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Say it out loud

February 02, 2007 | Category: In My Life

A strange coincidence this week, a couple of emails asking me when and how I knew I should quit my job. Actually, three of them.

I'm going to hope it wasn't the same person, thrice, and take the cheap bathbubbles exit on the drug store highway and say... I didn't know.

I told the executives that I wanted an unpaid leave with my heart beating THWACK THWACKA in my ears. But I was literally having chest pains from the stress, and I didn't want to be a complete weenie and die on the job. So I asked for the leave.

I filled out the paperwork for my unpaid leave thinking "Well, when the 30 days is up, I'll just end up back at work..." even as I was saying to the person who was backfilling for me that he had to take over with the assumption that I wouldn't be back.

When I got a couple of offers for other positions within Mega while I was on leave, I just sort of... let them fade away. "Oh, thank you," I would say, honestly. "It's nice of you to think of me, but I'm still deciding on my next step..."

When the guy pinged me via IM, the hatchet-man? - I thought as I dialed his number "Oh, huh, so maybe..."

And when he said I was being laid off effective Friday, with that smile in his voice like he was a cat presenting me with a half-dead mouse with its brains hanging out, it finally hit. What I had done. And I actually put the phone on mute and did this half sob - half giggle thing. I mean, I had to stand up and shake my hands really hard like I'd just been crowned Miss America. Only, without the rhinestone tiara.

How did I know it was time to leave Mega? How did I orchestrate leaving?

I don't know.

I'm not sage. I'm not wise. I still am unsure when to use Saffron and when to use Cumin.

There was no light bulb moment.

I was always torn, wanting to be a stay at home mom when my son was young and yet working 60 hour weeks.

My dad is a Vice-President. My mother is a CPA. And I am so deeply proud of them. They are good people.

The world told them, when they were raising me, that 'Greed was good'. And they worked their asses off to provide me with the years at prep school, the bedroom with the picture window and flowered wallpaper, the ski vacations and the ballet lessons.

And I am grateful.

But that doesn't mean that I want to make the same choices.

It began to occur to me that I didn't know the last time I actually hung out with either of them. Grabbed lunch somewhere, just the two of us, to shoot the shit. Relaxing and laughing over some sun-drenched table.

Just never happens.

Oh, God. That makes me sound like some disgruntled whiny-assed daughter. Which I am not.

For the record, my parents worked really hard to build a family that spent time together.

But the truth, to me, is that people just don't change gears like that. At least, I can't. I couldn't spend 10 hours in heightened rush mode, telling other people what to do and fighting to get my goals met, and then just popover to the soccer field and plug into being a parent. My cell phone would go off and I would be answering it and pulling off the sidelines. Coming back and asking another parent 'What did I miss?"

It's just that... look. This is my own shit.

But I really hated being hung up on my salary, and my title. And I... couldn't multi task the demands of my corporate responsibilities with my parenting in a way that respected the sacredness of undivided attention. I was constantly juggling.

And my son and my husband and I began to stop eating family meals around the table. We started missing the details of each other. In tiny little ways.

I would have flashes of the future, of Bear talking to me like I talk to my parents - in a status report.

The more I suited up onto the corporate battleground, the more I succeeded - and failed - the more I became convinced that I knew where this road led... and I wanted something different for my life and that of my family.

How did I know it was time to quit?

I didn't. I just... became sure inside over time that I was doing it wrong.

CD looked at me and said "What would make you happy?" It was a frigging throwaway question. He was a little pissed even. Said it kind of snotty, but with real curiosity for what I would say.

The answer took a while. It bloomed in me over weeks. Over nights. Over teleconferences.

It feels counterintuitive to contemplate raising my son with fewer social and material advantages than I had. Like somehow I am making this crazy bad mommy decision.

But eventually, I just started saying out loud, that I would like to ... be home with him while he's growing up. To be his parent and his teacher. To live simply with my family, preferably by the water - which seems to feed all our souls.

Nothing I hadn't said before. Maybe it was that this time, I was serious. Something changed when we began talking about what it was going to cost to pay the piper to make it happen. Like we were really going to do this now.

