Sending it was harder

I used to be a real person, with a real job.

With my own beautiful office.  It was in the basement, but it had massive windows, and I could see the city walking by, and I never missed the first snowfall of the season, because the other person with whom I shared the floor would always come to my door to tell me, if I didn’t beat him to it.

I used to go to the gym at lunch and watch Law and Order while I panted on the treadmill.  I’d eat out and not think twice about how much it cost me; I had money to burn.  I used to track news sites like I now track my children.

I used to be interesting.

Of course things changed in late 2009 with the birth of my son — few instances rock a person’s world like going from being the most important person in your own life, to one of the least.  But if I had to pinpoint the biggest life-changer in recent memory it would be the second I hit send on my resignation letter to my boss, cementing my future as a stay-at-home/work-at-home parent.

With one click, I was unemployed.  Disconnected, out-of-the-loop.  I went from being the person who could look at a situation and see a dozen possibilities and dozen more pitfalls to someone whose days consisted largely of diaper changes, laundry and frustrating naps (his, not mine).  And also trips to the park and first words, baby music classes and a million other lovely things, but in that instant, my world contracted, and I became definitively in the employ of one person who was, yes, terribly cute but also a weak conversationalist.  I knew that going days without showering was no longer a phase but my new reality.

Writing that letter was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  Sending it was harder.


My resignation letter, August 2010:

Every time we engage with the media, there is a key message that we want to express, that we wish to be understood by the audience.  Though some discretion is to be expected, ideally that message is entirely truthful.  Telling the truth makes our jobs easier.  It’s also the best way to dispose of superfluous language, because when you shorten the distance between the audience and the truth there is no need for filler, for long-winded narratives that distract when the goal is to illuminate.

There are many such narratives I could share with you, and I’ve written them all, if only in my head.  About how I spent the first seven months struggling in an angry and inconsolable fog, so distanced from the joy of being a mother that I feel I am just now coming around to it.  About how we bought the tiny little rundown house in a scrappy little neighborhood instead of the spacious magazine-ready home in any other neighborhood, because we wanted options we knew we could never have if we were chained to a sizeable mortgage.  About how coming to parenthood later in life means that we have so few chances to share with our own parents all the delight, wonder and silliness that comes along with grandchildren, certainly more than we can impart a few weeks each year.

But the truth that shortcuts all of these stories is simply that I want to stay home with my son.  I wish I could claim that this desire was rooted in evidence that shows that there will be a net developmental benefit to Seve, but no such credible evidence exists (which is reassuring, because my heart shudders to think how such findings might play out in the hands of “family-focused” leadership), or that I wish to stay home because of some assuredness that I am the best possible provider of care (again, I’m waiting on some proof of this).

There is nothing noble about staying at home to care for your child, just as there is nothing enlightened about leaving your child in care to return to work.  I know that you know this; I’m not sure why I feel the need to say it.  I do know that no parenting decision I have faced thusfar has felt so fraught with implications and loaded with judgments.  Mostly I worry that people will think that I’m making some kind of sacrifice when, truth be told, there’s a lot of self-interest involved.  It’s not a decision I’ve made (exclusively) because he needs it, but because I want it.  What a blessed life I lead to be able to make that kind of choice.

I cannot begin to express, in this form, or any other, what a privilege it has been to work with you for the past eight (!) years.  It gives me a profound sense of contentment to know that your intelligence and insights are a respected part of the senior management team, because now every bistro, banquet hall and barbeque joint in the country can benefit from what you have been giving your own niche team for years.  Your gentle, enthusiastic support, giving us the space to explore our own strengths while nudging us toward necessary growth — those are things that not only meant the world to me as an employee, but now guide me as a mother, as I try to approach my next job with the same quiet confidence and humour you bring to the office every single day.

When J made a similar decision nearly two years ago, I told her that I would miss seeing her every day, and then I corrected myself, and said, “they haven’t invented the word to describe how much I will miss you.”  And now … to describe how much I will miss working with you would require more ink, more paper, more pixels than I can even imagine.  This note is just the first page.  I will miss you all every day until I’ve filled a library with my missings, or until I come back, whichever tragic conclusion befalls you first.

Thank you for everything; see you soon,

– Jeni

Written in response to WordPress’ Weekly Writing Challenge: In an Instagram

Comments

  1. Wow – best written resignation letter I’ve ever seen. Guess had I had the chance, mine would have been shorter – but I kept getting packaged out – 4 in a row over 20 years. (There are definite pluses to them writing the ‘FOD’ (eff off & die) letters. They come with money.) It wasn’t until this last package that I decided to take the self-employment plunge. Kids were in their teens, we were financially stable and I really didn’t want to dive back into ‘same sh*$, different pile’. I still have the odd day where I wonder if I went mad – it would be so easy to go back to the ‘9 to 5′ with benefits and ‘real people’ contact instead of the psycho puppy. But I have the flexibility to do more with the kids now and set my own schedule, and walk the dogs, and play with the cats or go out for a random photo shoot. Wouldn’t change it! – Suzan -

    • I had the extraordinary privilege of working with a fantastic team: much of the independence of self-employment, with a sensible amount of accountability (and benefits!).

      But I don’t regret staying home. My earning potential has been negatively affected, absolutely. Still, I have many years left to write press releases, fewer to revisit childhood.

