One year ago, I did something radical. I quit my dream job. In order to do my other dream job full time. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for a year now, and what a roller coaster it has been! The transitions that I’ve gone through personally have been a bit of a roller coaster, with some extreme highs and lows.
Last January, one of my high school friends saw my social media post about my big change, and she reached out to schedule a coffee date. It was wonderful to catch up with an old friend. But, more importantly, she was a stay-at-home mom who was honest and supportive in the advice she gave and the experiences she shared.
I’m not sure if I adequately articulated how much I appreciated her candor or the fact that I knew she was completely right. Because I was in a bit of a euphoria.
The first stage in my transition was the honeymoon.
I was excited about the big change that my family had just begun, and I was optimistic about what it would mean for our future together. We were going to be happy and less stressful.
But, I knew what was coming. My friend knew what was coming. And, it came quickly – I’d been on maternity leave for several weeks before I made the decision to quit, so I had a head start.
The second stage in my transition was the mourning period.
Oh. Em gee, y’all! I quit my job. I threw a grenade into the middle of my career path. I loved my job! Never had a day that I dreaded going to the office. I believed in our mission, I enjoyed the work we were doing, and I loved the community we served. And, even though my plans were to return, what if they won’t have me?
My friend’s honesty is still inspiring me to be vulnerable with you: I grieved what I had lost. I felt lonely. I felt bored. I felt conflicted. While I knew I’d made the right decision as a mother, I feared that I’d ruined everything as a professional. I simultaneously felt overjoyed to spend my days holding my babies, and yet devastated that I was no longer an advocate.
To make matters worse, if I mentioned how sad I was or how much I missed my job, the most common response that I received was: “but its so worth it!” Which translates directly to: what is wrong with you? (People, please stop responding to parenting complaints with this phrase!) So, on top of these conflicting emotions, I also felt guilty for the negative things I was feeling.
My first and most important steps to get out of the mourning period were reaching out. I started attending Mommy and Me yoga classes. If you’ve never been to one of these classes, I highly recommend it for anyone with a new baby! The support, advice, experiences, and sisterhood that are shared in these rooms is unmatched.
Then, I started scheduling play dates. Every Friday. Moms who I considered to be good friends and even moms that I hadn’t reached out to in quite some time. If she was a mom that didn’t work Fridays, I invited her and her kids to spend time with me and mine.
I call it the mom code: the knowledge that we are all doing our best and likely struggling about something and the unwavering support we offer one another. Whether we were laughing at the silly things our kids had done or we were having real heart to hearts about our struggles, the time we spent together was- no, is soul-soothing.
Here’s the truth – the thing we don’t openly discuss because we don’t want to admit it: most of us go through a mourning period. Whether we’re returning to work after the birth of our baby or we’re leaving our job to stay at home, we mourn what we’ve left behind. What we’re missing out on. And because these feelings are so conflicting, they often come with guilt. We keep these feelings a secret, for fear of the “what’s wrong with you” comments. Which makes us feel more alienated. So, getting real with a friend at coffee or writing a vulnerable blog post is important. It is a way to tell other mothers “you are not alone. This is normal. This is OK. And, this will pass.”
The third stage in my transition was acceptance and comfort.
My kids and I developed a rhythm. And, a schedule. I found comfort in the job that I’m doing as a mom. I found new ways to satisfy the professional in me. I still have days where my head spins with the noise that two tiny children can make. Yet, when I leave them for half a day here and there to do lawyer things, I can’t wait to get home to them again.
I’m at a point where I can say with confidence that a mourning period is normal. And, it will pass. I realize now that I went through the same stages when I started back to work after my first baby was born. Transitions can be hard. But necessary to get to the next stage. And, at least in my experience, they make that next phase all the sweeter.
I am not a mental health professional, so I want to say that you can and should always reach out to health care professionals if you are struggling. In saying that “this will pass,” I in no means wish to make light of of anyone’s mental or emotional needs. If you are struggling with your feelings and/or negative thoughts: reach out. If you are experiencing scary thoughts, thoughts of self harm, or thoughts of suicide: reach out. Call now! You are not alone. Parenting is hard. Life is hard. You matter.
To those who are family, friends, or acquaintances: check in on your people. It can be really hard, if not impossible, to reach out when you’re depressed or anxious. While your friend may not be willing to call you to say “I’m struggling and I need you,” they may agree to meet you for coffee if you invite them. Or, a simple “thinking of you – how are you” text might be just what someone needs to get through the day. Check on your friends who you know are struggling. Check on your friends who seem to have their lives together. Check in on the people you love. Whether you think of it as mom code or just being a good human, check in on people. It matters.