I never thought that would be a choice I would ever have to make.
I started school fairly early, graduated from University also fairly early, and by the time I was 25, I already had a Masters degree and a couple years of work experience. And with my technical and financial background, I was willing to explore all options, career wise. I worked in South East Asia for about a year, worked with a major oil trade company, a couple of engineering companies, a major indigenous integrated energy company, and a few investment banks. With all my roles, I found full fulfilment and thought I would be one of those people to retire at the age of 70!
And then TTC came along…
I have previously written about how my TTC endeavours made me crash from an A+ employee to a C one, at best! I lost my focus and drive, and it reflected in my work. Then finally, I got pregnant, and I was able to regain my focus. I no longer had anything to panic about…after all, my dream had finally come true.
After taking a 4+ month break on maternity leave, I resumed at work…and everything seemed to go well…at first. But after about a year, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t running as fast as I needed to, and some of peers, and even juniors, because they had more time at their disposal (they were able to resume earlier, close later, work weekends), soon started to overtake me. So, I decided to leave that organisation and try somewhere else.
I moved to another investment bank, in a role I initially thought was a less stressful one that I could easily do in my sleep. How wrong I was! Yes, it was a far less tasking role, but my work hours were 10 times worse than my last place of employment. I had to be at my desk by 7am, and couldn’t leave the office before 7pm. The result? I was never able to get my children, who had just started Day Care, ready for school. In fact, they were often still asleep when I left home at 6am. And by the time I got home at 8pm, most times they were already in bed. I didn’t know what they looked like in their uniforms. I was never able to help them with their little baby homework. I didn’t know what habits they had picked up, or what either of them preferred to eat. I was missing out on their lives.
And then one day, I decided I had had enough. How could I be an absent Mother…especially after everything I’d gone through to get here??!!
So, I handed in my letter of resignation, and have not looked back!
Yes, it was quite the sacrifice to go from a great to literally zero income, but being involved in my children’s lives, dressing them up for school, knowing all their teachers, knowing all their meal preferences, correcting all their bad habits and encouraging the good ones, nursing them when they were ill…all of that amounted to non-financial benefits that were far in excess of anything I was missing. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Today, when I walk into their respective classes to pick them up, I love how their faces light up when they see me. I love the fact that, in the sea of Nannies and Drivers, I am one of the few Parents standing at the school gate, waiting for the closing bell to chime. For me, this is my wealth.
Of course, I have been able to find alternate sources of income that can fit into my new lifestyle. A lazy man is an idle man, so I knew I had to find a way to harness my skills and experience in some way. Luckily, I was able to find ways to do so, within the confines of my available hours.
However, this doesn’t have to be the case for every Mother. I have friends who have effectively been able to manage parenting with their careers. So, it is not something that is impossible to do. But the ones who have been able to do it more successfully are those who are able to participate in a few of their children’s activities. Mothers who are able to do the morning school drop-off are not prone to quite as much guilt as those who are not able to at all. Or Mothers who are able to get home in good time to have some bonding time with their kids; do some homework, have some discussions, tuck them into bed; are also not prone to quite as much guilt either. Essentially, it is a balancing act, and if you’re a proficient juggler, then you should be fine.
But even for the best of jugglers, there will always be those moments. Last week was cultural day at my children’s school, and I had the luxury of preparing an African meal for their class, myself, dressing them up in traditional attire (pictures of which I shared with The Fertile Chick family), and dressing myself in traditional attire as well, when I went to pick them up in the afternoon. However, my best friend was sent out of the country on training that period, and she didn’t get the chance to see her daughter dressed up in traditional outfit. Yes, she saw pictures…but it wasn’t the same thing.
The flip side is that she usually has more disposable cash than I do…lol! Whilst I do have a source of income now, it is not as stable as when I was employed. With income dependent on when I get projects, and how well I can price my services, finances can be volatile and unstable. But my employed friends are not exposed to that volatility. Thankfully, I have a fantastic husband who has helped cushion me, so I’m not complaining.
Whatever the case, it is important to decide which option works best for you. If you choose to remain employed, try to work out some time in the day for your kids…and, of course, leave your weekends free! And if you decide to give it all up, to focus on your kids, be aware that there will be that period of financial instability, and try to think up ways to fill that gap.
Motherhood isn’t easy! May we be blessed with the grace and ability to be the best Mothers…whether we choose to be Stay-at-home or Career Moms!