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