A couple of weekends ago, I had what you might call a “full circle” moment. Chris and I were attending a fundraiser for our daughter’s school, having a grand old time. During the dinner and the live auction, I found myself seated next to a very nice guy, about Chris’s age, who turned out to be the CFO of the last company I did consulting work for (yes, I know I just ended my sentence with a preposition…I never said I was Shakespeare, people.) When he told me his title and what he did, my mouth sort of did one of those goldfish things: open…snap close…open…snap close. I was just about to blurt out, “Oh, I did some work there!” but then I shut my mouth tight and thought to myself, “Why would I tell him this? If I did, then he might expect me to converse intelligently about his company or the greater healthcare market in general. Can I do that? Uh, no. Shut your pie hole, Einstein.”
So no, I did not tell him that I held a Master’s in Healthcare Administration and that I once spent 6 months of my life helping his company redesign their online physician portal (oh my gosh, I think I just fell asleep a little while writing that—- could my life have been any more boring back then?). Instead, I took an avid and keen interest in the items he was bidding on and charmed him and his very sweet pregnant wife with my own (mis)adventures as a stay at home mom. Or at least I think I was charming….2 vodka tonics and 3 glasses of mediocre chardonnay will do that to a girl.
The next morning, as I was popping Advils and wishing desperately for a double bacon cheeseburger with a side of chili cheese fries and that my children came with a “mute” button, I replayed the events from the previous night. Here I had come face to face with my past and realized that I had almost nothing in common with who I used to be. And it left me wondering: at what point do I let go of who I was and just embrace who I am today, without any qualifications, explanations, or need for validation? I mean, my last job was 7 years ago and I graduated from business school 14(!) years ago. Am I like the high school football player who tries to hang on to his glory days by wearing his old letter jacket all over town? Or, the college nerd who “casually” mentions their SAT scores every 12 minutes during a conversation? I mean, really, just let it go!
I am a stay at home mom. Saying those words, depending on the context or audience or even my mood, can be a great thing or a not so great thing. When I meet strangers, sometimes I feel like I need to pipe up and prove to them that I used to be something more. Or, as Sarah begins to ask why I don’t work, I find myself justifying my present life with my past:
Mommy went to school for a really, really long time and I used to work in an office just like Daddy. I made my own money and was completely self-sufficient and would still be so today if I hadn’t, by my own free will and volition, CHOSEN to be a stay at home mom. Mommy did super good on all her 360 reviews, got above average pay increases on an annual basis, and guess what Mommy scored on her SATs?
The rational side of me knows that this is all ridiculous. I know people are not judging me, and that rather, it’s me who is judging and measuring myself to who I used to be and wondering if this going to be enough. Yes, it is today but will it be 10 years from now when Sarah is 16 and Katie is 12? Because if that evening’s conversation taught me anything else, it’s that I will never be able to go back to my old job again. First of all, who would hire me? And secondly, even if they did, my list of demands would turn off any would-be employer willing to throw me a bone. I’d want it to be part time and be home in time to meet the school bus. And summers off please as well as Christmas breaks, spring breaks, and any other holiday that bankers, postal workers, and school children get off with some cushion for sick days and doctors’ appointments. And absolutely no traveling. And a really good parking spot. And I can’t start at entry level because I really don’t want to be that creepy old person who no one wants to invite to happy hour. Oh- and I’d want to be paid at least 6 figures. I might as well ask for a pink glitter unicorn that farts Chanel No. 5 because like the job I’ve just described, it only exists in la-la land.
So all this babbling is to say, I am a stay at home mom and that’s what I probably will be for the rest of my life. I am going to own it without any need for affirmation from myself or others or by hanging on to what I once was. And if my days are spent coloring and playing with play dough on a regular basis, or if I do absolutely nothing more productive than blow bubbles to make my girls laugh, so be it. Even with the long days and the low pay, it’s still the best job I’ve ever had.