When I left my corporate job last October to pursue a career in freelance writing, I told myself I was doing it for my family. I believed it too; spending 2½ hours a day with my kids rushing through homework, dinner, and baths hardly felt like the way motherhood was supposed to be.
Once I made the transition home, I got itchy; itchy to do more. I started taking on more and more (and more) freelance work until I was working around the clock. Sure, I was home with my kids but “being there” without actually being there was not only confusing for my kids, but agonizingly heavy on my heart. I worked evenings, weekends, holidays, and birthdays. I worked when family was in town, while the rest of the family was sleeping, and while my husband took the kids to the park. I missed BooBoo’s two seconds of glory riding a bike for the first time without training wheels, and why? Because I was working.
Listen, I’m no stranger to missing firsts. I raised two kids through infant daycare. I’ve missed first words, first steps, and first potties in the toilet. When I made the decision to pull my kids out of daycare and try my hand at earning a living from home, I never expected the cycle to continue. But it did, because perhaps even more than my desire to be home with my kids was my desire to prove to myself that I had the chops to make a living as a writer. Opportunities and a steady paycheck validated my talents in an addictive way, and I loved it. What I didn’t love was what happened next.
I was on a deadline, exhausted and frustrated by the umpteenth million time I’d asked the kids to be quiet so I could work. The two of them got into an argument as per usual, and I had neither the patience nor willingness to deal with it. I went off — screaming, yelling, crying all about how no one helps me, how I have too much to do, how they kids were only making my job harder. I lectured about personal responsibility and what it meant to have a mommy who worked from home.
It was then that Boy Wonder said, “Maybe you should just go back to work. All you do is work anyway. Besides, you’re just mad all the time.” Boom.
And there it was, the elephant that had been in the room for the last few months. Now it was said. Out loud. By the very person I never wanted to say it.
I knew it all a long; I knew I was mad. I was mad that I didn’t have enough time with my kids. Mad that I wasn’t able to handle all the amazing opportunities given to me. Mad that my anxiety had flared up again. Mad that I was right back where I started last October.
I realized then I’d been fooling myself and my family for too long. They were never the reason I made these choices in my career, my ego was.
But here’s the thing about ego and career, they don’t love you back. Not even a little. In fact, with every step closer to realizing my professional potential, a piece of me that belonged to my family was stolen. But that’s just me talking, I’m not here to serve as a finger-pointing cautionary tale to career women. I believe every woman should do what makes her happy and what feels right by her soul. I thought my career made me happy but my heart happened to know otherwise.
I made the decision then to stop giving myself away, at least for a while. My kids are at an age where they need me more than ever. My husband needs me too, although he’d never guilt my heart by saying as much out loud. For once I realize I need me too. I need the peace that comes from giving myself away to the people who hold my heart.
Sure, I’ll miss the money and my ego will miss the accolades, but as my anxiety dissipates and I spend more time enjoying the life I’ve been given, I learning now what I should have learned then — my heart won’t miss a thing.
Have you ever chosen family over career?
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