I started my corporate career in 2012, immediately after graduate school, and spent the next 8 years working my way up the ladder. During those eight years, I made advancing my career my number one priority. Most everything else took a back seat: my personal life, my health, and most all extracurriculars. It paid off when I clinched one of the few coveted management positions in my department–a goal I’d been working towards practically from Day One.
And then I found out I was pregnant.
That’s right, I literally found out I was expecting my daughter just after accepting the position. I had nine months to settle into my new role, so I told myself not to be too concerned with how I would balance it all. I figured I had plenty of time to come up with a routine that would work for my career and my family, but also acknowledged deep down that my usual 10 to 11-hour days at the office probably wouldn’t cut it once the baby was born.
Flash forward a few months to the birth of my daughter. I had saved up my vacation time from the entire year before so that I could take the full three months of maternity leave without going unpaid. During those three months, I honestly could not have cared less about my career. My entire world changed in what felt like an instant, and watching that precious baby girl grow was the only thing I cared about doing.
Maybe it was because I knew my time off was limited, but I savored every single day of maternity leave. Even the really hard ones, when I felt exhausted and clueless and gross, were so special to me. I can remember spending so many days just staring at her, snuggling with her on the couch, and literally accomplishing nothing else.
But of course, that time did come to an end, and I returned to work three months later with emotions all over the place but a new perspective on what was important to me.
I had spent 8 years putting my personal life on hold for my career and, looking back, it really didn’t feel that worth it to me anymore. Of course, I was proud of what I had accomplished, and all of the hard work that had paid off, but it was different now.
My husband and I spent the next year, the first year of our daughter’s life, both trying to juggle our demanding careers (his, with a 3-hour commute each day) and our new roles as parents. Throughout the workweek, I left home before he or the baby was awake, so that I could get my full day in at work before picking her up from daycare. My husband usually got home from work just before our daughter went down for the night, though some nights he didn’t even make it home for that. And, not long after, I would head to bed myself, so that I could get up early again the next day.
The three of us spent so little time together, and my husband and I barely got time together ourselves. We knew that our situation was not sustainable and we would have to make a change in order to have the family life that we wanted.
We decided that I would leave my job so that we could move closer to his, which was also closer to both of our families, and I would primarily focus on raising our daughter. It was a difficult and scary decision for me to leave a career that I’d worked so hard for, knowing it would put us in a completely different situation financially but, deep down, I felt we were making the right decision for our family.
That move occurred in March 2020–two weeks before our state shut down due to the coronavirus. It was a huge transition to go from 10+ hour workdays in a corporate environment to full days at home with a toddler. I’ve dealt with a lot more poop than I imagined and, most days, consider myself a human tissue. I’ve put my own aspirations on hold, and I’m regularly fighting against fears that I’ll never recover professionally from this time off.
Every night, when my worries start to take over (which they do almost every night), I switch my mindset to one of gratitude and reset my thoughts. For me personally (and every woman and mother is different), I know that I will never regret this time with my baby because I can already see just how fleeting it is. And, I know that she will know every day that she is so very loved, and for that I am so insanely grateful.
I have no idea what challenges life will bring with Baby #2 in a few months, but my only goal is to continue practicing a grateful mindset, and appreciating the opportunity for this time with my babies.