During these first weeks of motherhood, you are in the middle of an evolution. And…
My dream growing up was to be on the cover of Forbes Magazine as an Asian American CEO of a Fortune 500 company. I was so goal-driven and desperately wanted to succeed in life. My definition of success was entirely based on what society had taught me: a good job earning a high income and being at the top of the corporate ladder with a happy family.
Not knowing any better, I chugged along life hitting every goal I set for myself in pursuit of this ethereal “success.”
After college, I graduated into the worst recession since the great depression. Luckily I was one of the very fortunate ones. I had a job at one of the most prestigious investment banks in the world. And I spent 6 years rising through the ranks while also trying to figure out an exit strategy because I was so unhappy.
I felt completely scammed.
My whole life I thought the goal was to graduate from an elite college with a 4.0 GPA in order to land an amazing job. And then I’d be happy. Except that, of course, didn’t happen. I never felt like a “grown-up” because it doesn’t really exist. At least not in the way you imagine it as a child. There is no such thing as a “grown-up” because your identity is constantly changing.
Even though in the eyes of the world I was on the path to success, I felt no joy. I couldn’t imagine raising children having a corporate job with 24/7 needs.
Realizing that the goal I had set for myself made me feel empty inside, left me with endless options on what to do next. A challenge I had never faced. I had a long, and I mean long, list of job choices for my next career. Being the meticulous person that I am, I dissected each one making a pros and cons list. (Everyone does that, right?)
If it seemed promising, I reached out to people in the field to figure out if it would be the right fit. Because I couldn’t make the same mistake again. It felt as though it was another daunting permanent choice. As the years passed, none of the options I explored checked all of the boxes. The list of possible career choices became shorter and shorter until I had nothing left on it.
So, I was back to zero and had to do even more soul searching.
Instead of looking for the “right” answer like I always have, I decided to ask myself: what would give me the most joy?
Without thinking too much about it I enrolled myself in culinary school. It was completely reckless and poorly thought out but I had a blast. It was one of the best years of my life. Every day I got to focus on something that gave me so much joy. Sadly, the downside to the food business is that it’s the opposite of banking. Super rewarding for the soul but not for the bank account.
When I got pregnant with my eldest, I had a choice to make. I could choose to continue working in food. I found cooking professionally fulfilling but I didn’t even make enough to cover childcare costs so that seemed out of the question (childcare in this country is inhumanely expensive).
I could choose to go back to the corporate world knowing it would suck all the life out of me again. It would pay the bills though.
I could choose to stay home.
I recognize this is not a choice available to everyone. I am aware of, humbled by, and am grateful that I had the privilege to have this option.
I loved the idea of staying at home with my children. My mother was a stay at home mom and I loved all the time I got to spend with her.
But the modern feminist and my need to “succeed” in the eyes of society held me back. I was again ridden with anxiety.
Some of the questions that ran through my head were:
- Will my children respect me if I’m not working outside of the home?
- Will my children be defined by traditional gender roles if we assume them in our household?
- Am I okay with not working?
- Do I need to earn money to feel successful?
- How do I even define success?
- How will I feel if I see my friends enjoying professional success and promotion of salary and responsibility and I am doing the same thing day in and out?
- Will I be bored?
- How will I be intellectually stimulated?
- Will I be alone in a sea of nannies? How isolating will it be?
- Is it crazy to be a stay at home mom in a liberal city where the majority of moms are working moms, meaning working outside the home, because let’s be really real, stay at home moms are working moms too?
I’m not going to lie. I had to dismantle my internalized patriarchy and classism to really get comfortable with my decision.
It was then that I decided that my definition of success was happiness and choosing what I wanted to do. That I could be a feminist in this modern society and choose my own path. I did not need to fit into the modern feminist narrative that’s so prevalent nowadays.
It turns out that despite having had a career in two grueling industries both known for zero work-life balance, being a full time mother is the hardest job I’ve ever had. No matter how physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted I am after every day, I have never regretted my decision to stay at home.
Of course there are times that I envy my friends who get to wear beautiful clothes to work and have quiet lunches.
I often feel undervalued by society especially when I hear people saying “I wish I could be a stay-at-home parent so I can relax all day.” It’s also a little isolating to be a full-time mom in a sea of nannies. But I would make the same decision every damn time.
Because if I block out the noise of what society thinks, I am so proud of the work I do every day.
The laughs I have with my children make up for every insecurity, and I have made wonderful friends with both nannies and the few stay at home mothers in my neighborhood. It’s so rewarding to know that I’m always there for my children to be their safe haven.
Being a full time mom is not for everybody but if in your heart you know that that’s what you want to do, take the plunge.
Because you only get to see your kids grow up once.