To Work or Not to Work; That is the Question
“So, what do you do for work?” AHHH! I hate this question more than anything, and surprisingly I’ve been asked more frequently lately. My answer is always, “Oh, I don’t work right now”. I hate that I need to answer it and I hate that that’s my answer. Truth is, I’ve been battling with the ever-lingering issue of ‘should I work, or should I not work?’ ever since Wynter was born. That’s a long time to be having this internal battle with myself and I finally feel it eating away at me every time I get asked what I do for a living.
HUGE SIDENOTE: Let me start this blog by stating that I am in no way naïve to the fact that I’m fortunate to be in the position I currently am in. I realize a lot of people must work, whether they are parenting alone or with a partner, and I fully understand that sometimes both individuals need to work. For Nathan and I, we were able to cut back on some things that we used to have or enjoy pre-baby, in order for me to stay at home. But again, I realize this is not everyone’s reality, and I feel lucky that I’m able to choose for now.
After I had Wynter, I took my scheduled maternity leave from my old job in the city of Chicago and when that time was up, I went back to work for two weeks. In those two weeks, I was able to gain a lot of clarity on my work life at the time. First, I was commuting back and forth for the first two years after moving to Lake Geneva, going to and from Chicago 3 days a week for work. That commute, while long and tiring, was doable for me at the time. I loved my job so much, that it was always worth the near 5-hour commute to get there and back. However, after I had Wynter, leaving before she woke up in the morning, and coming home as she was getting put down for bed, was something that wasn’t going to work for me. I needed to be able to at least spend some amount of time with her per day. Another thing I noticed when I went back post baby, was that I was hanging on to a part of my life that really didn’t exist anymore. After I moved to Lake Geneva and my parents moved to Lake Geneva from the suburbs; working in Chicago seemed to be the only piece of my old life I had left, in terms of location. I was holding onto this job so desperately that I couldn’t see the fact that I needed to move on. I had started a new life, in a new place, new state, with a new little person in my family; and it was time to move forward with that.
I quit my job after those two weeks back in the office post maternity leave. It was not easy, and it was not a decision I made lightly. I left behind a wonderful, creative space that allowed me years of growth and prosperity. Not to mention some of the best relationships and friendships that evolved in my 8 years there. I would tell people, “I didn’t have postpartum depression, but I definitely had a post work depression”. And I did and it was real. It wasn’t that I left my dream job; it was that hole that was left gaping open inside of me, with that huge question, “now what do I do?”
I wish I could tell you that I have found the answer to that question, but I have not. I still feel that in a lot of ways, I’m in this transitional season of my life where there aren’t a lot of answers. In the meantime, I am a mom. I am a stay-at-home mom. That is something that I didn’t picture myself ever saying or being. And in no way do I mean that negatively or do find it shameful at all. Believe me, now that I am a mom, I give all the moms out there a huge pat on the back (and a big, full glass of wine) knowing that it is THE hardest, most challenging job of them all. WOW, some days more challenging than others! For me, I always just assumed I would be a working mom. I never pictured how that would all work out, in terms of daycare or hiring a nanny (which proves to be a difficult decision in itself), I simply assumed I would be working a traditional job and getting paid for it (because obviously being a mom IS work). Maybe that’s been the most challenging part for myself, is accepting that things didn’t go the way I planned or envisioned them. I didn’t think I would ever move out of Illinois, and I did. I didn’t think I would ever not have a job, and now I don’t. I need to be able to respect these things and allow myself to move forward with my new normal.
My mom has always been a helpful resource to me (and a constant sounding board) when I talk about how conflicted I am right now, with going back to work or not going back to work. She has always advised me to take this time off, if my husband and I were able to swing it, to be at home with Wynter. My mother had a very successful teaching career, as she taught in the Naperville school district for many, many years. She was a career woman. She was the woman who did it all: went to work, put up with kids all day, got home, made dinner, cleaned house, put up with us kids all night. She was Super Woman. I have always so desperately wanted to be just like her. But for now, she reminds me that, “you have the rest of your years to do the work and to get the job. These first few years with Wynter, are just a blip on the radar of your life. Enjoy them. The work will always be there, and when you’re ready, you will jump right back in.” Did I mention my mom is so wise?! 😊
For myself, being a stay-at-home means getting up early and not knowing what to expect. Will my “boss” be in a good mood today or a shitty one? It means being on my feet most of the day, because I have a child who doesn’t stop moving (hello almost 2-years old). Being a mom means not being able to break for lunch; and forget those nice, long wine lunches altogether. It means waiting for Starbucks in the DRIVE THRU (because who dares to go in) and having my daughter start whining because she doesn’t want to be in the car and because I won’t give her a sip of my coffee. Being a mom means not having a lot of adult conversation, no water cooler talks to discuss last night’s episode of This is Us. It is feeling isolated for sometimes days at a time. For me, it’s cleaning like I’m a hired cleaning woman, only I’m not getting paid. Not to mention, the extra-long hours and not receiving compensation for overtime! It's hearing "NO" too many times in one day to even keep count. Being a mom means being a caregiver, a teacher, a doctor, a driver, a cook, a baker, a cleaning woman, a manager, a dog handler, a handy man, an entertainer (magician, dancer, clown, tea party participant, etc.) and a wife. That’s a whole hell of a lot of work and a lot of hats to wear for one day; but moms do it all day everyday. This includes all the working moms out there!
I have decided that instead of being uncomfortable when I have to answer the question, “what do you do for work?” Maybe I need to start answering it while wearing my badge of honor. “I’m fortunate that I get to stay at home for now, raising my daughter, and doing all the work that comes with being a mom.” That is in fact the truth. The hardest, yet most rewarding job I've ever had. And when the time comes, because I know it will, I will find the right job, in the right place, and I’ll be able to jump back in, just as my Mom once told me. 😊