So I thought it would be an awesome idea to have my girlfriend Angela guest post on AngryWorkingMom. You see, she is a former AWM who now stays home…talk about perspective!
Ok, this is the deal. I am an attorney by trade. Did the whole law school thing, passed the bar (yes, on the first try) and then worked as a criminal prosecutor for 11 years. For those who are unsure, that means I put away bad guys for a living - though I use the words "for a living" lightly. When I told one of my friends how much I made annually after being in the same office for over 10 years, she was appalled. No, not triple figures; in fact, not even close, my friends. Don't get me wrong, I really did love my job. That's why I did it for so long. I felt valued. Also, I really truly liked all of the people in my office, which is certainly not something that everyone can say. But then, I quit. You might be a bit baffled by that statement after I just told you I loved my job and liked the people I worked with. So, why did I quit?
I NEVER, EVER envisioned myself as a stay-at-home mom. In fact, I hate to admit it now, but I really sort of looked at stay-at-home moms with scorn and pity. I would see them dropping their kids off at daycare in their little workout outfits or tennis skirts and think how sad and pathetic that was and how much better I am in my suit going to work to save the world.
Acquaintances, who were stay-at-home moms, would mention how busy their day was as we chit chat after dinner in the yard while our kids played: first they walked the dog, went to the tanning salon, had their nails done, picked up some groceries and then their child got off the bus. I thought to myself, "Oh really, well I got up at 5:00 am, worked out, spent the day in court to put a child molester in prison for life, picked up my kids at 5:59, got groceries, made dinner, folded a load of laundry, bathed and read to my kids and put them to bed. Then I did another 2 hours of work on my files. So take that stay-at-home mom." Of course, I never uttered those words to those acquaintances (notice that I don't say friends - I didn't have time for friends 'cause I was a working mom) but just gritted my teeth and shook my head in disdain at her lack of goals.
To explain, I ran into my 1st grade teacher a few years ago, and she told me that I was the most competitive kid she had in her class in over 20 years of teaching. I have always been that way. I have to be the best at whatever it is I am doing. And I feel like I have managed to do that pretty well through college and into my career. I was good at my job, I mean really good at it. So, you can imagine how hard it was for me to quit, right? It was the hardest decision of my life. It took me two years to actually pull the trigger to do it.
For the first 5 years of my oldest son's life, I didn't feel the guilt nearly as much. I was a career woman, for pete's sake, with a very important job. I knew he was in a great preschool and figured he had a great time playing with friends all day. What could be better, right? At least, that's how I justified it to myself maybe. Of course, I was dropping him and our younger son (3 years younger) off at 7:30 every morning and I was always the crummy mom running in the door at 5:59 to pick them up. And, of course, they were usually the only 2 left there sitting at the front door with the school director. That's always a nice fuzzy feeling. (FYI: the school closed at 6:00 and you would get docked $5 for every minute past that.)
But that's not what made me quit. It was my oldest son's kindergarten year that pushed me over the edge. When your kindergarten child asks you for about the 5th time, "Mommy, why don't you ever get to go on field trips with my class," it kind of gets to you. I didn't have the kind of job that I could take a long lunch and go on a field trip or help with the class Valentine's Day party. I was in the courtroom and wasn't in control of my own time. If court was in session, I had to be there. So, after missing the Zoo field trip, the class Halloween party, the class Christmas party, the Firehouse field trip, and the end-of-the year Field Day, I realized I was missing out on way too much of my kids' lives.
My career was SOOO important to me and my identity because of the competitive person that I was, but I began to realize that I was going to look back in a few years and my kids would be in intermediate or middle school and I would have missed all those little class parties and field trips and I could NEVER EVER get them back. Selfishly, I wanted to keep my important and challenging job, but knew that the right thing, the selfless thing, to do was to quit and stay at home with my kids. It still makes me shudder just a little bit to say those words, even though it's been exactly 3 years since I made the momentous decision.
People ask me all the time if I miss my job. Honestly, yes I do. I miss the challenge and the adult interaction and the feeling of accomplishment. And although it was meager as a state employee, I also miss the paycheck. But, do I regret the decision? Not for a minute. I now am confident that I did the right thing for me and especially for my kids. I am home when they get off the bus in the afternoons. I have time to help them with their homework. I can always go back to work if I want to when they get older, but I can never get these years back with them.
I know that it's not for everybody and that not everyone has the luxury of being able to quit their job for financial reasons. But in hindsight, it was the best thing I have ever done for my kids. And me!