when *does* working stop working?

I came up with the title for this blog last summer. It felt very right at the time: I had just left my job in order to recover my sanity, reconnect with my family, and redirect my career path.

"We Can Do It!" by J. Howard Miller

I hear about the “mommy wars,” between working moms and stay-at-home moms, over who is making the right choice. “Should I leave my job to stay home with the kid(s)?” is a question that I think every working parent considers. The answer is rarely straightforward and it is never the same answer for everyone. And I now know that the answer at one moment in your life is not necessarily the answer for your whole life. Here’s how I knew my answer had changed.

  • I felt disengaged from my work. I still did my job with passion, because that’s how I am with work, but the goals I had to meet no longer resonated with me. I was managing a retail store selling baby gear, and even though I had extremely fulfilling conversations with new parents and I got to hold babies every day, the inspiration I had once felt wasn’t there anymore. I started resenting the daily grind of retail — working nights, weekends and holidays, covering shifts, managing turnover, constant hiring & training.
  • My right brain wasn’t getting any exercise. My job left me very few outlets or opportunities for creativity. Putting together a window display was the closest I got, and at home… well, see entry below re: exhaustion. I had forgotten that I need creative, crafty, artsy, design-type projects to keep myself charged. When I realized this was missing from my every day, I knew I had made a wrong turn in my career and needed to find my way.
  • I was exhausted. All. The. Time. From the moment I woke up until I fell into bed at night, I was running at full speed. Juggling work plus family became too much for me. I became Mama Crankypants. By the time I’d pick up my kids, I was losing my temper at every whine, and that amounts to A LOT of yelling. My boys, who were 4 and 1 at the time, never saw the best of me. Not to mention my husband, who has a place in heaven for putting up with my meltdown, because I had zero energy to give to our relationship. 
  • Even my skinny pants didn’t fit anymore. My weight had dropped to what it had been in high school, but this time I wasn’t intentionally starving myself. I consumed obscene amounts of coffee, barely ate anything during the day, and my dinners consisted of eggs and rice, pizza, chicken nuggets or burgers. Nutrition — for me and for my family — didn’t even enter into the equation. I was in survival mode, just plain old not taking care of myself.
  • Our monthly childcare expenses were riDONKulous. Full-time daycare plus afterschool care easily exceeded our monthly mortgage payment. Amidst other financial drama, we had to cut back on our overall expenses, and this was the largest. I realized I was working my butt off, at a job that wasn’t fulfilling, mostly to pay someone else to spend time my kids, which created this cycle of exhaustion that, frankly, made no kinda sense at all.

I don’t regret leaving my job at all. I do regret that I had to reach this point before realizing I needed to make a change. Being a working mom was a point of pride for me, and I clung to the belief that I could do it all, that leaving my career meant failure. And I could, and did, do it all when we had our first child. It was in my younger son’s first year, in the adjustment to juggling 2 kids, that things fell apart. In that last year of working what I failed at was not my job, it was at being a good wife and mother.

Which, I’m learning, can easily be an entire career unto itself.

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One thought on “when *does* working stop working?

  1. I loved, loved, LOVED my job, but there was no question what I would do when my last one was born. I wanted that time with him, the way I had with his brother and sister. Not to mention that childcare costs would eat up a gigantic chunk of my salary from my beloved non-profit.

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