Shedding a Layer: A Period of Transition

This post is a long time in the making, but it’s not something I could really discuss until now – until after the new year, until my transition into full time stay at home mom was complete.  And now that this time is here, I can say the period leading up to this moment has been very charged, very loaded, and very different than I ever expected.  But this is not about the transition into motherhood, or about being a “working mom.”  Those are transitions I made the moment I gave birth to my babies.  This is about the transition out of the workforce and into the home.  It’s a transition that many make, and many don’t; a transition that is most definitely a 21st century issue; a transition that brings up many feelings about adequacy, expectation, and all the facets of every modern day social construct. 

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The Jenn Feldman Designs Dream Team, 2017

Until I had kids, my life, like that of many young adults, was about work, relationships (and marriage), and as much “me time” as I wanted or needed.  I had spent my entire life working towards whatever it was that would bring me joy, happiness and a feeling of success in defining my life as an independent and self-sufficient woman.  What career or job or passion would I follow, and what did I need to do to get where I wanted to go?  Regardless of what I was doing at any given time, there was always a grind, always a chase, always a goal and always a dream.  There was always the identity of being a working woman, gaining independence, finding my path to a professional future, and realizing my self-worth among both my peers and my mentors.  And then, for the past 4.5 years, I had the privilege of working for, and growing with, a small, female run Interior Design company – I loved the work, I loved the people, and as far as jobs and bosses go, I definitely hit the jackpot.  Once I started, I had no intention of leaving, and I was looking toward a fruitful future of growth with this incredible team.  But after my first baby was born two years in, I felt my priorities change in a way that was

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snuggles with my son, 2015

unavoidable and irreversible.  My son took me out of the workplace one month before he was born and for three months after, though it’s safe to say my headspace had found its exit half way through my pregnancy.  While I knew I would return, I also knew I would return a changed woman, and what that looked like, I did not yet know.  Fast forward two more years: I was headed out for my second maternity leave, and I suddenly began to realize that my work life was a constant up and down of pregnancy, leave and a period of readjustment into this work/life balance with a new infant.  Needless to say, my focuses felt stretched in every direction, especially once I felt this “rebirth” (so to speak) into motherhood when my daughter was born.

I know this is no original story – and it is surely something that many (if not most) working women experience when taking on the identity of mother.  And the truth is, readjusting one’s life to fit mom life and work life is something that simply happens when it needs to – it’s a constant juggle that may never have a perfect balance, but it’s

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office time with my second, 2017

one that does get easier with time.  Admittedly, there was a big part of me, before my daughter was born, that enjoyed the “escape” that office life gave me, as it allowed me time with other adults, doing something I love, and it ultimately gave me a break from my increasingly defiant and challenging toddler at home.  But once my daughter was born, I had a new understanding of just how fast the time goes, and suddenly all that “escape” time looked like a series of precious moments lost that I would never get back.  So upon my return to work at the end of my second leave, my husband and I made a plan for my work life exit at the end of the year, so to allow me to stay dedicated to our two young babes during this pivotal time in all of our lives.  So we put this plan in motion, and I had my sights set on December 2017 being my final month as a mom working outside the home.   This is something I’ve wanted for a long time, something I dreamed about when my first was born, and something my husband and I have discussed in hopeful hypotheticals ever since. However, once we made the decision to make the leap, I was at once overjoyed and overcome with feelings of fear and anxiety for what the next chapter of our lives would entail…

During this period of transition (or the period leading up to the transition), what I found to be the most difficult challenge was shedding the layer of my “working woman” identity, because I’ve known that self far longer than I’ve known my “mother” self.  On a personal note, it was very bittersweet to say goodbye to such a wonderful, loving and supportive work environment.  But on a larger scale, I suddenly felt I was letting go of many things that always made me who I was, simply because that’s what I had always known.  Of course, the idea of transitioning from a dual to single income household is scary, but my fears and anxieties weren’t really about the money.  At the end of the day, we wouldn’t have made this move if we really couldn’t make it work… after all, we have two babies who need us to be responsible for them.  Yet, while it wasn’t about the money, the idea of letting go of my financial independence and contribution to my household was still *slightly* devastating.  There is something so ingrained in us as modern women to work, and produce and contribute in ways equal to or greater than our male counterparts, and when faced with the reality of giving up this part of my life and our partnership, I started to feel like I was letting go of something intrinsically essential to my independent female identity.  And that was a very hard pill to swallow. But I’ll tell you what – I am now two weeks in to my new reality, and there is no part of me that is looking back. 

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I am still very much in a period of transition – there is a lot we are all adjusting to in our new daily routines, and our new expectations of each other (as well as my own expectations of myself).  I know it will be far from easy – I have already wanted to put in my notice more than once.  And in many ways, I feel like I’m learning to be a mother (again) for the first time.  My world has truly been turned upside down, and this is undeniably the hardest job I will probably ever have.  Yet there is nothing in this entire world that I would rather be doing that what I’m doing right now.  I might want to tear my hair out several times a day, and I might want to cry a few more times than that.  And from a moment to moment glance, this job could look (or feel) like Heaven or Hell, depending on the angle.  Yet with all of that, this still feels incredibly natural, necessary and right for my life, right now, to take on this beautiful role of full-time mother.  And as I take on a new kind of daily grind, I know I’m also stepping into a job that has arguably the most gratifying returns.  I’ll be here to catch the small moments and witness the milestones.  I’ll be the one teaching our kids the core values of our family.  I’ll be the one watching them grow everyday, and it won’t be limited to weekends or rushed, post-work weeknights.  When I finally get to put up my feet and close my eyes at the end of the day, and when the weight of my exhaustion takes over my body and my mind, I know so deeply that there is no place I would rather be spending my energies.  If I’m going to be working hard at something, I’d rather be working hard for my kids and my family, than to come home at the end of the day too spent from working hard somewhere else.

I know people who have been home with their kids from day one.  I know people who have already had this journey and are on the other side, working outside the home once again.  I know people who don’t want this lifestyle, and I know people who envy the position I’m in.  There is no right answer, and I know there is always a “greener” outlook from every parent’s perspective.  I’ve heard it all, read it all, and I suppose one day I’ll probably say I’ve experienced it all.  I’m also pretty sure “stay at home” mom life is not my forever path.  I still have dreams and goals and passions that I still have every intention of exploring and pursuing in some capacity, and I know I must not lose sight of the things beyond my kids that bring me joy and fulfillment.  But I am also working on staying present – and there is nothing better than the humbling experience of mothering two young children to remind me of my ever-present and most important priorities to date.   And “letting go” of that extra layer has been the best first step in helping me realize that my best role as mother is inside the home with my kids.  Let new adventures begin…

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