(Image credit: Borshoff, my awesome former employer)
Being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) was never in my career plan. Like, ever.
I went to college, got a degree in journalism/PR, landed my dream job at a well-respected PR/advertising agency and planned to climb the agency ladder.
After six years at my dream job, I got pregnant after battling infertility. During my pregnancy, my colleagues would ask, “Are you planning to come back to work?”
“Yes, of course!” I would always reply. I was committed to my pursuit of continuing that company climb.
Then, in December 2016, I gave birth to my son, Roman.
You guys, my employer was ah-mazing to me. They allowed me to go part-time after maternity leave and even allowed me to bring my son to work alongside me from three months through six months of age. Like, he actually went to staff meetings, sat with me at my desk, and joined us in the cafe for lunch.
Have you heard of any place with a Bring Your Baby to Work program? Yeah, me neither.
After maternity leave, I was excited to get back to serving my clients and collaborating my crazy-talented colleagues. So, I got back in the flow of meetings, emails, conference calls and conflict resolution.
But, after going back to work, I could feel something stirring in me. There was something that had changed in my heart. But, I was in denial about what it might mean for my life/career goals.
So, I stifled it and kept my head down.
But, the more I tried to quiet the feelings and just get back to work, the more consistent and intense that “tap” on my shoulder became.
It was God. And I knew it.
He was calling me to be at home and to care for my family. But, the problem was, that was never MY plan. So, I was confused. Isn’t it funny how we always think we have a “plan” for how our lives should go?
Let me pause right here and say that I realize so many mothers dream of the opportunity to stay home with their baby. But, for financial and other reasons, it’s just not feasible. And my heart hurts for those of you facing this. For others of you, you have no desire to stay home. I say, do you, mama! You know what’s best for you and your family.
But, I started to realize that I was struggling because I placed myself in a career “box” with a recurring story line that said: “Whitney, your parents sent you to college for four years to land this very career. You’ve worked so hard to get here. You’re excelling and if you quit now, the risks are endless. Your future career opportunities will be nothing short of extremely limited.” To put it simply: In my head, it was a really risky career move.
After several weeks, the repeated lines of questioning, fear and self-doubt started to surface in the form of tears when I got home from work. That’s when my husband, Alex, and I started having the “what if” conversations. What would happen IF I left my job and stayed home? What IF I didn’t quit? Would I look back ten years from now and regret it either way?
And I started quietly asking myself: What if there is more to my story than this job? What if MORE opportunities are lurking behind a decision to take a risk?
I prayed about it. Tried to stifle it more. “Is this my will – or could it be God’s?” I questioned. And then, when Roman turned seven months old, I just couldn’t keep questioning it any longer.
After praying, long talks with my husband, hours spent crunching numbers, I put in my notice at work – with tears streaming down my face. This new “job” was so far away from my comfort zone of a career path. But, something in me said this was the right thing – and the right time.
Lessons learned in transition
It’s been nearly a year since I made that jump, and to I’ve learned way more than I could’ve imagined…especially about myself.
I have never felt more terrified to take a leap of faith. But, I am so grateful that I did because I would have never learned that:
1: My job title didn’t need to define me
I wore my hard-earned agency job title with pride. Senior Account Executive sounds fancy, right? But, when I suddenly didn’t have one (like, uhh what was I supposed to list on LinkedIn?), I realized that I had put myself in a box.
What if my future didn’t entail a traditional PR career at all (gasp!)? What if I now had the chance the write my next chapter and somehow pivot into unknown territory, like blogging full time?
After years of saying “I’m a PR pro,” I’m just starting to learn what I’m truly passionate about, and I’ve never felt so alive. Seriously.
2. It takes time to adjust
Not going to lie, it’s a beautiful thing to not have to rush around in the morning to get out the door. I remember that first day of being a SAHM. I was like Ricky Bobby in the movie Talladega Nights where he says, “I don’t know what to do with my hands.” Ha!
It was such unfamiliar territory to be forced to slow my pace.
Mornings – and days are slower around here now. But, sometimes slowing down is hard! When I worked, I was addicted to the go-go-go lifestyle that I had perceived as “success.” Shifting my mindset into being more still – sometimes by just watching Roman explore – has been a serious, beautiful adjustment.
Now, I’m learning to pick up new habits to fuel my soul – and keep my sanity. I’m reading more, exercising more, and hungry to learn more about me – so I can be the best version of myself for my family.
3. People passed judgement
…and I doubted myself! I grew up with two parents who busted their butts (and continue to) in their jobs to provide for our family. They’ve always worked hard. And here I was, a college educated “career woman,” making a decision to leave a perfectly good job that people would line up for. Did it make sense? Was it really a feasible option?
In the first several months of staying home, only one person asked how I was doing in my new role at home. One. And to be honest, that hurt.
This was an enormous, heavy, risky decision, and I felt the judgement from some of my loved ones. And to be honest, I judged myself for this opportunity.
But, in order to grow, sometimes we have to make a leap of faith. I knew I had made the right decision when someone asked me, “Do you regret leaving your job?” My answer: a surprised, non-hesitant “no.”
4. I was on auto-pilot
Stepping away from the nine-to-five has given me a new perspective. The daily grind can force us into an automated routine where we fail to see beauty in what’s around us.
There were plenty of days where I would arrive at work or at home and not remember a single moment of the commute. I was on autopilot. Anyone else experience this? Um, scary!
Roman points at everything and acts surprised at every little thing around him. He will say, “wow!” with this excited expression while pointing at the most mundane thing….like a cup, a chair, or a car. I’m learning to see wonder in the world around me, just like he does.
5. I needed to lean more on God
Since leaving an office environment, I’ve found myself hungry for adult conversations some days. I FaceTime my mom most afternoons (sorry, mom ?), sometimes just because I need someone to talk to about nothing at all.
There are days at home where I lose my marbles on multiple occasions – puke, poop, pee and temper tantrums can do that!
But, I’ve learned that when I might feel alone or like I am failing as a mom, God is right there in the chaos. He guided me into this new “job,” and I’m starting to learn that maybe it’s because I needed more time with Him than I realized. He knows just what we need.
I’m trying to follow His will in this role, and I’m so grateful He’s allowed me to be called “Mom.”
Thinking of making the transition?
If you’re making a working mom vs SAHM decision, I feel you, mama. The ability to stay home is an amazing blessing, but it’s a heavy decision. And I realize not every mom has the choice – nor does every mom want to stay home. I hope this post is helpful if you’re at the crossroads of deciding what to do.
It’s a scary leap, especially for us career-minded women. But, I have yet to regret a second of taking this leap. If you’re struggling with this decision or have questions about what it’s really like to make such a transition, please comment below.
And if you’ve made the leap, share one thing you’ve learned in the comments!