In July 2012, I quit my job. It wasn’t a snap decision; my husband and I had been talking about the future and houses and babies and where we wanted to live for quite some time. I knew I was getting older. I knew my husband’s current position was unstable, at best, and I knew I was no longer happy with my life the way it was. Looking back on it, I know I quit my job to be a mom. What I didn't know, however, was that I'd regret that decision deeply. I can’t say my place of employment was the problem or even that it was the position, but being a glorified paper pusher/data cruncher at the time certainly wasn’t where my heart was, nor was my heart in Philadelphia at all. I was tired of the city, of the state, of accepting the status quo, and of my position in my own life. It was time for a new beginning. So after submitting just two or three resumes and going on a round of lightning quick interviews, my husband got a new job and we found ourselves apartment hunting in New York.
It took me six short weeks to regret my decision. I didn’t regret the move at all and I was enjoying my first New York summer — I spent my afternoons on Sixth Avenue and my evenings in Coney Island — but I missed working. I missed the consistent schedule, the consistent income, and the constant, and consistent, conversations. I hated being a "dependent" on my partner and his paycheck. I hated being a financial burden. And I hated feeling like a failure: I was applying for job after freakin’ job but interviews were scarce, and even when I got them, the job offers never came.
Ironically, I wasn’t pregnant yet; hell, we weren’t even trying. But that’s because we couldn’t and because I wouldn’t. If I am honest, the truth is that I quit my job to get pregnant. I never said so — at least not out loud — but it was in the back of my head when I encouraged my husband to apply for positions out of state. When I sent him links to New York job listings, which would put us closer to our family, to my mother and his; when I told him we should follow his dreams because my job as an office manager could be done anywhere, it was because I thought quitting my job would be the only way I'd consider getting pregnant.
After months without a job, I told my husband what I was thinking: "Why don’t we start trying for a child?"
I was afraid of giving up my identity for motherhood. I was afraid I would be a “bad mom" if I worked and left my baby behind at home or with childcare. And I knew my company at the time didn't offer maternity leave. I also knew we couldn’t afford to lose my salary. Quitting my job, I figured, could be the catalyst I needed to start trying. It'd be our chance to make do while making less, and since my husband's new salary would be exponentially more than his old one, I was fortunate enough to be able to quit my job without putting our livelihood at risk. Even if I didn't work, we'd both be OK, with or without a child.
So we put a plan in place. My husband and I shaped our entire move around his income: what we could afford, what we couldn't. Armed with that information, we chose an apartment, agreed to stop using our credit cards (ha!), and planned to "tighten our belts," at least for the time being. But after months without a job, I told my husband what I was thinking: "Why don’t we start trying for a child?"
I was home already, and me being pregnant didn't exactly mean we'd be losing money. I figured, what was the worst that could happen? Within weeks, I was pregnant. We moved in July and I heard her heartbeat for the first time in November. And by Christmas, I was once again struggling with my identity. If I stayed at home, on unemployment or living off my husband’s salary, I was no longer me, no longer Kim, no longer an independent woman, no longer the woman I wanted to be. Instead I felt like I was slowly become everything I didn’t want to be, and that idea made me feel like crap. So I kept looking for work, hiding my growing stomach beneath billowing tops. I took small jobs when and where I could: I signed up to be a resume writer, I tried in vain to publish a handful for creative nonfiction pieces, and I even became a hand model for medical-training videos for a time.
I miss working with wonderful and inspiring people, people from all different backgrounds and all walks of life. I miss water-cooler conversations and coffee breaks. I miss going to the bathroom alone, being able to focus on one task for more than five minutes, troubleshooting and problem-solving and confronting truly difficult tasks. More than anything, I miss knowing that I'm good at something.
I never did find consistent work before giving birth. Instead, I actually landed right back where I started: working in Philadelphia. When the replacement at my old job needed to be replaced, I stepped back in temporarily to help my boss and, to be honest, to help myself. The commute was horrid: I left at 5 a.m. every Monday and returned home around 10 p.m. every Tuesday, but I took the job because because I missed working that much.
Fast forward a few months later, and I still work from home now. I write for online websites about being a mother and a woman and about mental health, and I'm lucky enough to be able to do it from the comfort of my home. Of course there are days I still miss the office life even though I don’t miss conducting inventories, ordering supplies, analyzing quarterly sales trends, and the gossip. But I do miss the routine. I miss working with wonderful and inspiring people, people from all different backgrounds and all walks of life. I miss water-cooler conversations and coffee breaks. I miss going to the bathroom alone, being able to focus on one task for more than five minutes, troubleshooting and problem-solving and confronting truly difficult tasks. More than anything, I miss knowing that I'm good at something.
I honestly felt like had no other choice: The only way my husband and I could start a family was if my husband and I could start over again.
Don't get me wrong, I currently work with some amazing women. They thank me for a hard-day's work and I still get notes and emails that say "great job," or "this piece is fantastic," from editors and friends, but the praise ends when I sign off. When nap time is over, I go from writer and back to mom. My daughter, bless her, doesn't say thank you when I get up at 5:30 a.m. to make breakfast or watch Sofia. I get no reward for calmly navigating through a 30-minute tantrum. Motherhood comes with so many expectations, but rarely any recognition.
My biggest regret isn’t quitting my job — it's why I quit my job. Even though it was choice to leave, I still quit my job because I felt like I had to. My employer offered no maternity leave, no FMLA leave, and no PTO. In my mind, I honestly felt like had no other choice: The only way my husband and I could start a family was if my husband and I could start over again. If he could make enough to support us both, we could start a family. I hated that money had such control on me, and I hated that I felt I had to choose between Mom Me and Career Me. I regret quitting out of fear that if I had gotten pregnant while I was still employed full-time, we would've struggled. I regret quitting because of my lack of choice. I hated feeling as though it had to be one or the other, as though I had to chose what mattered more: my career or motherhood. But I know I'm not alone.
In the end, I can't say that I fully regret my decision to quit my job — at least not completely. I mean, I have a beautiful, smart, strong, and sassy little girl... how could I regret a decision that lead to her? But I do regret why I did it and when I did it. I regret that I let money and maternity leave (or lack there of) become such obstacles in my life. I love my baby and I love my career. I shouldn't have felt like I had to choose.