It’s been nearly twelve years that I’ve worked for my current employer, a software company that I suspect most of you are all too familiar with. Earlier this month, spurred in part by the seizures and in part by a few personal factors, I decided it was time to leave. I’m fortunate in many ways; I have the full support of my husband and family in doing this, and we have the means (and medical insurance) such that I can afford to take a couple weeks of down time before jumping back in to the workforce. It was not an easy decision to make, but from the way I’ve been feeling since putting in my notice, I can’t help but be convinced that this was the right choice to make for now.
Many years ago, when my previous husband and I were divorcing and I had to start breaking the news to people, I did so with expectations that people would be disappointed in me for not being able to make it work. Instead, I received almost unanimous support from family, friends and co-workers. I thought I was going to hear things like “Have you tried [something else]?” or be told that I was giving up, not trying as hard as I should have. Instead, I heard things like “I’m so glad! You deserve to be happy,” and “Kudos for making a tough decision!”
This past week, as I’ve been telling my friends and co-workers that I’m ending my working relationship, I’ve realized that I had similar expectations about their reactions. I worried that people would question my decision, or ask whether I had done everything I could to make things work out. And once again, I’ve realized that I haven’t been giving them enough credit. Once again, I’m hearing nothing but supportive comments. My friends and family know I’ve been unhappy here for quite a while, long enough that it’s worn me down physically and emotionally. They probably also know that I’ve stubborn and hate to admit defeat, so it’s not too surprising that it took something drastic to make me realize what was happening. Walking away from a decent salary and a prime slate of benefits seems a little crazy, especially in this economy. Working here was right for me for many years, and it was through my job that I met many of those friends (one who later became my husband). But even good relationships can go sour under certain circumstances. Sometimes it’s possible to put things right. Other times, the price of staying outweighs the benefits.
I’m an engineer at heart, so I have to analyze. In looking at the similarities between the two “breakups,” I’ve been trying to understand why my first instinct is to brace for criticism and disapproval. The best I’ve come up with is that it’s the criticism and disapproval that I feel myself. Is this really the right decision? Could I have found a way to make it work if I’d just looked a little harder or put more effort into it? Clearly I’ve failed somehow, and surely it must be my own fault. After all, hundreds of other woman, mothers of young children, are able to pull off the necessary balance of effort needed to succeed in the workforce, and even in this high-intensity company. If they can do it, there’s no reason I shouldn’t have been able to as well.
But frankly, if I’m going to send my Kiddo off to the care of someone else five days a week, it really should be so that I can do something I love and find fulfilling, rather than something that’s going to drag me down or even leave me in tears at the end of a too-long workday. The people who care about me are able to see that, and I can certainly stand behind it when it applies to other people. I just don’t do as well acknowledging it for myself.
The support and love I’ve gotten from the people close to me as I’ve made this decision has been more than I expected. As my husband loves to remind me, I am more than just my job title. Yes, it’s been an integral part of my identity for a very long time, but just as I’m more than a mom, more than a wife, more than a puzzle solver or a blog writer, I’m also more than what’s on my business card. I’m greater than the sum of my many hats–and now, it’s time to try on a new one.