… Was Monday, March 30, 2015. I will remember it forever as it was one of the hardest days of my life. It was also surprisingly cathartic, and while emotionally draining, positive in more ways than I could have ever imagined.
The weekend going into it was sort of a mess. I had just gotten my bonus last Friday, and while Monday was supposed to be “the day,” I found myself questioning it due to last minute conversations with my dad (“have you thought about if Dean loses his job? have you thought about sticking it out, taking a paid maternity leave, and then quitting?”) and general communication problems in my marriage. Dean is under incredible amounts of stress right now in his career and hasn’t really had the emotional bandwidth in recent months to listen to all the crazy internal ramblings I’ve had on the entire process of quitting my job and what it means for me and my individuality, so I’ve internalized and reached out to friends more to talk about my feelings. Unfortunately we got into a monster fight on Saturday about our current communication issues which exacerbated my feelings of isolation in my marriage about this major life-change I’m taking on.
All of which didn’t put me in the best mindset on Sunday about leaving my career, starting a new life, and becoming financially dependent for the first time since I was in college. I asked Dean multiple times on Sunday and even Monday morning if we were making the right choice, and deep down I knew nothing had changed, but wow my mind has been reeling. You can imagine how well I slept on Sunday.
Drove to work on Monday, playing over and over in my head how I was going to tell my boss and my mentor about this decision. Parked, walked inside, took the elevator up to our floor, and walked by my boss’s office on the way to mine. He was in there alone, good. Turned my laptop on, sat idly picking my fingers, realizing that I was going to have to do this this morning, as soon as possible, or it might never get done. Read e-mails, and by read, I mean looked at them with glazed eyes, thinking about nothing more than the news I was about to deliver to my colleagues and leaders that I greatly respect, and the realization that my life was truly about to change. I got up, told myself I would get some water and then go directly to my boss’s office. I got water, then derailed into the bathroom as the shaking had set in, the adrenaline was pumping, and I thought there was a chance I might barf. Washed my hands, stared hard at my reflection in the mirror, and told myself that it was now or never. Get it together.
Walked to my boss’s office, asked him if he had a few minutes, and walked in and sat down at his desk. He was standing at his white-board and gave me a look, responding with, “only if you’re not leaving.” How do they simply know what you’re about to say? I weakly smiled.
“Well first of all I’m pregnant.”
Huge smile, and “are you really?”
My boss proceeded to sit down at his desk and we exchanged 60 seconds or so of small talk about the baby, the age difference between her and Bruce, and he spoke about how close his kids are. I told him there was more.
“Ok, where are you going?”
And it all came out. Word vomit about how I wasn’t going anywhere else, I just wanted to take a break and be with my kids. How I started thinking about it awhile ago, but that things really solidified since Christmas and certainly since finding out we were pregnant. How time with the little ones is finite, and I selfishly want Bruce to myself before number two comes along. And how this is so, so hard, because I love my job and I love our company, but it just doesn’t feel as important to me anymore as seeing my babies.
He told me he respected my decision, and that I will be sorely missed. He reiterated that I am an excellent employee coming off of a fantastic year and he hopes that I feel recognized and valued for what I do. He told me that it’s clear that I love what I do and my challenge will be staying in touch with that while I’m home with kids. He figured there wasn’t anything he could say to make me stay, and that of all the people he knows who have made this decision, not one has regretted it. We talked about transition, potential backfilling and replacements, and timing. I felt supported and respected. I felt relieved that the worst was over.
The rest of the morning was a blur until our admin came into my office just before lunch. She is fantastic, the glue that keeps everyone together, and a married mother to two girls, one in middle school the other in high school. She gave me a pouty face, and I guessed that my boss must have told her. She said she was there to help with anything that she could during the transition, and then she told me that she thinks I’m making an incredible decision for my family and that I shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving my company and our team. I will never forget when she said, “I am so proud of you for standing up for what you believe and putting your family first. I know you love what you do and how hard that must have been. I didn’t have the option when the girls were young, but I would have done the same thing.” I nearly burst into tears right then, and knew that I needed to get out of the office for lunch to breathe.
As soon as I got into my car I called Brady. He picked up and as I immediately dissolved into big ugly sobs, all I could get out was, “that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done!” Quitting any job is hard, and quitting a job to completely change your day-to-day routine, take an extended, perhaps forever, leave from the life you have known and mostly loved since you were 22 years old, maybe even more if you count college, is terrifying. And by telling my boss, I had just finally fully admitted it to myself that this was happening, set in motion.
After lunch I met with one of our VPs, a guy who I interned with in grad school at a different company and who has been an incredible mentor and guide in my career. He echoed much of what my boss said, and gave me a few examples of women he knows who successfully took time off while their children were young and ultimately came back to their careers. He told me that I am a top performer in our organization and will be extremely difficult to replace. He encouraged me to think about sporadic consulting and that he thinks my choice is a wonderful thing, something that he perhaps even expected at some point. He reassured me that my thoughts are natural and many women before me have struggled with the same choice. Again, I felt respected and supported.
An hour or so later we had our staff meeting. With the exception of our boss, our staff is five women, one of whom is in Denver so she dials in. I had previously told my boss it was ok to tell the group, so he quickly turned it over to me after he went through our business agenda. After I shared the good news of my pregnancy, I let them know about my decision, speaking more about how incredibly challenging this decision has been because of the tremendous people I work with, and the passion I hold for my career, but again, how I would regret not taking this opportunity to take some time off and spend them with my kids.
I was particularly nervous about telling my team because it’s all female, and well, you know, how women can judge. While I think men are almost not surprised by or expect a mother to prioritize her children, I think working women can sometimes look down on working mothers who decide to become stay-at-home-moms, like they are somehow weaker, or perhaps they were not as serious about their career. I say that because I am certainly guilty of judging others like that before I had kids.
I was completely taken aback by the absolute love and support I felt from my female colleagues, all of whom come from entirely different perspectives. After our meeting one of them, a woman my age (34) in a long-distance relationship, came with me into my office to chat. She was quick to tell me how she realized how difficult this must be for me because a job is what you “do,” how you define yourself, and a huge component of our self-worth and self-satisfaction. She recognized that being dependent on someone financially when you’re so used to making it on your own would also be a huge transition. She said she thinks often about what she would do if she gets married and has children, and that my choice is something she would want to consider for herself and her future family. Shortly after our discussion our colleague from Denver called and had nothing but massive heart-felt congratulations for me. She is about to pop herself with number two, a girl, and has an older son. Our kids will have the same age difference between them so we talk a lot about being working moms of young kids, and she has known for awhile about my pregnancy. Her husband stays at home. She reiterated how fantastic she thinks it is if a parent can be at home with kids, how she thinks I’m making the best choice in the world, and while it wasn’t an option for her, she doesn’t know that she wouldn’t do the exact same thing as me if she had been in my shoes. I can’t tell you how touched and loved I felt by these women.
Monday was incredibly challenging, emotional, and bittersweet. I was too tired to really talk to either Dean or my parents about it Monday night, but it was a good day, and I felt calm and relieved, and happy in my decision. A great day really.
The rest of the week I have been on auto-pilot. My last day will be April 17th, and I’ve been slammed with work this week to try and wrap things up and get other various things started as much as I can before I go. Word slowly leaked out around the company to other colleagues throughout the week, and I continued to have encouraging and supportive conversations, all of which reiterated to me how lucky I have been in my career to work with such fantastic people and how lucky I am to be making this decision.
The worst part is over, and the fun is just beginning. I can’t wait to spend more time with my little Bruce. Two more weeks little one. xo