Dear Career Katie,
When you graduated from college in 2001, you had goals and aspirations to conquer corporate America. You knew you wanted to make a high income, and you were driven to get there through hard work and determination. When you were 22, you started your first position in Sales and the rush of adrenaline was intense. Every single month, you had the opportunity to close loans and earn income. The amount of income you made was determined solely on your performance, and you loved that you were competing with yourself each and every month to earn more. You spent the bulk of your 20s working your way up to a senior level sales position. Each and every promotion felt like a huge accomplishment, and your paychecks felt like validation for your intelligence and self worth.
As you entered your 30s, you were in a comfortable position. Your employer trusted you so much that you were given the opportunity to do your job from home. Life became a lot less complicated as you were able to navigate your job every single day in your sweat pants. It was fun to be at home, and at times it was extremely lonely. When you were married, it became a little bit less exhilarating to be spending all of your time at work. However, you didn’t know how to be anything other than the woman that was trying to succeed. Everything you have accomplished in life, and your self worth was so intrinsically tied to your success in your career that the thought of leaving it was impossible.
When you were 34, you had a baby. Life got incredibly complex because not only were you a first time mom, but you had a baby that was very sick. The doctors told you that life was about to get a lot more complicated and busy. It didn’t feel impossible to you because achieving and succeeding was something you were use to. Each and every day you pushed yourself to be the best mom, wife and employee. There were days the feat itself felt absolutely impossible to even do one of them correctly. As you watched your child grow, you realized that everything around you was moving way too fast.
Each year you watched all of your Paid Time Off go to toward hospitalizations for your son, clinic visits and appointments with social workers. There was not any time or money left to go on vacation, and your son’s disease made travel impossible. Each month you would look at your computer and log your hours mindlessly as you worked. Every single day you woke up feeling like a failure. Meetings with your supervisor were no longer about what you were doing right, but it had become what you were doing wrong. When you were questioned, you tried your best to keep an open mind and remain positive. Inside your heart you were dying and crying about how you weren’t happy. Every thing around you felt impossible. There was no way you could be all things to all people. For 3 years, you tried everything to hold it all together for your family and yourself.
At night you would stare at the ceiling and think about leaving your job. There was no way you could possibly continue two full time jobs. The needs of your son were exceeding the ability to work. When you added therapy in the spring of 2015, it became more and more clear that your job was leading you home. It was difficult to reconcile what it would mean to leave though. For 15 years, your entire identity, self esteem and self worth has been tied to being a well paid, independent, sales woman. In order to leave that, you would walk away from everything you had built yourself to be. How would you ever be able to have identity has a mom?
Then something changed, and the change was swift and dramatic. On January 28th, a routine visit for an echocardiogram changed the entire course of your life. For years, you have been waffling about what to do with your career, and in an instant the decision was made for you. Your child needed open heart surgery, and it was clear in that moment a career would have to wait. Whether you would ever go back remained a mystery. However, it was crystal clear that your job as a mom was more important than the income and the prestige you earned in your career.
The change was terrifying, and you didn’t sleep for more than 2 weeks after the news rocked your world. Within that time, something incredibly powerful changed inside of you. In that moment, you realized that your identity is not tied to what you accomplish at work. Your identity is tied to who YOU are as a person. If you are stressed out, maxed out in time and energy, you will have to let something go at some point. Being all things to all people, is an impossible feat that will only lead to failure. Failing doesn’t mean you are a failure, but rather it means you have reached your limits. It’s ok to recognize you can’t keep going at the pace you have been.
Suddenly, your heart opened up and you realized the joy of being a mom and not being an employee. The presence you were able to have with your son changed immensely. Every morning you woke up with joy and happiness instead of stress and fear. Money and things would change in your home, but none of it mattered. The one thing you know is that if you put your career in front of your son, if he dies you will regret that for the rest of your life. You know now you will never regret being there for him as he fights for his life. Be kind to yourself and be ok that one day your career may flourish again. The next time it will be on your terms, and you will be doing something you love. Just remember that it’s ok sometimes to walk away.
The Mom that left it all behind