I have always identified strongly with the professional side of myself.
After all, I left a great job to earn a Masters Degree that allowed me to further my career path, so I needed to prove that the time and money spent on graduate studies was worthwhile. The last several years of my life have been spent advocating for public health programs, evaluating community health data, planning for community health improvement and consistently trying to build upon and improve upon work that has already been done in those areas.
I have presented to colleagues at regional, state and national conferences and have been a part of creating best practices in my field. Though most would say busy work can stress them out, I thrive on full schedules and a full plate, always wanting to do and achieve more.
On the contrary, my heart is always first and foremost with my family. It has been a delicate balance to be a working mother. Sick children, doctor appointments, guilt for leaving them during the day, not feeling that I have enough quality time with each of them or am missing milestones in their lives. All of it tugs at a mother’s heart strings.
I have always had the desire to be home with them more, but it wasn’t until my husband and I made the decision that it would actually become reality that I began questioning it.
After much planning, consideration and prayer, I resigned from my professional role and am transitioning to a new chapter in my life. I (we) had gone back and forth about this decision for quite some time, so I was feeling proud and confident that this was the right next step for me and my family. What I didn’t expect was to be thrown for a loop. I should have anticipated it — The question that is.
As I told family, friends and colleagues of my resignation, they all asked, “So where are you going to work?”
Every time I was asked this question, I would fumble a bit. I would describe some of the freelance work I am committed to, the business I am passionate about growing and the children I would spend more time with. I described my husband’s demanding career and I tossed in the phrases “work at home mom” and “stay at home mom,” yet regardless of the answer I crafted, it almost always resulted in some sort of blank stare. They would proceed to say “good for you” and wish me the best of luck.
It seems to me that the repeated question was more of an assumption on the part of the askers, rather than a genuine “what’s next for you?” The question was a stark reminder that I had been harboring questions about my role as stay-at-home mom as a full, vibrant career in itself. It made me consider my confidence in this next chapter of my life or “new horizons” as my husband has titled it.
Why was I so much more confident in my professional self than my mothering capabilities?
After all, I am challenged far more by my children than anything else in life. There is not a graduate program that could ever prepare you for motherhood. It made me question working for myself in a freelance capacity or pursuing business dreams of my own. It made me question the fact that I don’t have it all figured out yet.
The percentage of stay at home mothers in the United States is the highest it’s been in the past three decades and though that statistic is due to a variety of reasons, it does make a statement. Also on the rise is the notion of the work at home mother. You know, the one who has a deep desire to be there for her babies lives and identify with her professional self. So why then, the blank stares?
I now know I should have anticipated the question. It’s only natural to want to know where someone is off to next but, I think the question should become “what are you going to pursue next?” rather than assume our paths will never change. In the meantime, I’ll reformulate my response, because this is the biggest leap of faith I’ve ever taken and it has to count for something.