At the same time, I've been eating up the free time I've had to nurture another side of myself ~ the side that enjoys actually knowing my daughter and seeing her more than 45 minutes a day (on a good day)....the side that takes such pleasure and pride in my garden....the side that has discovered I really do have a creative side and I enjoy letting it out....the side that has more meaningful relationships because I have time to nurture them....the side that doesn't feel much stress at all and has a more leisurely and peaceful life....the side that can sleep peacefully without any *ahem* assistance from sleeping pills (a constant source of embarrassment that always left me feeling a sense of failure). I don't miss the stress AT ALL, not for one moment. I don't miss my commute. I don't miss the political BS that exists in every company. I don't miss the unfair treatment that I would receive from time to time because I worked in a more male-dominated industry.
I could go on and on and on and on and on about this subject for days....weighing both sides and mulling it over. It's mentally exhausting.
Anyway, the reason I'm bringing all this up is because I had a "work meeting" today. A former colleague resigned from our former employer to branch out and attempt to start up a new business. Earlier this year she asked me to be her partner but I eventually declined once I discovered I was pregnant. We meet up every six weeks or so and she updates me on her progress. This time she asked me to meet a gentleman that she's been working with....someone who might potentially create the technology platform for the new business...she desperately wanted my feedback and opinion. I can honestly say that my first inclination was to say NO THANK YOU. I didn't want to put on my business hat....have a technology discussion for an hour or more (zzzz!)....have to discuss my background and explain why I'm not currently working, etc. I could go on. These days I'm also not "groomed" for business.....I don't get my nails done weekly anymore....I certainly don't have business-appropriate maternity wear....my hair coloring is a little overdue. I guess you could say that I was feeling insecure and not at all prepared for this type of meeting. Yet, I knew it was the right thing to do...even if it was just being a good friend to my former colleague. It's also rare these days for anyone to ask for my feedback and opinions about anything. So I sucked it all up and I went.
I'm so glad I did. Despite all of the above, it was very much like riding a bike. It didn't take long for those insecurities to melt and sink down into the floorboards. I became very involved in the conversation and actually interested. I found myself excited to discuss my work background because it is quite diverse and, honestly, I think I have great experience. I'm proud of what I've accomplished and I know it shows through. I didn't have any other choice but to stand up and be proud about my decision to leave work and spend some time taking care of my family. In this case, it was very well received by this new party. This man just happens to be a huge family man and was supportive and understanding.
To my surprise and delight, he started asking very pointed questions about when I might be interested in returning to work and was obviously trying to measure my level of interest. When I once said, "I'm just hoping one more year or so of being out of work doesn't kill my entire career" he replied, "Oh Audrey, I'm definitely not worried about you". And it felt so good.
I don't really know how to make sense of these dilemmas and I honestly don't have many people to talk to who can truly understand. Most women I know (almost all, really) choose to stay home and they don't feel this constant pull and tug, the struggle to hang on tight to their ambition, the constant questioning of whether it's the right thing to do. I can't tell you how often I hear that, once the baby was born, there was just no question about leaving it in someone else's care....that so-and-so couldn't bear to leave the baby to go back to work. Well, I never felt that way. I left my daughter at day care without a second thought (I knew my daughter was well cared for!). People always, always, always assumed I went back to work because it was a financial necessity. Not true. I went back because I loved it and I needed it in my life. And how many times was I made to feel that there was something wrong with me because I felt that way and made that decision??? Countless times.
For me, it is ALWAYS in my head. Days like today don't actually help matters all that much. In a way, it only served to make me more confused about which direction I should head in. At the same time, I have to take delight in knowing that, for the moment, I'd still have no problem getting back in and moving forward. Whether I actually decide to or not still remains to be seen. Stay tuned. One day I'm guessing (and hoping) the answers will just come to me.