Yep. Thought I’d just go straight for the throat on this title. There’s no way to come up with a cutesy title when your brain’s running nonstop and your heart could spontaneously combust with emotion at any moment.
Five short months ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She is 13 pounds of joy and cuddles and baby drool.
About two even shorter months ago, I quit my job. In my head. As in – I didn’t actually tell anyone, but I had already quit in my heart.
It was a Saturday. My husband’s work had been busy, busy, busy. On top of the usual we’re-approaching-the-final-quarter madness, state testing time was rolling around for him. At the same time, he was working on applying to a doctoral program and training for a half-marathon. It seemed that despite my taking off for the rest of the school year after having our little girl, our life was still moving at lightspeed. There were work obligations for him, home obligations for both of us, doctor’s appointments, family, friends, church, and – at some point – we hoped to fit in a little time for ourselves. You know, the frantic chaos of living. That’s kind of how we’ve always been. I joke about it, but our life mantra has basically been “The Canans: Doing 15948365 things at once or nothing at all since 2014.”
Anyway, my husband was planning on heading to the gym later that afternoon but popped into the kitchen to ask me if I minded if he went to the office first and worked on a few things.
“I just can’t seem to focus here at home today.”
“Sure,” I said. “No problem.” And it really was NO problem.
When the door shut, suddenly I was standing at the sink and tears were streaming down my face. I started doing the ugly cry that you do when no one is watching. You know, the one where you just let the snot run down your face and into the sink. It’s pretty cute.
When my husband got home that evening, I waited for us to put the baby to bed and asked my husband to turn off the TV.
Then, I began my explanation.
Afterward, he said that though he was sure he didn’t cheat on me, as I began my monologue that evening, he was sure he was on an episode of Cheaters. In hindsight, I probably could’ve told him in a less dramatic fashion, but… FEELINGS.
“I just realized that you care so much about your job and doing it well and advancing your career and I just don’t care about any of that anymore. I just want to come home,” I blurted out through tears, taking long heavy breaths between words to try to collect myself (which I’m sure he loved).
My husband, ever the calm and steady type, replied “Is that all? Well, that’s great. I’m in!”
Alright, it’s done then. I’d quit my job. That was that.
As the weeks went on, I pretended that I had actually made this life-changing decision. I even started telling a few close family members that I planned on resigning at the end of the school year. Each time I said it though, I almost always managed to say “I’m thinking of leaving…” or “Yea, I’m pretty sure I’m done.” Though I was sure in my heart, I couldn’t make the words come out.
Here’s the thing. I’ve been working as a teacher for the last ten years. I have loved the students. I have loved the work.
If you’d have asked me ten years ago, five years ago, two years ago, if I would leave my job outside of the house for a job inside of the house, I would’ve promptly replied with one or more of the following:
“No way. I’m not really the type of person who could just be at home.”
“I can’t even imagine what I’d do all day?”
“I need to have my brain stimulated. I couldn’t just do ABCs all day.”
“That seems like my own personal hell.”
Basically, every stupid thing you could possibly say to a SAHM or about a SAHM, I said it (my sincerest apologies to all of the people I said these kinds of things to; I was obviously blissfully ignorant).
Without even realizing it, I have spent the last ten years making my career my identity. For ten years, I have found my worth and value primarily as a teacher. It’s been easy too… because not only did I believe that my teaching job was noble and worthy, but in general, most people find public servants to be especially worth admiring. My job was filling my bucket, y’all. It took over who I was, and I didn’t even notice until… I gave birth to this sweet little girl.
So, a few days ago, I found myself face to face with my boss for the first time since my daughter was born. I realized that it was finally time to leave that old life behind (for now?) and make it officially official.
It was after a senior recognition event I’d been invited to by one of my students.
“If I end up in conversation with him, I’ll tell him.” I thought to myself. Of course, I was absolutely leaving myself room to not have to speak the words into existence.
Of course, as things go, the dinner wrapped up, people cleared the room, and there he was, waiting to talk to me about next year’s schedule.
He began to discuss potential scenarios and apologized for mixing business with pleasure. What he was saying exactly is honestly kind of a blur because I wasn’t really hearing him; I was too lost in what I knew was coming. When an opening finally appeared in his thought process, the words spilled out.
“Do you remember when we had our first meeting and we were casting vision? We said we were both committed to this place for the long term? And I told you that the only way I’d ever leave this place is if the next opportunity was a perfect fit for me? Well, I found that opportunity, and her name is Eliot.”
Nothing prepared me for the avalanche of feelings I would experience once I let the words escape my lips. On the way home, I cried. Nay. I lost it. I picked up my daughter at my mom’s, and still, I cried. I told my co-workers the next day, and still, I cried.
For me, this decision feels so right. I am ready to shed the life I used to lead in favor of the one I am building with my family. Still, having always identified as teacher, it also feels like a death. A death of who I am? Was? Will always be? I’m not sure.
I’m sure there are moms out there who make this transition with ease. There are moms out there who say yes to staying at home and are ready to leave their jobs and make the transition as soon as they see those two pink lines on a First Response test. To those moms, I envy you.
Still, I know there are other moms like me out there. The ones who don’t know what the hell we are doing leaving a career we love, a career we worked so hard for and so hard in, a career that is fueled by passion, a career that we never really envisioned leaving so that we can stay at home with these tiny little humans we love so much. And to those moms, I see you, I feel you, and we’re going to figure this out together.
Will I continue to miss my career during this season in which I am not working? Sure. Will I cringe as my husband and I look at the budget each month knowing that I am capable of earning an income? Most definitely. Will I wonder if I can adequately demonstrate to my daughter the importance of independently pursuing your passion knowing full well that I’ve put one of mine on the shelf? Absolutely. Will I ever be able to have it all? Nope.
But I’m finding that I just don’t want it all anymore. What is this “all” anyway? All I really want is to be the one who has the chance to catch as many of my daughter’s firsts as I can, the one who is at home to cuddle her when she’s sick, the one who watches her grow and learn every single day at least until she waves goodbye and steps on to that big, yellow school bus. And yes, to be clear, I want the tantrums, I want the meltdowns, and I want the refusals to share. I want to breathe my little girl’s early years in deeply and exhale them slowly knowing that, in this season of life, I pursued the only passion I really wanted to: her.
Had I gone back to work, I don’t know if I would’ve regretted that decision. But for some reason, I know I won’t regret this one. Identity be damned; I’m taking the leap.
So, as I end this garbled diatribe on my decision to stay home, I am reminded that while I have no idea who I am now, while it all feels like equal parts happiness and equal parts sadness, while I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING… in all of this mess, there is love.
Love for a career I was blessed to have, love for my precious gift of a daughter, and love for this little family my husband and I are building together.