I have a little confession to make: there are moments when I look at how far my peers have progressed and I wonder where I would have ended up, had I not opted to skip out of the rat race to enter the parenthood maze.
Five years ago, we were in the midst of trying – very, very, very hard – to have a baby. I was working in a large advertising agency and having a life that many young women would aspire towards. You know, where I had a decent-sized income, the financial means to buy pretty frocks and shiny shoes, click-clacking my way in pretty heels every morning down Shenton Way, drinks with friends and colleagues on a very regular basis, going to the gym every other day. My boss liked me, I loved her.
And then I decided to leave it all. I took a bloody huge pay cut to teach at an institution near our home. (Sidenote: Please show all teachers some appreciation – the pay is really nowhere in line with the private sector and many of us do it because we want to.)
I suppose there are many reasons but one of them was that I felt hollow inside, doing what I was doing. There did not seem to be any purpose, any meaning to my work. And more importantly, I realised that my lifestyle there did not sit well with the kind of parent that I wanted to be.
And since then, I have watched as my peers ascend the corporate ladder, holding on to fancy titles like vice-president and director. And all I was doing for the past five years was exactly the same thing: teach.
I don’t feel like I am missing out in terms of having a career, I love what I do and it feels me with a sense of fulfilment. More importantly, it gives me time to spend with my littles, especially since the man is in a job that has predictably long hours. For the past two weeks, he has not been home in time to put the kids to bed and he rushes off for 8am meetings in the mornings. One of us needs to be the constant in the littles’ lives – and that constant is me. My job allows it.
But I would not be honest if I say that I did not occasionally feel wistful about what might have been – the promotions, the bigger pay checks, the carefree life, the martinis that I have not drunk for the past five years (Morton’s, only Morton’s and with a mountain of their famous steak sandwiches that I shamelessly wave the waiter over for). This feeling comes on strongest when I have had a horribly long day, only to be faced with two children hell-bent on behaving in an alternative manner!
In the long run, though, I know that I have made the right decision. I still have a job that I (mostly) enjoy, which gives me the mental acuity and independence that I crave, and which I am apparently quite good at. And those moments that I have bagged simply by being there with my littles – when I pick them up from school, when I see them slurp up their yogurt, when I hear their giggles from the bath tub, when I smell their noggins after they have gone to bed – far outweigh the advancement that I might have had I stayed on the other path.
That’s just me and the choice that I have made based on my personal parenting philosophy though. Wherever you are, whatever you do, I hope that you feel the same rightness in the decision that you have made when it comes to your job and your role as a parent.