Nine weeks ago, I voluntarily left a solid and decent paying job. And while in this economy, such an act could label me crazy, I did it so that I could avoid just that. I was on the verge.
I gave myself 12 weeks to find another job and, hopefully, myself, in the process. It was my married, domestic, working mom version of Eat Pray Love. First, I would indulge a bit -- a couple weeks with no expectations and a lot of good eating. Then, I'd focus on my inner myself and learning how to de-stress: healthy eating, exercise, acupuncture, pilates, and yoga. Then, I'd wrap it up with a passionate encounter with a new version of myself, my husband and my son, and hopefully, a new job.
I believe -- I have to believe -- that I can have it all. Work, family and, wait, what's the other thing? Oh ... my health and sanity. But I couldn’t do it any longer: the Beltway commute, the frantic mornings, the “whose work is more important” conversation when our son needed to stay home sick from day care. I hated hoping my son would take an extra long nap on Saturday or go to bed early on Sunday so I could talk to the client. I was wishing away life so I could get back to work, thinking, “let me just get this one thing done, and then I’ll be free to enjoy the night/day off/weekend.” But work was never done. You can only hold your breath for so long. I broke down.
Sounds familiar, right? I would bet majority of CurrentMom readers live through those tensions every day. So what pushed me over the edge?
This, too, is sadly common. It might be why many of you branched out on your own.
But the list of personal reasons and the list of professional reasons together created a monumentally long list. Add that list to the fact that I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up and it was time to stop working for awhile. Not go out on my own, but stop working altogether.
With only enough cash to allow for 12 weeks "off," I needed my days free if I was going to climb over this personal and professional mountain. We moved money around and borrowed a bit so that I could have days to myself, my son would stay in day care, and I would focus on figuring out what was next.
And that was how I was blessed with the rare opportunity to explore – to actually contemplate -- what I really want to do with my time. Do I want to work? Do I want to stay home with my son? If I work, do I want to work full time, part time? Do I want to be an independent consultant? Do I want to change careers entirely?
The answer after nine weeks? I have absolutely no clue. Here’s what I did learn:
- Even with all the time in the world, I still don’t like housework. For a couple years, I’ve been justifying the mess as a result of our insane working parent schedule. Turns out that wasn’t it. Housework is just a bore.
- I love having lunch by myself. I also love lunch with friends, but I truly enjoy sitting in a restaurant reading the paper or browsing the internet and watching the people.
- My more relaxed approach has had a tremendous positive impact on the whole family. I take many more things in stride and as a result, my son is sleeping better, our weekends are almost pure joy, and life just seems easier.
- Everyone – I mean everyone – should take up acupuncture and pilates. The world would be a better place.
- Exercise positively impacts my mood and my body shape when I treat it as an activity, not a chore. That means more bike rides outdoors and fewer DVDs in my basement.
- I have fallen in love again with my husband and my child. I want to spend time with them as much as possible.
- Respecting my need to take this time to myself has somehow freed me to take the time I never took before, but can continue to take even after I return to work – nights out with my friends, early morning rides on Saturday morning.
My goal was to not only learn a few things about myself – and find a job in the meantime – but to develop a plan for taking these lessons into the next phase of my working mom life. I do not consider any of my "lessons" to be about how having 10 more hours free allowed me to do x, y, or z. It is only a valuable lesson if it can be brought into the next phase when I return to work.
Yesterday, as I was wrapping up this article, I was hit by a hard blow. I was turned down from one of the last remaining jobs and my Plan B – the consulting gig I had hoped to take to finance the extension of my job search – fell through. Both within 15 minutes. So, whether I return to work has suddenly become a much more serious question. And one that I cannot yet answer. Stay tuned for the movie!