How ironic that the very word to describe how I feel about not working is one of the best words to describe the impact of the women’s movement? I mean – how would my women’s studies professors feel knowing that the word I can think of to describe how I feel about quitting work, losing my income and staying home with my children is liberation?
I’m now five weeks into this stay-at-home gig and honestly – I can’t remember the last time I was happier. All these years, I’ve spent racing around, trying to squeeze in time for DD1 and waiting for the weekend and projecting myself into that time – and now – finally – I am a person living in the present. I used to hate all those new agey mantras about living in the present, enjoying the now – all that crap. That just wasn’t my life. I didn’t know what to think walking into this new phase of my life but it didn’t occur to me that all of a sudden, I’d finally find myself just living in the present. This notion of not waiting for another day, or tracking days until a long weekend or a vacation so I can have X number of full days with my kids – is still an adjustment. And it’s liberating. I feel like a normal person, not a crazed person.
A friend asked me if I feel like I am on an extended vacation.
Initially I was like..umm…no….because I rarely have a minute and definitely have way less “free” time monday-friday than I did when I was working. But that’s not what she meant and after a minute, I knew that. I mean – having gotten up and dressed for work for 13 years, suddenly not doing that should seem weird, right?
Oddly, it isn’t. I don’t even think about it. Last week I even took all my suits out of my closet and put them away upstairs in another closet…and for a minute…I did caress and stroke a few of my best pair of heels, but whatever, I can wear them out on a date. I don’t need work to wear cool shoes. And slumming around in play clothes and not showering every day hasn’t yet gotten old for me. I’m sure the novelty will wear off. But so far so good.
Then there is the reality of spending long days alone with two small and needy children. Even on my worst days – and trust me – there are plenty of those – I still don’t feel like firing off my resume anywhere.
So why is this? I’m well educated, I have great work experience. I even am missing the White House Correspondents Dinner tomorrow – first time I haven’t been invited in five years. And I don’t even care. I mean – it would be my first chance to go without f’ing Bush in office and some awesome celebs. And I still don’t care.
Is working over rated? Is it as simple as that? For me, maybe. Or maybe I feel pretty fulfilled and sastisfied and proud of what I’ve accomplished professionally to this point.
In the end, though, I think it was more because of my circumstances. The option to work even one day a week from home, or work only 4 days a week – wasn’t an option with my former employer. It was scoffed at. Most everyone I know has that option. It didn’t seem like too much to ask for. I wasn’t asking to sleep with the boss’s spouse. Or slaughter family pets. It didn’t seem like a stretch of a request in this wireless day. There were other issues with my job that left me, generally, unhappy and overly stressed out. So I think the reality is this – if I loved my job, if I even enjoyed what I was doing all those hours five days a week more than I didn’t enjoy it, and if I had been given even the slightest bit of consistent flexibility, I probably wouldn’t have left. Or at least so easily. Do I think my employer is completely missing out in not working with me on this and thus losing someone with all this experience and industry knowledge? Oh yes. Do I think they even considered that for one minute? Oh hell no, I’m not naive. In the end, everyone is replaceable. Even someone as cute and funny as moi.
So here we are, I was a women’s studies minor in college and I am defining my new stay-at-home mommyhood and exodus from full-time working, as liberating. The sad truth is this – I think there are millions of us out there. So many of us who are really good at our jobs and who left because of archaic work circumstances. So does this mean that too many of us are leaving and therefore we won’t make it to the top to force the sea-change so that younger women will have more options and will be less likely to leave? Who knows. I doubt it. Does it mean I’m done full-time work for good? Who knows. I really don’t know.
It’s the first time I haven’t had a master plan, a strategic next move, or any clue as to what comes next – and I’ve never been happier.
And does it feel like an extended vacation? Possibly. If vacation means you are happy and less stressed out – then definitely.