  2. It’s so wonderful to be able to make that choice, rather than be forced into as I was (my job was downsized to an on call position at the end of June. No unemployment, severance, nothing. While I enjoy the time with my daughter, the unstructured time and the lack of money is definitely taking its toll on me. It’s not that I don’t try to make a schedule, nothing seems to go as planned.

    Your letter was so well written and enjoyable to read-very few people would take the time to write such an eloquent letter, Thanks for sharing!

    • Absolutely. Through the miracle of the internet, I know so many mothers — and for every one of them who finds themselves involuntarily unemployed, there is another who is involuntarily forced back to work.

      In Ontario, we have access to a full year of job-protected parental leave (assuming you can afford it; you’re paid a fraction of your salary and your employer is not obliged to top it up — even here I know some moms who had to go back before the year was out).

      I don’t know what it’s like to have to go back to work when your child is only a few months old but I can’t imagine it’s easier than going back after a year. And I do know what it’s like to want to work and not be working — and that’s a whole pile of suckage all on its own, kids or no kids.

      • I just keep thinking that good stuff is going to happen. I think it will, it just takes time. However, if I hadn’t lost my job, I would have never started blogging and meeting so many wonderful and interesting new people like you! :-)

        • Likewise! I am very rarely worried that something won’t happen, but I worry constantly about the timing. Like I have more than an illusion of control where timing is concerned!

  3. All you can do is follow your heart, Women can have it all, but maybe not all at once.

  4. Beautifully stated as to why it is such an individual choice, with no right or wrong involved. It should not be a choice that is judged. ~ Kat

    • Thanks, Kat. Nothing noble about yelling at your kid for doing stuff kids do; nothing enlightened about cursing traffic because it means you’re going to be late for daycare pickup … again. If this is a contest, I declare no winners.

  5. At different times I was a stay at home mom and a working mom. There are benefits and liabilities to both – we win something and lose something. And our kids lose something and win something with either decision. I fight for the right to choose and wish that employers were less focused on profits and more focused on family health to there were more choices in between. I guess there is still a part of me that wants to believe that we (male or female) can have it all. It sounds like you made the right decision for you – which means that it is also the right decision for your child.

    • Thanks, Pat. Making the decision to stay at home came easily — it was making it “official” that took a long (long) time.

  6. You must have really loved your job. I, too, very much liked my “job”, more precisely, my internship at a NGO in Berlin, Germany, even though it wasn’t paid and my boss was a dork. I would have stayed longer, because I really liked writing about international politics and diplomacy.

    • I did love it; I love my new role, too. As a friend of mine said, “the days are long but the years are short.” Good for you for finding some joy in your job, despite your dorky boss!

  7. i think you made the right decision. your son would only be a child once and you wouldn’t miss that for the world.

    i fully understand why writing that resignation letter was hard, though. finding a good boss nowadays is extremely rare. most of them have been conditioned that their main goal in life is not to make their underlings happy but to make them do their assigned jobs faster, better, and cheaper.

    • Exactly. I’ve worked for worse, but never better. And I’m not just saying that because she sometimes reads this, haha.

  8. Great post! My son is 22 yrs. old…It took us 10 years to have him…I took a two year unpaid maternity leave to stay home with him. Then, when I went back to teaching and with my husband’s schedule of working nights…one of us was always with him! It was worth it, for sure!! He’s a great kid! Do what you need to do and yours will be too!

    • It definitely helps that I genuinely like hanging out with my kids. Can’t say that they’re any better “adjusted” — or whatever the qualitative metric is these days — but they’re fun and funny and decent, if messy, company.

      • I’ve always believed that raising a kid you like to be around is the best reward there is!

        And I always tell new Moms: As long as you know that once you have kids…ALL (& I mean ALL) you ever get done is to take care of them (& sometimes you don’t even get that done!).

        Then when they actually start having time for themselves again…they feel really blessed! Ha!!

  9. You’re still a real person! Maybe even more real in the end because of this time with your little one:)

    • Yeah, I was a being a tidge hyperbolic there, but there only a tidge. I’m certainly real to two small people. The sense of personal invisibility is, if I had to guess, an offshoot of that pernicious parental paradox: that the most important job you’ll ever have is also the least appreciated.

  10. I agonized over the decision too – I only wish that the letter that resulted from my weeks of to-ing and fro-ing was one tenth as eloquent. Our boss definitely deserved it.

  11. I choose to believe we go through phases in life and this will change eventually to yet another phase…

  12. I wish I had your courage. I’m pregnant with my first and am having an internal battle as to what it will mean for my professional future. The cost of daycare is INSANE but I’m not sure my husband and I could survive on one income. If and when my time comes to write one, I hope my resignation letter is as eloquent. Sounds like you had something special but it also sounds like you’ve given it up for something even more special.

    • I’m a bit of a number-cruncher by nature, but this was one of those rare decisions that can’t be easily (or fully) quantified. What’s it worth to be able to see your child take his or her first step? How valuable is it to have early socialization that isn’t as easily achieved at home? Questions I’m not able to answer, even now.

      I will say, whatever you decide, there will be (many) times when you regret it. Nature of the beast, I’m afraid.

Canada’s innocence died a long time ago. But we’re doing okay. We are okay.

Canada’s innocence died a long time ago. But we’re doing okay. We are okay.

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