In eighth grade, I took a standardized writing test. The prompt was something like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I made up some story about wanting to help underprivileged kids in Africa. I passed the exam. But it was a lie.
What I really wanted to be was one of those women that I saw wearing suits from Banana Republic and walking in high heels and talking on cell phones in the skyway system in Minneapolis.
I didn’t know their job titles or how they spent their time. But I knew they rocked their Jennifer Aniston haircuts, and they were powerful women making powerful decisions. I wanted to join their ranks. Less than a decade later, I did.
My suit came from Loft, and my hair was in a poof inspired by Snooki, but I had done it. I was hired by a Fortune 50 company on the premise that I would help the company make better decisions.
As I ascended the ranks of the company, I fell in love with the frantic pace of business, the new challenges that popped up each day, and the fact that my voice counted as long as I asserted myself.
Find a Better Way to Work — See How You Stack Up to the Competition >>
I simultaneously fell in love with the most wonderful man in the world (my financial opposite). My wedding and one of the biggest promotions of my life fell within two weeks of each other.
The wedding narrowly defeated the promotion as the best moment of my life.
Then, a few months later, the unthinkable happened. I found out that I was pregnant. Our first child was on schedule to arrive at least five to six years earlier than expected. I wasn’t excited about having a child. I was numb from the shock that lasted months, and I threw myself into work more than usual.
A week before my son’s due date, I jumped on a short term project. I joked that I was sure that my son would understand that he needed to come late. In fact, he did come late. The three-week project wrapped up the day before he was born.
The next night, my son was born. I stared at his perfect face, and I wanted to do nothing else for the rest of my life. My paradigm shifted that day. The career that I felt was so important dropped off my radar for the next three months. Then I returned to work.
Why I Returned to Work
I told myself that I returned to work because I didn’t want to waste my education. But I returned to work because I wanted to have a big career. I returned to work because I didn’t want the first three years of my career to have been wasted.
My problem was that the big career I wanted required a singular, even impassioned focus that is decidedly not family-friendly.
I held onto my career because I had spent time nurturing and developing it. I fell prey to what is described as “sunk-cost fallacy” that keeps us from making clear-headed decisions. No way was I going to quit the job I'd put so much work into and be a stay-at-home mom!
Achieve Your Career Goals With Industry-Recognized Learning Paths — Choose Your Course >>
In truth, I lied to myself to make it seem like work was about more than money, but at that time, it wasn’t. My husband had just returned to school, so I had to make the money.
Once I finally admitted to myself that I was working mainly for the paycheck, a great sense of freedom washed over me.
From that point on, I felt I could choose my family over my career every time. I could throttle back on my career and not feel guilty at all.
Looking for Alternatives
Or so I thought. My mindset shifted, but my days had not. My mornings still started with early calls to our team in India. I still dropped my son off at his babysitter’s house and picked him up hours later.
I still gave my best hours and my best emotions to my job and not to my family. All my striving seemed to be for naught. I needed a practical way to live out the philosophy that I adopted.
So I scoured the internet in search of a silver bullet, but instead of a silver bullet I found a resounding chorus of women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s saying, “You still can’t have it all, but you can make a choice.”
I found choices such as having a stay-at-home dad, completely outsourcing your personal life, mompreneurship, creating your own part-time work, opting out, and Career 2.0. Soon, I fell in love with the Career 2.0 choice.
Deciding to Quit My Job and Be a Stay-at-Home Mom
I found story after story of mothers (mostly mothers, a few dads thrown into the mix) who flatlined in their career. Or who opted out of the workforce completely while their kids were young, only to come back with a vengeance ten or 20 years later. These women found new niches, surprising new ways to be successful in their careers.
Instead of trying to have it all, these women chose the uncommon path of quitting their jobs to become work-from-home moms. They made the tough choices. In fact, about one in five parents is opting to stay at home, according to the Pew Research Center, and it’s not just moms. An increasing number of those parents are fathers.
This spring, after my second child is born, I’ll be embarking upon my own Career 2.0 track. I’ll donate the suits and the heels, and embrace the under-compensated title of mom. I hope to earn just enough money from freelancing to keep my family moving forward financially.
If you’re considering quitting your job to be a stay-at-home mom (by choice or by economic necessity), I encourage you not to view your career as dead, or your education as wasted. Instead, enjoy the critically important things you are doing by raising your kids, and look forward to the big interesting things you will do in your own Career 2.0.