As a kid, I was practically a professional when it came to coloring. I paid close attention to every detail, never strayed outside the lines, and even finished each masterpiece with a little tissue buffing to give it that special shine.
One particular piece landed me first place in a coloring competition, and as my prize, I received a gift card to a local department store. The second they handed me that gift card, I knew exactly what I was going to get and told my parents right away. But in typical fashion for my parents, they told me I needed to wait one week, and if at the end of that week I still wanted that Turtle Tots turtle, they would take me to get it.
One week?!?! That's a lifetime in the world of a kid. Their justification to me was that they wanted me to be sure this particular toy was what I truly wanted.
Now maybe they secretly thought this turtle was silly and hoped that I might change my mind. I've never asked them. But one thing they did know, was that the interests of a young child can change day to day, even hour to hour. So not only were they helping to ensure I would end up with a prize I really wanted, they were also teaching me patience and the concept of delayed gratification.
Fast forward 30-some years and I once again was in a position to practice what I had been taught. When my son was about 6 months old, I had to take a business trip that would take me away from home for 2 nights. Definitely not a long trip in the grand scheme of things, but for some reason, this particular trip felt like an eternity. Henry was in a particularly cute phase at the time and I returned from that trip to a mountain of emails at work, house projects that had fallen behind (no fault to my husband, being a single parent is hard!), and stories of all the fun the two of them had had in my absence.
I was tired just thinking about getting caught up.
I was sad that I had missed out on being with my family.
And I was angry that I was in a job that required me to travel, even occasionally.
Putting Lessons to the Test
So what did I do? I immediately jumped to thinking about quitting my job. I thought that if I didn't have to work, I wouldn't have to travel and therefore wouldn't have to feel this way again.
I thought about our budget and what it would take to live on a single income. I thought about breaking the news to my boss and to my clients. I even went so far as to say it out loud to my husband. To which he calmly responded,
"Is that what you really want?"
If it was, he said, then I should take some time to really think about it. To think about what my days would look like. To think about my career. To think about not just the short-term, but also the long-term implications. And if at the end of my thinking, I still felt as strongly about the proposition as I did right then, in that moment of pure frustration, then we would start to figure out how to make it happen. But give it some time, he said.
Time and Truth
Ok Mr. Life Coach. I felt like that kid pining for my turtle all over again. But unlike then, when I decided that in fact, I did want that turtle, I ultimately decided that I wasn't ready to quit my job and stay home. I realized that I really did like my job and working and that I was just tossing out quick solutions in the heat of the moment rather than thinking about the bigger picture.
It's so easy to do that, especially when emotions tied to our kids are so strong. Things change, feelings change when you have kids. I know plenty of new moms who were no longer interested in their careers the way they were before having kids. The end of maternity leave is such a classic example of this because it stirs up all kinds of crazy thoughts and emotions. Only you know whether leaving your job and staying home is the right decision for you.
It's Up to You
If there's one thing I am slowly and painfully learning through motherhood, it's that everything changes. Be sure that whatever you are deciding isn't decided in haste. Make sure it's something that feels right.
And then make the leap, or don't. It's up to you.
Whether it's about working or staying home, or whether it's even about your job at all, I am merely suggesting that you don't rush into it. Think it through. Sleep on it. Plan it out. Say it out loud. But most of all, give it a little time.
To this day, I don't regret staying at my job...or getting that turtle. But there are plenty of other rash choices where I wish I would have given myself more time.