Three years ago, I left the tech company I was working for to focus on being a mom. I was torn between the career I loved and the young son who I knew wanted me home more. Also wrapped in the middle of this conflict was my dream of writing.
It took me two years to extricate myself from my tech career. Initially, I took consulting jobs to make money because having zero income was a crippling feeling. I had spent the better part of twenty years trying to figure out how to make the next year’s W2 bigger than the last.
Yet I had a dream. I wanted to finish my first book and go on to write another one.
A brief encounter with a woman with cancer recently reminded me to slow down and acknowledge what is before us — even if what we see is hard to accept or comprehend.
It was Sunday morning and I was walking through the Berkeley Rose Garden with my husband and son. I saw a woman sitting on a bench with a journal resting in the palm of her hand. She was wrapped in warm clothing from head to toe, despite the sunny weather.
Her head was bald and her face was pale and sullen. I could tell from afar she was very sick.
My son was a few feet ahead and I worried that he might, in his five-year-old innocence, say something like, “Mommy, why is she bald?” I hurried to catch up with him to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
There is a saying that in order to live a creative life you have to give up certainty.
The first few weeks after saying good-bye to my tech career, I found myself uncomfortable. Gone was the frantic schedule that started at 7 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. No longer was I driven by someone else’s agenda on a daily basis.
I began saying yes to every opportunity that came my way. I became more involved in my son’s school, I said yes to a consulting job for a start-up, I started writing for a friend’s blog, and I slowly returned to a novel I had started writing a while ago.
Suddenly I realized my life was as frantic as it had been while I was holding a demanding job. I had to ask myself, What am I doing? What am I so afraid of?
I was afraid of becoming the stay-at-home mom, trapped in her cage, who suddenly finds her way to the vodka bottle.
Deciding to opt out of your career can mean more than a few sleepless nights.
My decision to step away from my career to spend more time with my son — as well as finish the novel that had occupied the back of my mind for ten years — was a hard decision to make. I was an independent woman, I said to myself and to my husband over and over again. I fretted over the loss of my income and the level of freedom one’s own money provides. Did this mean I had to give up my last-minute shopping sprees every three months when I carved out an hour for myself?
Most important: what would this mean for my relationship? You hear the horror stories of marriages that fail as couples experience big life changes. Would my husband see me differently now that I was trading in my Tahari suits for lululemon pants? Clearly, I would look different. But would I be a different person?
It took three years of infertility and two miscarriages to realize I couldn’t have it all.
Growing up, I was told that I could do anything I set my mind to. I am from the generation of young girls who were encouraged to do well in school and play sports. One of the few pieces of advice my father ever gave me was, “Go to college and don’t get married until you are thirty.”
This coming from a man who was married and had his first child at nineteen and earned his college degree in nine years while working full time.
Like the women in my generation, I was raised to do more, want more, and achieve more. Raised to want, have, and take it all. We are a band of warrior women, “leaning in” and “breaking glass.”