My past life was what you might call ‘typically corporate’. I lived in downtown Toronto, worked a full-time brand management job, which I spent two hours commuting to every day. I worked hard, long hours, brought my dog to work with me, skated on a synchronized skating team in my spare time and was dating my husband.
My days were long, but I enjoyed the challenge. I felt like I was putting my education to good use and was succeeding. My identity and my formula for success were very much tied to my job. And I was okay with that!
I was fully invested in climbing the corporate ladder, loved the challenge, and felt that my career was a really great fit.
Until it wasn’t.
Four years ago, I had my son. I left on my maternity leave, super pregnant, and feeling like I would enjoy the year off and come back to the job I enjoyed. Like I always planned.
But then I actually had my son. I lived through the long days and nights with a small child and felt how deeply needed I was at home. My husband and I talked, A LOT, about what our new normal looked like, and how that would look when I went back to work. Long days, split schedules, daycare hand-offs or nanny schedules… it could all work. We’d seen it work before.
But I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t right for us.
That what was best for our family was for me to stay at home.
I had tough conversations. I battled intense feelings of guilt. I was worried that I was letting people down. That somehow by saying ‘this isn’t right for me right now’ I was saying no forever. That I was closing doors for good.
But here’s what I know: Putting your family first is never wrong.
I knew that I could live with the consequences, if walking away from my traditional, corporate job meant that I’d never be able to go back. But I couldn’t live with the consequences for my family, if I lost time with them that I couldn’t get back. And once I understood that, my decision was clear.
And you know what? That decision changed me. I now feel like I’m rooted in my own values. I feel like I let my talents, goals and values dictate the work that I do. And that work? It’s more creative and flexible than I could have imagined.
I didn’t know what ‘work’ would look like for me when I left my full-time job. But I followed my instincts and pushed ahead with things that I enjoyed and that felt important. I started a blog that connected me with other moms at a time when I felt we needed connection. And then a couple years later, I started a small non-profit focused on serving children – again something that felt important for me, and our family.
I won’t sugar coat things. My decision absolutely had a financial impact, and we’ve made sacrifices to make it work. Luxurious family vacations are on hold at the moment, and we spend wisely.
But I feel stronger, more capable, and more myself in motherhood and in the life I’m living.
I feel like my children see me living a life that I believe in and that fits our family. And that’s a gift.
In all honesty, I have no idea what my life will look like in five years. And I’m comfortably uncomfortable with that.
But the beauty of what I’m doing right now is that it can move and change and evolve right alongside my life.
As the demands on my time evolve, so too can the time I devote to my work. As my interests change. My work does too.
It means that we’ll grow together. My work and me.
I anticipate as my kids transition into school full time, my workday will shift with them, and I’ll say ‘yes’ to opportunities that might not be the right fit right now. And that feels magical.
So, what advice would I give to you if you’re not sure where you’re headed in life? Or maybe you’re sure where you’re headed, but just not sure that’s where you want to end up?
I’d say, spend 30 days. Make a list of everything that makes you smile. Brings you joy. Or stirs up passion. And then in a month, look back at that list. Is what you’re doing now aligned to those passions and that joy? And if not, what is?
I promise, you’ll never feel ready. You’ll never feel 100% prepared. But you can do tough things. And you owe it to yourself to try.
You can follow Kate and her adorable little ones on Instagram @emmettsabcs
Women’s Stories is going to be an ongoing project that shares true stories written by women who are questioning who they are and the lives they want to live. You can follow along on Instagram @thesearchfor_self