I stayed at my job for two and a half years after Claire was born, and resigned after Charlotte arrived. I've been at home with the girls for a year now. I've done two versions of parenting (and there are THOUSANDS of versions): working out of the home (with one child) and not working/staying at home (with two children).
I'd like to think it gives me some perspective and clarity on really crappy days, but the annoying truth is it doesn't matter if it's a three-year-old or a gigantic corporate ego that's mad at me and making me do dumb things. Both are crappy and both make me want to stab my eyes out. Each day for the past three years, when I make it to bedtime? I give myself a big high-five. The exact same feeling of relief washes over me, desk job or not.
PHEW. I MADE IT. POUR ME A GLASS OF WINE.
This has been a big year of transition for me: I became a mother of two and a few weeks later tucked my career onto a shelf. It's been...interesting. Enlightening. Humbling. Oh-so-very humbling.
I sometimes dislike being in the house all day, picking up after everyone, and not having time with adults to talk in self-important acronyms. I understand these things go with the SAHM territory, I do, but mostly I wake up every day and think,
"I AM LIVING THE DREAAAAAAM!"
Lest anyone think I'm looking at this one-sided, I did have days in my previous, high-heeled, life where I woke up and also had that thought. (The day I departed to The Bahamas for a beachside photo shoot comes to mind.) But, (HUGE HUGE BUT) it has been a gigantic mental transition to get to this point now, in this new, holy-crap-there-are-two-of-them, life.
I spend most of my days enjoying not being on a schedule. I behave as if I am still on vacation, as if I'll be called in to my office at any moment. The idea that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want is so very NOVEL to me. I think about Not Being On A Schedule a lot, an embarrassing amount, actually. The Schedule, for me, was my ultimate enemy for a long time and now I can't stand rigid schedules, so we just don't have one. I avoid most activities or events that might require a complex daily schedule. I just can't do it.
Every day I do exactly what I would do if I was on vacation from my cubicle job, and the joy and delight of this idea is never lost on me. It's awesome. I spend time with my kids. We run necessary errands. I go to the Y and run on a treadmill. I take yoga classes with elderly people. I do a lot of laundry. I bathe children. I struggle to get them to follow directions. I break up fights. I kiss boo-boos. I make unwearable skirts when the children go to bed. I think about trying on those expensive Lemon-something pants everyone keeps talking about.
I do the same things I did while I was working, but I have so much more time to do them and a dramatically more available mental space. That part is nice.
At first, I didn't miss my job at all. The baby was all-consuming and for three months I did the, "sleep when you can, just get through today and tackle tomorrow with lots of coffee," thing. That was fine. Expected, even. Everyone does that.
For months 3-6 though, I really struggled with how to let go and turn off, ignore, or redirect the businessy-creative part of my brain. I had a lot of anxiety about wasting time, about not being able to do everything, at not being able to somehow cobble together the perfect blend of SAHM and WAHM that I felt like I wanted, needed, and (most importantly) OWED myself. I spent hours silently pondering the shit-storm that must be in my future.
Nobody will hire me again.
I'll forget everything I know.
I'll be irrelevant.
And, whoa. I don't care who you are or what you do, nobody likes to think she's on track to being IRRELEVANT. Being irrelevant means you aren't even good for party conversation.
I spent time looking for a new job. I thought about taking on some big personal projects. I explored freelancing and contracting. I began to mentally copy-edit signs at the park. I nitpicked in-store POP. I would roll my eyes at commercials I knew could be better and more effective. I spent months trying to figure out how to be a stay-at-home-mom AND retain my professional identity and skills without actually doing anything remotely professional. (I love an impossible problem, oh yes I do!)
I had never thought of myself as defined by my career, never would have admitted that to anyone at all, but it turns out I LIKED telling people I worked in advertising. I LIKED the flash of recognition when people realized they'd seen my work. And I really liked the feeling of sole ownership that came with doing something by myself, away from my family, that I was good at and proud of, that was mine-all-mine. I liked that a lot.
But at this specific moment in my life, I did not have the time or sincere desire to make space for work. I'd already filled my plate with other things, yet here I was torturing myself with the idea that I was letting a very important part of my identity, that I'd spent a decade cultivating with care and good decisions, wither and die without so much as a goodbye happy hour. I'm confident that taking a professional break was the right decision for a lot of very typical reasons, but just like any opportunity left on the table, I wondered if I was giving up more than I realized. Just writing this paragraph about trying to bridge that mental gap is making me anxious, which I think says a lot about how turbulent it was (and still is) in my head.
It was so unexpectedly tough to make my brain walk away from my desk, long after I'd physically done so.
Sometime after Christmas, things kind of equalized. I started to transition more. The baby started sleeping longer stretches, the weather got warmer, I started a project everyone can get involved with and get satisfaction from. I read books again, for the first time in years. I ran further and faster and more often. I let go of the anxiety-producing idea that my current role was not enough. It sounds insane, but it was VERY DIFFICULT for me to realize I don't have to impact thousands of people each day to call my day successful. I tried to fill my life with things that don't require acronyms. I shelved the ambitious, consuming, admirable-yet-distracting-in-my-new-life mentality that I can do more/everything/better/faster/cheaper.
(I still critique television commercials and in-store signage. I JUST CAN'T STOP THAT PART, OKAY?)
Somewhere in between about this day last year when I was hugely pregnant and working on projects millions of eyeballs might see, and today when I'm worried about just when in the hell the UPS man will bring me my new steam mop because these bananas Charlotte drops on the floor ain't cleaning themselves (WHO AM I?), my former and past life came to an obvious understanding that I wasn't willing to see or notice last summer.
Nothing's permanent. (DUH.) Things change. (DUH.) And, while I am happy with the state of life now, if I am someday not? I can go back to the acronyms and the high heels. They will be (hopefully) waiting for me and (hopefully) I will not have sacrificed too much during my desk hiatus. In the meantime there are a million ways to dip my toes back in, little-by-little. It's a rolling understanding, one I admit I'm not entirely comfortable or happy with, but it's working for me these days.
An entire year passed (seemingly) in the blink of an eye, but everything is so, so very different.