Leaning Out :: Did I Make the Right Choice?

leanoutI never expected to feel this way. When I had my first baby, the end of my maternity leave {11/1/11} loomed over my head like a black cloud. Although being a new mom was hard, harder than I could have imagined, I knew in my heart that being away from him would in some ways be harder. Yes, a return to work would mean I get a break from nursing, laundry, crying, a lack of stimulating adult conversation etc.; it would also mean a break from nursing, baby coos, sweet breath, and snuggles. I couldn’t fathom how I would survive. But I did survive, and so did Mark. I think we may have even both been better for it in some ways. He was stimulated in ways I could not provide, and I got the much needed “break.” But my heart still ached. I was told that over time, it would get easier to drop him off in someone else’s care and say goodbye. Technically, it did get easier but it was anything but easy. I got a knot in my throat more days than not, and the absolute highlight of everyday was that feeling when my baby would run towards me with outstretched arms as I picked him up at the end of the work day.

When my oldest was only 11 months old, we were surprised with the news we were expecting another blessing.

It was during this pregnancy that we had to really look at our lifestyle and careers and make some decisions. My husband and I have been together for almost 13 years which means were together for undergrad and as we pursued our graduate degrees. That said, I knew from the beginning that he was going to pursue his medical degree, but I never fully grasped what that would mean for our future family. I thought we could both “lean in.” I was wrong. I don’t make that as a blanket statement for all families, but for us, we could not/would not/did not. Although it is possible for both parents to dive head-first into their careers and seek promotion and advancement, I know that such a choice requires a village and outsourcing. At least that would be necessary when one parent is a doctor and the other a lawyer. Sure, we could have both jumped on the fast track, but that would mean that someone else, not us, would be spending more time with our kids than us. No judgment for people who choose that route or are forced to choose that route, but it was not for us. So I decided I would lean out. I would take care of the home and our children and work as an attorney part-time.

It was not an easy choice but it was a no-brainer.

I wrote a letter to my younger self where I explain that children, and being with them, will become more important than any career outside of the home. I watched both of my parents work and I believe that seeing this impacted my work ethic in a positive way. Now, I was going to work part-time from home while my children attend a pre-school. Meaning that my children would never really see my going to work, as I am usually in yoga pants at drop-off and pick-up. Having boys, I am conscious of the young men I am raising them to be. I want them to understand that women should be afforded every opportunity that men are in the workplace. I want them to see strong women as their example. The decision to scale back my career is always filled with doubt, and it is a decision I revisit regularly. I’m guessing that is probably true for most parenting decisions. I will always wonder if I am living by example in showing my sons a capable and hardworking woman? Am I making the right decision not just for my family, but for me? Will I regret this when my kids don’t need/want as much of my time? And the doubt goes on an on.

Just when I was at the peak of questioning my choice, something beautiful happened.

My role and commitment to this blog, who is my family and village in many ways, grew. The timing was perfect and it helped fill the void of having something that is solely mine outside of caring for my home and family. It is an honor to be a part of such a diverse group of women whose mission it is to support and bring together the moms in our community. It was a perfect balance for me and I felt fulfilled. For the most part. I always had that nagging feeling that I had earned this degree and I was afraid of not using it. I just knew that one day my boys wouldn’t need me as much and then what? I was afraid that I would not be employable. Can you tell I have problems with living in the present?

Well, as life often does, I was thrown a curve ball. My boss contacted me about an upcoming trial that would require all hands on deck. When he asked “are you in,” I did not hesitate to say “yes.” I am about a month in for a trial that won’t take place for a couple of months. I am loving being back in this world full of stimulation and intelligent thought. But I have to say, this experience, although I am happy to have it and see it to its conclusion, reminds me of why I made the choice I made. Although we can manage for several months with both of us working full-time outside of the home, it is not something we can do for the foreseeable future. So while I am excited to be given this opportunity, I am equally excited to know there is an end date. Being at home with my kids is the hardest thing I have ever done. But carrying that responsibility with a full-time job is even harder.

I am grateful for the reminder that I am right where I should be, and the decision I made for family is just right for us right now.


  1. This is a great post. I feel the exact same way, as I left my practice as a Pediatrician and became a sahm with a side business, Sleepless in NOLA. I think about what I left behind and miss my patients terribly. But when I hear a total stranger tell me that ‘your kids are so well behaved’ or ‘they are so smart’, I feel like my choice is warranted and I feel truly blessed that I can devote this time to them. Thanks for that reminder.

  2. Great article, and easily sums up many of my own doubts about working part time from home. After the stress of unreliable child care and juggling so many things, I have been thrilled to be at home more but still question how this impacts my kids and future career. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thank you for the reminder of how great it is to be able to be home take care of my lil ones! I’ve had the same feelings and also wonder what may happen to my career. You are right though, I am right where I should be 🙂

  4. Great post!
    I just made the same decision. My boss was kind enough to allow me to work very limited hours, otherwise I am home with my 5 months old son. Being a lawyer was my life… And it’s been quite an adjustment. I am always pleased when something happens which reinforces my decision to stay home. All the while trying to block out all those questions and doubts. It’s nice to hear about others going through something similar!

  5. Thank you for this! I also am an attorney who is a mom of two boys, ages 13 months and 9 weeks old. I, too, have the same thoughts and fears of what will happen to my career if I stay home with the babies and “lean out” of my career. I am still not sure where I will land when the babies are older and I feel like I am ready to return to the workforce, but it makes me feel somewhat comforted knowing it’s worked for others. Good luck in your trial!

  6. My husband is a teacher. Originally I was going to stay home until my son started school, but then we had a daughter with a severe physical disability who had 18 surgeries in her first 8 years, so I had no choice but to remain at home. Financially it has been such a struggle. My husband makes too much money for most government programs. We will be in debt for a very long time. I remember talking on the radio about being a stay at home mom and the host referred to it as my having the luxury to stay home. I laughed because luxuries are something I gave up a long time ago. But on the other hand, every time my daughter had a field trip, they did not have to get a separate wheelchair bus for her because they knew I would be there. I was able to attend both kids’ class parties and my daughter has so many afterschool activities that our gasoline bill is almost as big as her medical bills. She has one more year of high school before she attends college, but physically she still needs me so I will probably still be a stay at home mom until she is able to take care of herself. I feel I am closer to my family than most of my friends so as much as I envy their trips to Disney or the beach that I see on Facebook, I think they should envy me.


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