We talked about what it would mean to leave the lucrative job that sucked 60 hours a week from life. Sell the house. Move our little boy far from the only home he has ever known. Be responsible for the dishes and the laundry for the next, uh, 400,000 loads.

And for CD, who was crushed by a major depression more than 5 years ago, and had to leave me pretty much to carry everything while he recovered, I think it was harder for him to decide this than me. Because it would put a lot on his shoulders. But he started saying it, too. Like, "We'd want to wait until the school year was over to move..."

And then I said to my boss one day, after layoffs had been announced, that I would slip a twenty to get my name on the RIF list. Because I needed a long, serious break.

And she laughed. So I laughed back. But neither of us thought it was funny. Then a hundred little steps after that.

I don't know which moment it all clicked. There was no Prince Ferdinand, getting killed and starting a war. I'm sorry. It just... happened in small decisions, in 'what if...' conversations, and in slowly changed priorities.

And then, we were here.

My friend Dee has a passionate love for the Gandhi quote

Action expresses priorities.

She says that once we decided to change direction, it was inevitable that we did. And I guess, that is all the answer I have.

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I am still deep in the throes of corporate mommy-dom. I have been working at large firms for the last 8 years, but my firm of the past 2 years is more of the Real Deal. Lots of time being put in, lots of money coming out...so all of the real sacrifices that I am making are coming to light. Only recently have I ever dared ask myself if this is what I really want. I know that I do not want to be a stay at home mom (not for me, mm mm), but at the same time, I don't need to make a gazillion (or even half a gazillion) dollars, either. I pray that I will someday find a balance, one that leaves me feeling whole.

Posted by: Monica C. on February 7, 2007 01:45 PM

I have thought on and off about quitting and being a stay at home mom, but I just haven't been able to do it. Next year though, I will be able to move down to parttime so I can be home when the kiddos get home from school and hopefully spend more hours at home during the summer.

I am fortunate though that I rarely work an entire 40 hour week right now and easily take time off whenever needed and can work from home on occasion.

But on the other side of the coin, losing my income scares the crap out of me.

Posted by: Jenn on February 5, 2007 03:39 PM

I don't know where the time went. It seemed just yesterday that my kids were little. Now my baby has turned 21. I'm so glad that I spent the time to be a full-time Mom. The money I didn't make at a job could never have replaced those years with my little ones. They are a treasure, and once gone you can never get them back. Now I am helping other parents who need a bit of counseling or support.


Posted by: Linda Falkner LMHC on February 5, 2007 02:45 AM

Hi! I have been following your blog for a long time. I am a corporate mommy too (I still have a job). I have had to make similar decisions. I would love to have lunch in the sun with my 6 yr old, on a weekday too.
I think you are very brave.It is a difficult choice and you made it and you are going with it all the way.Single pay check, housework, another house...Kudos to you! I wish I was brave enough to make the choice too!

Posted by: kiwiandkitsch on February 5, 2007 02:32 AM

Funny--every big decision I've ever made, including the decision to have a child unfolded much like this. No big aha--now we do X--moment. You just move towards what feels right and somehow you find yourself doing it.

It strikes me that you think staying home (and in the process, making less money) is a bad mommy decision.

Of course, for me, it's the desire to work (and, in the process have a bit more money) that makes me feel like a bad mommy.

Which goes to show--there's guilt around every corner you turn when you are a mother! The only way through is to follow your heart. Doing what makes you happy is likely to translate into you being the best parent you can be.

Posted by: coquette on February 4, 2007 12:39 PM

What happened with the whole school, handedness, testing thing?? I've been waiting and waiting, and ..........what happened?

Posted by: Robin on February 2, 2007 05:37 PM

I was among the three who asked you the question. Thank you for taking the time to answer.

(I suppose you don't have chest pains anymore?)

Posted by: KDE on February 2, 2007 02:37 PM

Any regrets at this point? I only ask because I did the same thing and although I raised some great kids..they are really great, I am now wondering what to do with the rest of my life. I'm not that old, had kids young. There has to be a balance somewhere. Just not sure, even at this stage of my life where it is.
Sorry, have been lurking awhikle and had to comment.

Posted by: Chris on February 2, 2007 11:31 AM