The Aftermath of Leaving my Career to be a Stay-at-Home Mom

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It’s been a year since I left my full-time job. I can’t believe it! Before leaving my 8-year career in higher education, I had joined the dream team, was working from home, and had been investigating how to start my PhD. Perfect right? Why in the world would I leave all that blessing and promise? Enter my first baby. Being a first-time mom made me rethink life. All I wanted to focus on was my sweet baby boy; I took the plunge and resigned my position. This past year has shaped me in ways I didn’t expect and I’d like to let you in on some realities I encountered.

Growth mindset is a great teacher.

Maybe you’ve heard of growth mindset! Dr. Carol Dweck pinned the teachings of growth and fixed mindset. Growth mindset is where you embrace your flaws and see your mistakes as growth opportunities. Fixed mindset is where you try to hide flaws and mistakes due to shame; there’s a good chance someone with a fixed mindset tends to give up easily.

My thought life took a hit this past year. I was challenged in ways I could never have fathomed. I had so many surprises this past year with the baby boy (I’m sure someone out there is saying, “Welcome to Motherhood,” ha!). But seriously, some traumatic ones. There were many moments I felt like I had no control over anything and was feeling so discouraged. And, control is a wonderful thing. It’s great to know what’s going to happen and how it’ll happen. Recently, I asked my husband, “I’m type A right?” He replied nodding, “You are. Can anyone be type A+?” We both laughed. Because I AM THAT PERSON. Owning it, right now.

But with this past year, applied to myself, I have learned to better embrace the change. Challenge has become a catalyst to my development and I have seen obstacles less as setbacks and more as opportunities. (I’m definitely not the person that smiles at every setback though; I’ve had my fits and cry fests many a time.) But, I have seen setbacks with a more opportunistic viewpoint. Having a growth mindset means I’m more committed to learning than having my way.

Fear isn’t a bad thing.

I’ve met moms who didn’t hesitate when considering leaving their job to solely focus on motherhood. I’ve also met moms who knew they did not want to stay home with baby all day; both totally great! But I was in the middle somewhere; torn and frozen, but wanting to do one or the other full-time. When faced with the yearning to be undecidedly present for my baby and the desire to continue advancing my career head on, I was so afraid I was going to mess something up by doing either. Talk about analysis paralysis! I could have created spreadsheets with all the scenarios I concocted.

Even when I was uttering the words of my resignation, there was fear. Fear of what was to come, that I wasn’t making the best decision, or that I was going to turn away from something great. I mean, that was a good chunk of income I was laying down and I was cruising. (Don’t get me wrong, we considered how this big decision would impact our livelihood.) But I realized that just because I felt fear didn’t mean I was headed in the wrong direction. Even though there wasn’t a wholehearted “peace” present, I still resigned. There was a sense of security I was letting go of, and that was a reality. I had no clue what lay ahead but took that step in spite of the fear. All in all, this experience added to my mothering because I was prompted to consider how much my emotions controlled my actions.

Where am I now?

The uncertainty of a big decision like leaving my career had daunted me. Severing professional relationships by resigning made me wonder if I was letting go of everything I had worked so hard for. But with some time, I learned to think of my decision as pausing my career versus ending it. I stayed in touch with my professional network and I now teach online, part-time based on my availability. I still get to work with students which fills me up.

Letting go of one thing ushered something else into my life—something I never saw myself doing. Part-time online teaching has given me the familiar sense of accomplishment and advancement I previously thrived on, as well. Teaching also takes me back to who I was before I was a mom—a career-driven woman, someone I missed dearly. And who knows, maybe a PhD is still up ahead.

How can you practice growth mindset in your own life? In what ways can you view setbacks opportunistically? Has fear gripped you? How can your emotions serve you rather than control you?

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