I have no idea why sometimes I feel the need to get all personal and share my soul, but for some reason, it's erupting again and I feel compelled to post some life updates.
My mom kept telling me the whole time I was pregnant, "You're going to fall in love with that baby!" I was like, yes mom, I already love this baby, I'm sure I will love him more when I see his face on something aside a 3D screen. Of course you love your baby as a mom, but my wise mother was subtly explaining to me that when you're expecting you have no idea just how much more love comes once the baby arrives, and you really can't explain the feelings until you've experienced them.
The week after Mack was born Jacob was around and it felt like a vacation with this new precious bundle. The following week he went back to work and I felt a little disoriented. I was recovering fast, I was thrilled to be with my baby, I was surviving life home alone with a newborn, but I compulsively kept thinking about the projects and clients at work, and I kept hoping the app I had scheduled for launch was still on track to launch. I left my projects in super capable hands, but I still found myself worried and stressing and even logging into my email despite the HR director and my boss giving me very clear direction I legally shouldn't be doing that on maternity leave before I left my last day. Clearly they knew me better than I knew myself! I did it anyway, and after about two weeks of this I found myself feeling less attached to projects and more and more attached to Mack. It took almost a month into motherhood, but I was able to let work go and turn off my email, realizing I had a limited precious time to be with my baby in this capacity.
Colic hit, and I kept thinking about how I wasn't meant for crying, I'm not as patient as I hoped, and I thought a lot about work and how it would be a good break for me to go back. I thought about ending maternity leave sooner than later, but decided against it. I'm glad I didn't, because after his first checkup he was diagnosed with reflux and some medicine and repositioning later lead us to an angel baby who was loads of fun with far less crying.
He started smiling around this time. He kept giving snuggles and cooing, and I could tell he knew me as his mommy. I found myself looking at my little miracle child I'd wanted and prayed for for so many years and often just weeping overwhelming tears of joy that this special, sweet baby was mine, and that motherhood was real. Jacob caught me a few times and let me know what a precious sight it was to see how much motherhood meant to me and a what a softie I was becoming! I started to understand what my mother meant, and I was truly bonding with this amazingly sweet baby in ways I never could have imagined! I was absolutely crazily falling in love with that baby!
I found myself thinking about work and suddenly crying every time I did, it crushed me to think about leaving my baby and losing the precious time with him. We also had daycare issues and nothing seemed to be working out or feeling right. I'd never toyed with the idea of staying home, but for the first time I did.
I can only describe the next month as sheer internal turmoil. I'm a social person, I love getting out and meeting people and being with people. I absolutely loved the people in my office, and I'm one of the few people lucky enough to say they really like their job! Digital strategy and project management with web and app-based projects really is such an amazing field to be in, and I was lucky enough to do it for some of the biggest, most cutting-edge companies in the world! How could I leave such a great company? How could I give up the career I worked so hard to build? I spent so much on my master's degree in hopes of escaping teaching and overcoming the financial horrors of my abusive ex-husband, and was that just something I was going to shelf? I would cry each time I'd seriously consider quitting.
My inner feminist was dying at this thought. I know the economic statistics, and if you're unaware, they aren't pretty for women with children. They earn 4% less per child they have, and women who take time off typically cut their salary by a significant amount when they decide to go back. In a way, leaving a job feels like taking a huge leap back and planning to start all over hoping you get back into the club at a decent salary.
I would think these thoughts and resolve I'd shake these feelings, but I'd look into those beautiful eyes and I could just see how much he loved he, and how much he needed me and wanted me in his life.
I can't even begin to describe the Paradox of Choice I was feeling and how soul racking it is to feel like you either have to have your child or career suffer. I think unless you've been there you can't fathom the hell of making a huge decision like taking time off from a career or missing out on a fraction of your baby's life.
I sought other women's opinions and experiences. Most my friends claimed they were in jobs they didn't care for or didn't make much anyway and it really was no decision for them to leave. Some of my friends didn't have the luxury of making the choice, economics either said they had to work to support their family or that they made so little in their career that childcare would cost more than staying home. The more I discussed it, the more guilt I felt that this decision was 1. A true decision for me coming from a place of privilege where it was worth it for me to keep working financially, but also plausible to live off one income if I quit. And 2. Not a clear cut-and-dry choice. It seemed like every woman I knew just always knew they would be a career woman and were thrilled to go back after having a baby, or dreamt of staying home and quit their job before the baby came. I kept wondering what was wrong with me that my love could be in two places at once. And, I was downright shocked that I seemed like the minority making this life-altering decision.
