Recently, I published a post about writing about Things You Didn’t Know, particularly those things that you never dreamed of happening. You know, The Road Less Expected… Following my own advice, here’s my explanation of how I became a stay at home mom instead of a wildly successful female executive.
Up until I had my first child, I thought of myself as a career woman. I wanted to be a mom too, but I scoffed at the idea of becoming a stay at home mom. My dream was to have perfect kids who’d play contentedly while I clambered up the corporate ladder. However, I was unprepared for love and corporate politics.
The minute I saw my son, I felt my universe shift. All my dreams for myself—career, money, success—faded. In their place came concerns for the well-being of my squirmy infant. During my maternity leave, l would look down at my new baby boy and try to drink in every detail of him. I was afraid the time would go too fast (it did).
For a while—six months—I tried to do it all. I’d head off to work with a breast pump on my shoulder and a briefcase in my hand. At lunchtime, I’d dash over to the day-care and nurse the baby.
My company actually helped me out by deciding they’d wait on my promised promotion until I had “reestablished my presence.” I’m still not sure what that meant. Tired of breast-milk stains on floppy discs? Wanting to see me work longer hours? No one had an answer for that one.
I responded to the corporate pressure like the hard core Ms. Summa Cum Laude, MBA, bilingual international traveler gal I was. I fell apart at the seams. I’d come home at night and alternately coo at the baby and rant to my husband. I felt I had one foot in the corporate world and one foot in motherhood. I was no good to anyone while doing the splits. Everything seemed to be a suboptimal compromise.
Eventually I proposed a job-sharing arrangement. Luckily, at least in retrospect, the company flatly refused to consider it. If they had, I probably would still be a corporate cog-ette.
So I walked away, with the full support of my husband.
I made the decision for my son and my family. At the time, I thought of it as a sacrifice.
But, it was good for me. In addition to getting to “be there” for my kids and to experience everything, I learned to measure my own self-worth in non-quantitative terms. Good, but not at all easy. I could no longer base my value on my salary, grade-level, or the number of people I supervised. The value of my personhood had nothing to do with degrees, languages, or accomplishments. In fact, I wouldn’t know whether I was successful for about eighteen years. I became simply Laura, Mom, or Maaaaaaa.
Cue the “How I Met Your Mother” music… “And that children, is how I became a stay at home mom.”
Looking back, I sometimes like to wonder about the what-would-have been’s—like when tuition is due—but I can honestly say I have no regrets. I’m at peace with my decisions and the roads I’ve since taken.