Update: I posted the below article sometime ago, since then of course, I have better answers to my doubts. I’ll update you on those in the next post.
I’ve been working since I was 19 years old. It’s not like I was a teenager aching to work. In fact, it was quite a shock to me and maybe my family too, when I did take up my first job. But from being a very sheltered teenager, I had moved to America where everyone works. It was a matter of independence and prestige. You need to work if you want to have any clout in conversations and be considered a contributing member of society. And honestly, it was a great feeling. My first ever job was that of an English instructor at my university’s ESL centre (English as a Second Language). I was thrilled to get the job. But nothing could match the paycheck you received at the end of the week. What a rush! Suddenly, you had an ‘income’. The feeling was surreal. And I must admit made me feel like I could conquer the world now. I was being paid for a skill, a talent.
This first job sent me on a path I’ve been on since then. I discovered I would never feel comfortable sitting at home, not having a place I called my ‘workplace’ and no income. I never even thought I would have to consider this as a lifestyle choice for myself.
Since the first job, I moved to doing 2 jobs and then 3. You can’t match the stamina you have as a 20 year old, I have later realised. But it was thrilling. Why hold back when you can do it all at once? I was juggling 15 credit classes at school, my work, a very erratic and busy social life as well as yoga. It was thrilling, exhausting and I miss it till today. The exhaustion felt great. You felt like your day was packed with so many ups and downs, not a moment to stand still and mull on the unnecessary. I really enjoyed my college years for this reason. And then of course having a disposable income meant we could go to more concerts, more road trips, drive a nicer car, buy clothes on a whim and be considered the big ‘I’ word; INDEPENDENT. That word itself can create so much respect for you within your family and peers and you ride on the thrill of being ‘admired’.
Then real life came about and I was offered my first job post-graduation. A solid 9-6 job in advertising, with great colleagues. Of course, life stabilised a bit, it wasn’t necessary to kill yourself working 90 hour weeks and I eased into the life of being a career woman. Proudly touting myself as an ad woman, working a good job and exploring my talent.
And then life got a little more crazy. I moved back to Pakistan and took on another job in advertising. Crazy hours, tears, laughter, sleep deprivation, meeting the coolest people, having ‘no social life’ yet stepping out every night. Years passed by and my reputation as career woman became set in stone, at least in my own eyes. It became my identity. If someone was to ask me, ‘who are you?’ (which no one ever does I’ve realised), I would have promptly replied, ‘I’m an independent woman, with a burgeoning career.’ I would have raised my nose a tad bit to the skies and walked off, my back straight with pride.
But life usually has other plans doesn’t it? End of last year, I got pregnant. And over time, my priorities began to shift. I felt torn between allowing my life’s course to keep going as it always had and making drastic choices to accommodate this little person, someone I am so excited to meet and spend time with. Could it be that I was changing as a person? Or was I just growing?
I felt a serious conflict within me. Whenever I would meet my friends who were committed to working, even with a child, I would find myself making excuses for the decision I wanted to take, which was to step out of the career rat race for a bit. I would stutter, shutting down about my opinions and just smile and nod, acting like I was going to continue working. But then I would meet people who like me had chosen to step back for a few months or years to figure out their bearings and understand their new role. And suddenly I would express my honest opinions, stating boldly that I was ready to take the plunge. To be honest, I felt myself acting quite bipolar. One minute I was sure of my decision, next minute I was a blubbering idiot. And my husband always says one thing which resonated with me a lot during the days leading up to the ‘big decision’. He always says ‘If you make a decision, then stick with it.’ So I knew, beyond just the basic checkpoints I had on my list, I needed to follow my gut. Maybe that meant going against the identity I had built over the past 13 years, but it couldn’t be ignored. Especially when the one person leaning on you to make the correct decision would be unable to guide me, namely, my daughter.
So after days of flipping back and forth like Nemo, I decided it was time to take a stand. To make a decision that I knew would and hopefully will have more long term benefits than negatives. I decided to become a Stay At Home Mom (of SAHM for all the cool kids). I walked up to my boss and just told her how I felt. Did I feel lighter? Did I feel like I’ve made the right decision? Well I still have a little less than 3 months to go, but at this moment all I feel is scared. I feel like I’m suspending in limbo, because it’s a decision I had to take but I have yet to experience the benefits/repercussions of it.
And it’s not like I’ve made the decision and am happily living with my it. I meet people at every corner who question it, who ask me questions like ‘Are you sure? It’s not in your nature to sit at home? What will you do! Won’t you get bored? After all an idle mind is the playground of the devil right?’ I can’t say it doesn’t affect me. I can’t even say I have no second thoughts. All I can say is I did what my gut and my heart told me to do. I took the plunge. Is it scary? Absolutely! Is it correct? I have yet to find out, but I’ll keep you posted.