To add more salt to the wound, I turned to Jacob to try to get him to help me decide. He honestly didn't care one way or another and wanted what was best for me and Mack. He knew how hard I'd worked for my career, and of course he knew how hard I'd worked and hoped to become a mother. He helped me realize that I could always try working and assess it after a set period of time. Around this time an awesome childcare opportunity to have a family member watch Mack at an affordable rate arose, and I knew I needed to go back to work to really assess how I felt. I went back shortly before the holidays, and I knew I'd have some time off to really weigh my options then.
I actually thought I'd go back and want to quit instantly missing my baby too much, but much to my surprise I was thrilled to be back. I loved seeing everyone again. I love my coworkers. My brain is wired for strategy, and I loved using it for such and seeing a difference in projects and client's success rates. Two weeks in I was certain I was back for good.
Then something happened one day, I went to pick up Mack and he didn't really seem to know me, and he wanted my sister-in-law instead of me. I started to seriously reconsider what I wanted. My office was so awesome and flexible and let me work from home often, but I realized I wasn't paying enough attention to Mack, and he's a little too social and demanding to really let me be 100% focused on work like I needed to be. Working from home with him full-time just wasn't working. I decided it was time to talk to my boss and the CEO and just ask- could part-time be possible?
I took a few days off to speak at Alt Summit, and I took Mack with me. I loved spending my time with him. I couldn't believe all the blogging opportunities and consulting opportunities that were coming up. I started to realize that maybe the inner entrepreneur could find a balance to everything, and over the week I decided to really get spiritual on my decision. It was looking like that could work out and consulting and blogging at night could make up what I'd miss out on part-time.
Things went much longer than we hoped, and it was actually months of working before anything came to a head. I kept feeling more and more drawn to being with my baby, and after a few months, we determined my role wasn't going to work out part-time and that I'd really never be able to shut down and turn off clients at a part-time level. I had a coworker tell me she was planning to leave soon to be with her kids and said, "My theory is you can always go back to work, but you can never go back to them being little." That stuck with me big time. Maybe the money wasn't worth it for me. Maybe I would regret the time away from him being little more than a career advancement. I turned it to more of a spiritual level, I really toiled with this one, and finally one day I felt at peace about leaving my job. I felt like new opportunities were around the corner. I felt like something part-time could pop up, and I felt like consulting in content strategy, analytics, and digital marketing could really work out- and as my first loves would make me even happier.
I officially ended my time at a fast-paced digital agency at the end of February, and it's taken me this long to be able to publicly say it. I cried a lot the day I quit, and cried again pulling out of the parking lot for the last time. It's been that big of an identity crisis, that big of a pill to swallow, and that big of a change in my life.
SO HOW HAS IT GONE?
It depends on the week.
My first week felt like a relief to have time to eat and cook dinner again, and I could see how happy Mack was to be with me all the time. But I felt out of place and like it was just a vacation.
My second week felt amazing, free, and I was so thrilled with my choice.
My third week I missed being in the office. There are projects I still think about, I miss my coworkers who were also great friends. Teething almost killed me, and I wondered if I'd use my brain outside of routine baby endeavors laced in sleep deprivation.
My fourth week started out like the previous week, and there was a breakdown of tears of guilt wondering why I get to live a privileged life like this and others don't. I guess when you've been a starving teacher in a hopeless marriage there are still hard pills to swallow, even happy wonderful ones that just make you wonder if you're actually awake, and simultaneously aware of others who aren't in such fortunate circumstances.
My fifth week I loved being with my sweet baby more than ever. I found myself saying prayer of thanks I have this. It also brought a cool consulting job. Blogging has really been a lot of fun (have you noticed more content?) and I've had some cool sponsored partnerships happen. It's amazing what you can do with a little more time! Having time to do more has been amazing, and I feel blessed everyday this little hobby of mine has brought in some income, and so lucky to have an audience who supports me and puts up with the occasional sponsored post so I can still buy groceries!
And that takes us to now. I still miss my coworkers. I miss the structure. I miss the fast-paced life working downtown with some amazing lunches! I miss my paycheck. My life felt very Mad Men before, and sometimes that glamour and lifestyle seem so far away and missed. My main miss isn't one as shallow, I miss how much I got to help clients.
But overall, I am so happy with my choices. I got to hear Mack say his first word- which was mom for the record! I'm running again! I'm going to the gym, and I'm cooking pretty much every night. I have had exactly four play dates now, and I've been late and/or forgot something for each one. I will keep trying and get there eventually! I have more time with Jacob, we're dating more and not just grabbing take out to eat at home for our dates. I'm growing as a creative and a consultant. If you're interested in chatting business send me an email, I have room for some more clients and that piece has really been so fun and rewarding for me.
But best of all, I'm doing what I think is the most important job in the world, I'm being a mom and I'm loving every minute of it.
*Pictures by Photography-Hill
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