The beginning

When I decided to quit my job, the one question that continued to give me anxiety was, what am I going to tell my daughters, Harper and Elliot?

I prided myself on my ability to divide my time between home and work and that I was able to demonstrate by example what it was to have a successful career as a mother. I felt empowered by doing both and wanted them to know they never have to give one thing up for another.

***

Over the fourth of July weekend, we watched the Air National Guard perform a rescue simulation on Lake Tahoe. A pararescue team parachuted off planes into the lake and were then rescued by people who jumped from a helicopter. Harper was scared of the helicopter noise but obsessed with the whole idea. She asked question after question and even into the following week, she kept talking about those people who jumped out of the helicopter. She would say to me, “I don’t want to jump out of helicopters when I am big, mom.” And of course I told her that she didn’t have to and that the great thing about her life, is that she gets to decide what she wants to do when she grows up. “You can do anything you want to,” I told her.

We had this conversation again and again over the next few weeks.

“I don’t want to jump out of helicopters, mom.”

“You don’t have to, Harper. You can do something else that makes you happy.”

In one of our more recent conversations, she asked me what I thought I wanted to do when I grew up. Tears had no time to well up in my eyes, they simply spilled over and down my cheeks without hesitation. I turned away. This was a question I had been thinking about and didn’t yet have an answer to.

“Um, well, I’m still figuring that out.”

“Maybe you want to jump out of a helicopter mom?!”

She was right. In a way, I did.

On August 28, I resigned my vice president title and position as a strategy consultant within a Fortune 50 organization. After 12 years of dedicated service, I was ready and had the courage to make a change.

The pressure had been building over the last three years – since Harper was born. My family, ever supportive continued to make accommodations to solve for the things that need to get done when you have a baby, a toddler, and two working parents – one who left the house at 4:45 every morning and the other who traveled 25% of the time. We had groceries delivered. We had a housekeeper who helped wash bottles and fold laundry. We had babysitters and grandparents come to stay to help with childcare while one parent was gone or working late. We had resources. We had solutions. We were both gainfully employed and worked hard to not take a single thing for granted.

But from the altitude of a recent business flight home, I could see everything happening a bit more clearly and it didn’t feel right. The guilt compounded like interest I owed from being absent.

In June, in the middle of an exciting two weeks of Hand Foot & Mouth and Strep Throat. I had to leave town for a presentation. I drove to the doctor’s office and to the airport in the same afternoon and witnessed myself choosing work over them (and my darling husband who stayed home to manage it all in my absence) and that was a painful recognition. I concluded that at this particular stage, life was not sustainable at this pace. At least not for me. I reached this point where the professional fulfillment I had worked so hard for wasn’t fulfillment enough. It was taking away from the other spaces in my life that were suffering. I was losing my balance in trying to balance it all. Part of me tried to rationalize, This is just what you do to make it work. People do far, far more with far less. Stop complaining.

I truly liked my job and colleagues and I hoped for an alternative to allow me more flexibility. I asked my manager if I could work part-time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an option.

So I did it. I jumped from that impressive, noisy, wave-making helicopter and am about to do a huge cannon ball into the unknown waters of being a freelancer/mama/COO of our household. It’s all a bit terrifying and I’m bracing myself for the inevitable sting that will come as I hit the water.

***

So, what will I tell Harper and Elliot?

I will tell them that I dedicated 12 years of my career to a company that taught me how to travel, how to save for retirement, how to be heard when you have a differing opinion, how to be a leader, how to take criticism, how to leverage my strengths, think strategically, manage projects, and take and give direction among many other lessons.

I will tell them how important it is to think for themselves. That it is incredibly easy to be afraid of labels or generalized perceptions. I will tell them that who they are is more important than “what they do”, That there is merit in anything they choose to do, so long as they are doing what makes them happy, proud and passionate. That at the end of the day, they are contributing to a greater good. That they are living a true and authentic life.

I will tell them that I quit my job to open up some space to find and do just those things for myself. And that if it weren’t for them, I might not have been able to see how far I was straying from my true self by relying on what I did to also answer the question of who I am.

And of course, I will tell them, that I quit my job to dedicate more time doing the most important work of all, being their mom.

This is the first story in a series of many. Big, heartfelt thanks for your support and following my recovering corporate life as it unfolds in the posts to come.

16 thoughts on “The beginning

  1. I’m so excited for you Rachel! In this day and age, when it’s getting harder and harder to be a stay-at-home-mom, I feel very fortunate to be able to do so. I have a wonderful husband who fully supports my decision and works hard to make it work. I have never regretted the decision to choose this career, and knowing you, I know you’ll love it too!
    Not sure you knew this or not, but my mom was the one out of my parents, who graduated from college Cum Laude and had the scholarship set up for a Masters Program. She “gave it all up” to stay at home and be with me…and I love her even more for it.

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  2. Rach, so wonderfully written AND inspiring as I sit here with my sick kid. lol miss you and truly that was teary and beautiful to read. Xo, reer

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  3. I’m in tears. I am beyond proud of you. Here is this struggle and this question and YOU had the courage to jump. Don’t forget that while the water you hit as you dive in may be bone-chilling and scary, you know how to swim and the water will feel GOOD once you get used to it.
    I adore you. I’m proud of you. I’m inspired by you. I’m honored to watch your journey.

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  4. ‘Something that you’ve made me think about… for all the years that my mother raised me, she spoke of wanting to go back to law school. She would talk about it, always ending with a simple sigh, followed by a joyful smile. I’m 41 now, and it’s taken me this long to understand why my mother spoke with joy about the one thing that she always wanted but never got. It was because she was happy to be my mom. Of the things that I’m thankful for, nothing compares to this: God loves me enough to have placed me in my mother’s care. It’s the single best advantage that he gave me in life.

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  5. Rachel,
    I recently stumbled upon your blog last weekend at a time when I needed to be reminded of the little things that make life more fun. I read a few of your recent blogs and was taken back to our Freshman year of high school, when I also needed a little cheering up and fun. A lot of time has passed, but I still imagine the same Rachel Beth sitting at her desk contemplating life. Every once in a while I will start singing my son the goodnight song and it puts a smile on my face. Last St. Patrick’s day I contemplated “catching leprechauns” but decided against it since Aiden was only 18 months and wouldn’t understand.

    7 months after Aiden was born I quit grad school and gave up on my dream. I was teaching, tutoring, going to classes and raising an infant. I missed him rolling over for the first time and sitting up on his own (or actually leaning against the dog) because I had my nose in my texts books. On the weekends, Kevin would take Aiden to his Godfather’s house so I could have some quiet time to grade papers. If Aiden wasn’t keeping me up until 2 in the morning, studying was. For weeks I felt like a failure, I moped around the house angry at myself, and then it hit me, my children’s experiences and memories are much more important than a degree.

    Kevin and I gave a lot up when I decided to quit grad school and my job. We may never own a home in Silicon Valley, we might not be able to go on expensive vacations or own luxury cars, but we have something better than all those materialistic things…We have our children who are making new memories and trying something new everyday, and I am thankful that I get to stay at home and witness them for myself.

    Best of luck on your future endeavors. You will be an amazing Stay at Home Mom, you’ve learned from one of the best!

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  6. This is such a beautiful post. I keep wondering if I’m setting the right example for my daughter by staying home. I want her to be fiercely independent but I am myself dependent on my husband’s income. I want her to not associate household chores with women, but she thinks making food and doing dishes is a mum’s thing. I know it is not a bad thing to be a stay at home mum but I’m always caught between thoughts in order to set the right path for the kid.

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