Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dear Simone. I quit my job.

Dear Simone,

I quit my job this week. My goodness, that sentence looks tiny for something So Big.  Hours and hours of conversation and contemplation went into that little sentence.  And now I have an end-date: Nov 22.  Seven more weeks to finish up this course-cycle, and then…
Full-time grad school next semester.  Baking cookies all through December.  Sleeping for two weeks straight.  I don’t know. 

Your dad starts his Busy Season in January, when he works 7 days a week until after midnight.  When I tried to make our post-January life make sense, even on paper, all I could see was pure chaos.  This job I adore would start destroying my life. 

Your “5-year-old Simone” is ecstatic that I quit. We opened up sparkling grape juice and toasted that Mommy would be home more.  Your “35-year-old Simone”?  I don’t know what I just taught you. I really don’t. 
I want to believe you learned to follow your heart – and that sometimes, following your heart can mean breaking it too.

I want to believe you learned what I’ve said (and meant) all year: “I love my job so much. But I love you even more.”
I want to believe you learned that even great things are temporary. That it’s about passionately throwing yourself into everything you do and making the most out of each situation – whether it lasts 15 months or 15 years.

But, I run the risk that you learned you really can’t do it all.  It’s  a necessary truth, and better lives come out of this authentic awareness.  But it sucks too.  Sometimes the things you sacrifice or release are the things you weren’t ready to sacrifice.
I also fear I taught you that a woman’s career (no matter how much she loves it) is a play-thing compared to The Husband’s.  That's not our dynamic, and I hope you’ll be discerning enough to sort through it all. But I do wonder about that.

You have my active mind and restless heart, Simone, and I see you watching my life, my decisions.  I want to be a good steward of that, but life is messy and motherhood is messier still… so what you often see is me bungling along and doing the best I can do.   
I want you to sort through my experiences and choose your own path. Some decisions might be similar to mine. Some might not. That will always be okay with me. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and wanted to be.  But having that version of mothering growing up, I knew I wanted something different.  That I would be my best mothering-self when I wasn’t Only Mom.

I handed Mr. A my resignation letter and said: “There is no possible way to love a job more than I love this one.  But sir, I need to quit.  The algorithm of my life isn’t computing right now.”  And I am grateful for the 30 minutes when he asked questions, probed the situation, and then nodded with agreement that this really was my only option.
Here’s the thing, Simone. It is an amazing gift that women can do anything they want. It really is.  And I am grateful that I have a dad and husband who never sent me any other message. When I wanted this job, your dad never asked who was going to do his laundry and cook his food. He just said, “That sounds perfect for you,” and lowered his standards about what I could offer at home.

And then I texted him one day and said, “I’m going back to grad school next semester.” And watched my phone as the message popped up: “I think you would love to be back in school.”
Our female ancestors didn’t get to say things like that. They didn’t get to just think up a dream and make it happen.  And there are plenty-plenty-plenty of women who still can’t. I appreciate the privilege of being overwhelmed by opportunity.  But there is a dark side to it, too.  Professor E told me, “Just because you’re smart enough to do it doesn’t mean it’s smart to do it.”  Life is currently telling me: “Just because you love what you’re doing doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.”

As women, we have to form our own equation – build up the pieces of our lives like Lego blocks.  If I take out teaching completely, my structure collapses.  You wouldn’t have the mother you deserve. 
I keep learning that my best mothering (and wifedom) come when I am at my fullest. And for awhile, that was this job. I was energized and more ready to be part of our family.  And when that changed – when I became a depleted, caffeinated shell of myself – it was time to re-organize.

So here we are. 
Here is what I want to overtly teach you, Simone.  You have to figure out your life, and your family, on YOUR terms. Don’t let anyone (not me, not my experiences, not society or friends) tell you what you should do.  Whether you should stay at home or work.  And then sub-categories of decisions: from home or at an office, full-time or part-time.  When you make a decision, make sure it’s right for your current situation. Not the one a year from now or a year ago.  Life will tell you when you’re aligning your situation with your authentic needs.  800 mg of caffeine a day (even before Dad’s “busy season”) told me I probably was not. 

November 22.  This will be good.  Maybe Mr. A is right, and it’s a “temporary departure.” Or maybe the path ahead of me is as unplanned as this job was.  I didn’t set out to be an English teacher for the Army, and never thought to wish for it.  And yet here I am, heart-broken to walk away from it. 
Life and womanhood and motherhood are complicated algorithms indeed, Simone.  But it’s good.  It might be like cleaning out a closet, when it looks worse in the middle than when you started -- but in the end, I think decisions aligned with our priorities will always serve us well.  And when Mom is happy, the family will fall into place.