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.