Trading Career Ambition for Work-life Balance: One Working Mom’s Struggle
I quit my job at a highly respected firm right before I was up for promotion. This job had major potential to catapult my career into something of high worth and importance. It also involved long daily commutes to different cities, business trips that required me to be away from my family for a week at a time, and stressful deadlines. My au pair assumed I was struggling with postpartum depression because it couldn’t be normal for a new mother to cry so much. I’d rush through the door, toss my briefcase to the floor and eagerly ask where my baby was. If she told me that he was happily asleep in his crib, I’d break down in tears. I had missed an entire day of his life because I left the house for my long commute before the sun was up. I wasn’t struggling from postpartum depression; I was struggling from fear of missing out.
Throughout my pregnancy, I was the only one who got to experience every milestone. I remember where I was when I felt the first flutter of his tiny movements. I was on a business trip and I called my husband to tell him that I finally felt the tickle in my belly and that it felt like a little fish was flopping around in there. I remember when those tickles grew into something someone could feel on the outside, and I was so excited when I grabbed my husband’s hand and placed it where I felt the nudge and he felt it too. I knew to expect a circus in my belly if I ate anything sweet, and I knew that he was a good sleeper from the start. People talk about how hard it is to let go of their kids when they send them off to college, but I thought it was hard to let go of him the moment someone else got to hold him. As glad I was to no longer be pregnant, I was sad that I would no longer be the one to know his every move.
My first day back to work after my maternity leave really wasn’t that bad. I almost felt guilty for not being a crying wreck at my desk all day. Sure I was sad to leave my four month old, but I was excited to put on makeup and high heels. I don’t think I have what it takes to be a stay at home mom, and I welcomed getting back to my regular routine. As I entered the busiest time of the year at work, things got increasingly more difficult. The days that I got home at a decent hour to cuddle him in my arms as I rocked him to sleep were ok. The days I got a video text message with another milestone that I had missed were hard. The days I didn’t get to see his gorgeous blue eyes at all were unbearable. It got to the point that I almost welcomed my son having a fussy night because it meant I got to be up to hold him. I was missing it, and I missed him.
So, I traded in my career ambition for a job with more work-life balance. While I may have given up the fast track to corporate success, I no longer feel the hole in my heart from missing my boy so much. Success doesn’t have to mean a fancy title that comes with a substantial salary.
I am successful because I can turn my computer off at 5:30 pm and not think about work for the rest of the night.
I am successful because I now have the time to exercise and make home-cooked meals for my family instead of sustaining on mostly take-out.
I am successful because I have the privilege of being there every night to brush my toddler’s teeth, read him stories, sing him songs, and tuck him in.
Do I regret spending years paying my dues to ultimately take a step back and walk away from it all? No. The experience helped me put into perspective what really matters to me which is being more present for my family. My boys are worth it, and so am I.