Before I stopped working, and I used to tell people how sad I was about leaving my job, I used to hear “Just wait until he’s born! You’ll wonder why it was such a hard decision.” I took them at their word, and as my last day at work loomed ever closer and my dread at leaving mounted, I chose to believe that after Will was born I wouldn’t miss working anymore. (Despite the fact that I literally felt sick every time I really thought about leaving.) My career would remain a happy memory, but I would feel like it was something that belonged firmly in my old life, with no place in my new life as a mom.
I was wrong. Now that we’re out of the newborn survival boot camp, I’m able to take a few deep breaths and look around again. I’m able to think more clearly about how things are going, and in the last few weeks I’ve realized that it’s been much harder for me to leave my career behind than I expected it to be. And despite the fact that I proclaimed a few months ago that I don’t place my identity in my job, it turns out that a part of me really is (or was?) identified by my work. Being a social worker is part of who I am (or was?). And having no room for that in my life anymore leaves me feeling more than
a little adrift.
I had this poster hanging in my office. About a third of my caseload were refugee families from the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
I was extremely lucky to have spent the last couple of years in a job that I absolutely loved, with colleagues who supported and challenged me. I could easily see myself spending years working for this program and with this team, and suddenly from the other side, I can see how much I was in denial when it came to my future. I didn’t want to think about how much I would miss working, and I so wanted to believe everyone who told me that I wouldn’t miss it after all. It’s been hard for me to go from an environment in which I felt competent and accomplished, where I was a professional with expertise — where I was making a difference in my community and in people’s lives — to an environment that’s mostly made up of the four walls of Will’s nursery. I valued my work much more than I realized and now that it’s not a part of my life, I just plain miss it.
But more than that, it’s hard to know what to do with the social worker part of my identity. Do I set it aside or continue to hold on to it? I’m not really sure. Is it a part of my past now, belonging to my old, pre-baby life?
One thing I do know (besides the fact that really, my identity is in Christ and not in my career or even in my motherhood) is that Steve and I made the decision for me to stay home for a reason; we believe it’s best for our family. And despite the fact that I deeply miss my work, I wouldn’t want to return to it full-time at this point. My career will (hopefully) be waiting for me when it’s time for me to go back to it, and in the meantime, I need to find some way to be at peace with where I am in my life right now — which is a really good place, of course, even if it comes with a whole new set of challenges.
This doesn’t look so hard …
All of this to say that I am just surprised. It turns out I didn’t know my own heart so well after all.