Dear Sara and Kelly,
Look! A letter to both of you…probably a first of many. I’m about to tell you a story that you won’t find the least bit interesting until you have children of your own. But for my life, what I just did constitutes the hardest decision I have ever made: I left my career. A career that has provided me with a real purpose and sense of accomplishment. To many, this decision was a no-brainer. I waited for an eternity to have you and Daddy in my life. When it became apparent you needed me during the hours I was previously giving to a company I can never mention in a blog due to said company’s policy…it was a slam dunk decision to give that time to you. If only it were that simple…
Because there was a time in a my life when there wasn’t you. There was just me and the aforementioned “company”. And we had quite a good thing going. What ding-dong leaves a job she loves, filled with people she truly respects, doing work she finds exceptionally meaningful, for a salary she finds more than fair? Oh, and in case I forgot to mention, a job she negotiated down to part time when Sara was born. To the world at-large, I had what one would call perfect balance. Therein lies the problem…”perfect” is an illusion one can sustain for only short periods of time. Perfect, like everything else in life…changes.
So Kelly, you were born. And that which was previously balanced, slid right off the scale, down a slippery slope, all the while skidding through mud, getting scratched on small rocks, and landing like a thud at the base of the hill, leaving me covered in guck, screaming out loud, “WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?!” Translation: the laundry piled up, I stopped ironing all together, everyone got sick at once and stayed that way, bathrooms became impassable, dinners stopped magically appearing on the table, and a once content Mommy lost her blessed mind. Something had to give. Your Daddy and I made an agreement many years ago that if something had to give when you two came along…it would be my career. So there you have it. I don’t back out on deals. And I don’t suck at a job I love. Amen.
Kelly, I don’t want you to think you are the reason I had to make this call that has nearly broken my heart. Because in so breaking my heart, I have lost some misguided ego and found a genuine piece of who I want to become. I have let this decision bounce around inside my head like a pinball machine for 4 straight months. I have prayed, made pro-con lists, talked to every friend I have, prayed some more, cried, sulked, celebrated, and ultimately, found my peace. I’ve always said that I could have it all, just not at the same time. I can clearly hear God telling me he needs me to do something else. I am needed right here. Right now. Not later. Not when the next project is launched. Not when the next award is achieved. I’m selfish…I’d love to do ALL these things. But to what end? I’m not going to ask you to sacrifice your tiny hearts and precious days for me. You’ll have to care for me when I’m old and even crazier than I am now, and that will be payback enough.
Some day when you’re older, I’ll tell you the stories of my career journey. The brilliant job that took me all over the world. I’ll tell you of the years I called the Atlanta airport, “My Mall”. I’ll tell you of how I finally grew up (a little bit). Of how I learned so very much from people who truly care about patients. I will tell you of what it meant to me and how it shaped who I am today. I will tell you funny stories, and frustrating stories, and long tales of Corporate America. I’m not someone who hated her job; who looked forward anxiously to the day she could leave. There is much I will miss. I have always liked working. I have to laugh, because I have found working at home to be the hardest job I’ve ever had! I’m not yet certain I want to work THIS HARD!
I am looking forward to what our future holds. I don’t know what it will look like. Knowing me, I’ll have it plotted out on a chart with a critical path in no time. Your Daddy will then translate that onto a spreadsheet with pivot tables. What I do know is that the four of us will be there, and that constitutes my entire list of favorite things. When I finally made the decision, very suddenly and almost magically, there was room to breath in this house again. And without any additional effort, this “sacrifice” became a gift for me. A chance to explore the possibility that my future could be boldly different and centered on this family, which anyone will tell you, clearly became my entire life on August 15, 2005.
There is only one piece of this pie that eats at me: Someday you two may want to have children. And you’ll come to me and ask, “But Mom…how do we balance careers and family?” I absolutely will not have an answer. There is no ONE answer. There is no perfect solution. Every family is different. You have to find your groove and go with it. You have to be open to the idea that what you do now won’t be what you do ten years from now. You may have to change old patterns that once felt as comfortable as your favorite shirt. You may have to say goodbye to places that feel like home. You will do these things because above all, family is king. Family is all there is. Making that work is the only true happiness you will ever find on this earth. All other roads lead to lonely. I know, because I’ve walked them; I’ve built houses on them. And watched it all go up in smoke when I bet on the wrong hand.
I will say this to you both: there is no law that states you must have children. I want you to have children so that I can cuddle babies I love AND get to sleep at night. But listen here my little tornadoes, if you have children, you had better damned well plan on raising them. It’s not your right to have kids. They require true sacrifice and commitment. Each human gets 24 hours in a day. Do the math first. Or let your Daddy do the math, because his is….what is that word? Oh yes, ACCURATE.
So now it’s time for me to get out of my way and let us all become who we were meant to be. But just as a side note, should you feel like thanking me in your Valedictorian speeches when you both graduate summa cum laude from MIT…I’m not going to complain. And in case I forget to tell you…it’s an honor to be chosen as your Mommy. Other titles may have included more hot dinners at fancy restaurants, but they truly paled in comparison. I feel like the Velveteen Rabbit. Your love has made me real.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you,