Decisions, decisions, decisions and why I’m doing what I’m doing for the next little bit. First, a bit of background.
For the past three years, I have been working remotely for a very small company specializing in technology consulting for nonprofits. It’s been a good job. It allowed me to live in 3 cities in 3 years (Winston-Salem, Chicago, Charlotte) without the stress of looking for a new job. It expanded my skillset and knowledgebase in a considerable way and allowed me to test and try new skills I would not have had the chance to otherwise explore in a larger, more structured company. I could adjust my hours to work around my schedule. Just like with any job, there were things I really loved and things I didn’t love so much. To think that you will love every aspect of your job, to me, is an exceptionally ridiculous expectation that needs to be smashed out with a tire iron, and fast.
All of a sudden, though, I got pregnant and started thinking. I personally urge you never to do this, mostly because the last thing your pregnancy brain needs on top of trying to figure out why your keys are suddenly in a purse you haven’t used in a year and a half is an existential crisis. But there I was, looking at this old purse, wondering if maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t just think about whether I liked my job, but whether I even liked my career I had been going through the last 5 years. And what would I do once this little baby thing came bopping around in my life?
Suddenly, things became clear. First, I needed a cookie. Second, a new life plan.
This is where the interactive piece of the programming comes in. Please hit play and then continue. (Or don’t. It’s not required.)
I started obsessively reading articles and interviews about the different “sides” to the story of “working vs. parenting” or “having it all!” or “not having it all, it’s impossible!”, or “leaning in” or “leaning out”. The amount of blogs, books, articles, and materials I discovered would actually shock you. I started thinking and pondering about life, and about how maybe it wasn’t the downs and annoyances of my job that was getting me down, but actually it was that I hadn’t ever really stopped to think about what it is I want to be doing.
Six months ago or so, something in my gut told me having a baby was the right choice, and luckily something in my husband’s gut told him the same thing. (I think mostly it was the fact that we were forced into the decision one time before with tragic results, but that experience altered our mindset on having children now instead of five years from now, but that’s a whole other bag of beans.)
Maybe there was something to this gut thing after all. And maybe there was another decision there I could listen to, given the opportunity to breathe a bit and hear it.
Then, as I should have known would happen, Bill Watterson unexpectedly came into my life to help the decision along.
For those who may not know or remember, Bill Watterson is the cartoonist of Calvin & Hobbes, my all-time, bar-none favorite comic of all time. I credit Calvin & Hobbes for teaching me things my parents tried to enforce into me, and, more realistically, for giving me an outlook and perspective on life that I all too often forget I cherish. I can sit and look through the Calvin & Hobbes full anthology I got my husband for a birthday for hours. I love Calvin & Hobbes and everything the strip throughout its years conveyed.
Shockingly, it wasn’t a true Calvin & Hobbes comic that made the difference. Instead it was an excerpt of a commencement speech Watterson gave to Kenyon College in 1995 that cartoonist at Zen Pencils, Gavin Aung Than, put into a tribute to Calvin & Hobbes about his own life that sealed the deal. [Below as well.]
The decision to step back and make a decision was there. I talked to my husband obsessively. We looked at the realities. We talked about the hypotheticals. We ate more cookies. I cried.
And then…I made the decision.
I quit my job.
I handed in a resignation over the phone, shakily, and tried to come up with an answer to the inevitable slew of “so what’s next??” questions that would reasonably be thrown at me by family and friends when I told them about my decision.
The real answer is that I don’t know what’s next. I still love tech, and I still like what I’ve really started doing in my job recently, more or less. It could very well be that when I take this break, I’ll want to pick it back up. It could be that I want to pursue another life interest more regularly. It could be that I will find something entirely new that I want to do, and if that’s being a mom, that’s being a mom. Something I am sure of, though, is that whatever I land myself into next, be it another job or not, I will have had the opportunity to know that’s what I want to do and that it will be something I know will fulfill me.
The question of the age seems to be, “can women [parents] really have it all?” (I put parents there because I think this is a parent issue – excluding dads from the conversation of wanting to stay at home with their children is just as sexist as assuming all women should do is cook and clean.) Lately, more and more people have essentially come out and said no, having it all means compromising some of everything, including the Pepsi CEO, Indra Nooyi, in a candid and extraordinarily honest interview I encourage everyone to read. The answer I have arrived at after delving deep, deep, deep into the crevices of the Internet is that there is no answer to “the question”, I think. Will staying at home all day make you miserable and stressed? That doesn’t make you a bad mom, person, or human. It makes you honest. Will being at a job you might not necessarily need to be at just because it’s something you’re “supposed” to do “in the path of life” make you miserable? Well, then, I say think long and hard about that, too, and not just what your friends or family would say about it. Making a choice about what to do and when you do it should be looked at as that by others: a choice, and if they don’t see it that way, then stand tall and don’t shrink back. I’m personally blessed to be able to take this time to evaluate and have some time with the new kiddo. Many are not, and I recognize that fully. But personally, knowing that I really want to be doing what I’m doing is going to make our whole house life better, just like the moms who know they want to be working should be able to work without the scorn of others.
It’s that gut talking again, and it’s not just about cookies.
So here I sit, decision made, a week and a half to go in my job scared out of my gourd that I not only have a baby coming in fewer than 90 days, but that I’m going to wake up in August and actually have my freedom ahead.
Anything could happen.