Eighteen years ago I went into my boss’s office, armed with the advice of several articles on how-to-leave-your-job-for-motherhood, and I told him that I would not be coming back to work after I had my baby.
Then I did what every article strongly advised me not to do, I broke down and cried.
I couldn’t help myself. The tears just streamed down my face despite my best efforts to handle myself professionally and allow my boss to know that I was confident in my decision but wanted to leave the door open if I should decide to re-enter the paid workforce.
Truth is, I wasn’t sure. Was I making a huge mistake?
I liked my job as an assistant to a venture capitalist. I liked interacting with my coworkers, and I liked making my own money. I wasn’t sure what kind of stay-at-home-mom I would be. I had always assumed I would work a few days a week and stay home a few days a week. It was an arrangement I knew I could have with my current job. I didn’t have to choose between the two.
But after four miscarriages in a little more than a year, I knew that this baby was special. I wanted to savor every minute I could with my soon-to-be-born son. And I was grateful that my husband and I were in a position to make the choice for me to stay home full time.
Mike smiled and told me that though he would miss me, he knew I was making the right choice for me and my family.
When my gorgeous, perfect son was about four weeks old, I stood in the beautiful nursery that I spent months obsessing over and sobbed uncontrollably. I told Joe that I had made a horrible mistake. I was not cut out for this full time motherhood gig. I should never have quit my job. My poor son was cursed with the worst mother known to mankind. Perhaps I should call Mike and tell him I want my job back. I had spoken with a friend from work that day, I knew they hadn’t hired anyone yet. It could work.
I missed my dry-clean-only suits and my makeup. I craved having an adult conversation that didn’t revolve around how often the baby nursed and how many diapers I changed. Who was I now? And how the heck do I set up the brand new stroller my sisters gave me?
Joe told me that if I really wanted to go back to work, he was sure we could work something out. I guess just knowing I had the option made me feel better because I never did go back to my job. But I did figure out how to set up the stroller.
The days slowly got better. I eventually met a circle of mom friends. And I fell in love with my son and with being known as Tom’s mom.
For the last 17 years and 9 months, that is what I have happily been. Tom’s mother. I have put him to sleep, kissed boo-boos, read countless stories to him, and helped him adjust to becoming a big brother — not once, but twice.
I stayed up nights wondering how I was going to help him with his dyslexia and have cried knowing how much harder he had to work for the same results that other kids took for granted. I watched him stand up to the administration when they first told him that because of his dyslexia he wouldn’t be able to take Spanish in the 8th grade, and I watched him prove them wrong when he got the highest grade in the class.
Now he is a senior in high school. He is driving, deciding on what college to go to, and picking out his picture for the yearbook. I’m thrilled at how well Tom is doing and so proud of the man he is becoming. He still needs me but not nearly as much as he once did. And not in the same way.
The last few weeks as I have been signing school forms for my kids, I have been totally conscious of the fact that I won’t have to sign too many more forms for Tom. My role in his life, though still very important, is changing.
True to form, I have been reading every article and book there is on parenting a young adult. Just like I did when I was preparing to have him, I’m doing my best to prepare myself for this new adventure. Yet I can’t help but feel a little like the woman who cried in her boss’s office because she wasn’t sure what her new life would look like and if she was ready.