Women can have it all: A successful career and a family to take care of at home. While I subscribe to this notion, I have taken the difficult decision to step down from a full-time job, which I have held for more than 10 years and be at home. Five months ago, I had a beautiful baby girl we named Elise. She joins her four-year-old twin siblings, Jibrael and Mekael.
She doesn’t know it yet but she’s getting a bit of a special treatment. You see, I went back to work six months after having twins! Many people told me I was crazy and I wouldn’t be able to cope, but I had worked out a very effective family plan. A nurse would come in every morning to look after them and my mother-in-law would supervise the whole thing. Also, because of shorter maternity hours, I wouldn’t be away from them for more than eight hours. Perfect! And it was pretty great. But with a third child in the picture and family assistance out of the question (my husband has very demanding and long work hours), I was faced with the same old problem of how well I trust ‘strangers’, however qualified they may be to look after my child while I go to work.
The reaction I’ve gotten to this tough decision has been mixed. I’ve had several full-time career women give me the sad face and the ‘you should reconsider’ and the ‘you can make it work if you try hard enough’ talk. Surprisingly, male colleagues and friends have been far more understanding and supportive.
Stepping away from a job you love is always hard. And perhaps if maternity laws were a bit more relaxed things would be different. But all in all, the idea of taking time off after so long is somewhat anxiety-ridden. Here’s the thing; in your mind, besides being with your baby, which is lovely in and of itself, you’re going to utilise your new schedule to do all the things you always day-dreamed about at work — like having brunch, reading novels, exercising of course, shopping, cooking ... But as I am getting closer and closer to my new freedom, I find myself revaluating that list. Suddenly, it’s not that attractive an idea to leave the house with a baby to make it to brunch. And shopping? Nah, I’ll do it online once she naps.
Same goes for exercising; actually that’s the first thing off the list. This has happened to me before. Ahead of any vacation I’ve taken, I’ve always done research about the city/cities we’re visiting and noted all the new things we were going to try. The first day you arrive on a holiday, you’re so committed to being active and putting in the physical requirements (i.e. walking). But by the third day, you’re rethinking that 9am pick-up time to go on a two-hour drive to get to the castle you’ve seen pictures of, in order to take your own pictures! I hope by me saying this out loud I am not the only person who frowns at the idea of physical ‘challenges’ during holidays!
So as I bid farewell to a full-time job, which always seemed to spill over the 9-5 window, I promise myself not to dwell too much on the list of things to do post work and to just relax for a minute. Or two. And embrace the other, full-time role I have at home. I am mostly looking forward to setting my own schedule according to my needs and my kids’ needs. Because life is not just about structure. There’s a lot of joy in enjoying the little things with the little ones and taking a break from any list. Besides, I have a feeling I’ll be back to the workforce a lot sooner than my mind allows me to think right at this moment.