I was defensive and worried. What if I can’t quit my job?! I want to quit my job! Faced with the potential that financially it’s not possible for me to quit, I started sweating.
A couple of days later, on Christmas morning, we were opening gifts with my parents. While going through stocking-stuffers I discovered a single piece of paper with a note scribbled by Dean: “Cabo in May!” He proceeded to explain, in front of my watching parents, “this is our trip to Mexico after you quit, to celebrate! It can be our babymoon too!” This announcement prompted vast annoyance on my part, from an entirely different place than the hot tub conversation:
Geez Brady why did you have to mention quitting in front of my parents?! I don’t want my dad to think that I’m quitting! I’m going to let him down somehow or he won’t be proud of me. Not to mention it’s my cardinal rule that we do not talk about baby thinking of any sort in front of anyone! What if nothing happens and then everyone thinks, “oh … they’re having trouble trying to get pregnant.” It’s no one’s business but ours! Suddenly, I was embarrassed by what others would think of me for quitting, for how I would be perceived. Particularly by my dad, who I know loves me, but for whatever weird reason, I have spent my whole life trying to impress and make proud of me.
Later on, back in the hot tub, we revisited my emotions and I reiterated to Dean to please not talk to anyone about my quitting until I do. Because it’s so confusing. Because I don’t want people who know me as a professional to think less of me. Because I’m afraid that I don’t mean as much or am not as important if I don’t work. Because I don’t want to lose access to professional networks and relationships that make me feel like part of something other than just a mother and a wife. Because I don’t want to feel written-off.
There, I’ve said it. The fears I have around quitting my professional life, which is deeply rooted in stereotype. To all you SAHMs out there, I have nothing but the deepest respect for you. I want to be you, and I’m wildly jealous of the time you get with your children. But am I ready to let go of work and the inflated sense of purpose I get from it? Apparently I am, based on my reaction to hot tub convo #1, but I just don’t know. It’s so confusing, all the time. I truly enjoy my job. I love my company, and I am fortunate to work with exceptionally intelligent and kind people on a daily basis that have afforded me great mentorship and opportunity. I just can’t stop thinking about Bruce when I’m at work. My career used to seem so important, and it obviously still does on some level, but I just can’t shake the feeling that I would rather be inhaling my sweet baby’s scent and helping him scribble, no matter how monotonous it may become.
As I mentioned, we were in Colorado for two amazing weeks, which afforded me the pleasure of spending day-in and day-out with Bruce for 16 days. He’s 19 months old now, and it was incredible to watch him change and grow, within a single day. He is growing by leaps and bounds, learning new words and developing comprehension skills at a rapid pace. I was with him every day and even noticed it. I don’t want to miss those moments, as I’ve already missed so many of them. For so many reasons though, it’s just not as easy as I once romanticized that it would be.