How My Daughter Helped Me Redefine 'Having It All'

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having it all
The decision I made surprised even me.

My husband was totally supportive of whatever decision I made — of course, making it even tougher for me to decide. If I did go back, he and I decided we'd hire a nanny. But I never felt fully comfortable with that. It's not that I wouldn't trust a nanny. It's not that I'm the type of mom who's reluctant to leave her baby. It's just that it felt weird to put all this time and effort into having a kid only to pass her off to someone else — especially since I had the option not to. I didn't want to be in a meeting discussing the inner workings of a dishwasher, knowing my baby was being pushed around the park by someone else.

Of course, there was money to consider too. We could afford it, but hiring a nanny would cost more than half my salary. Did that make sense? I tried to make the decision intellectually, by looking at it from all angles. But that wasn’t doing the trick. I was officially obsessing.

Then finally, I did the thing that helped me pull the trigger. I considered the decision from a purely intuitive standpoint. I started examining my gut instincts — those split-second reactions Malcolm Gladwell talks about in one of my favorite books, Blink. One of those reactions happened one day when I ran into my neighbor in the hall, and she told me she decided to quit work and stay home full time. My heart sank. I realized I felt jealous. She asked if I wanted to hire her nanny when I went back to work. I took the elevator downstairs and cried behind my sunglasses.

I've been a "worker" much of my life — ever since I split my summers as a camp counselor by day and a waitress by night. I loved making my own money, but I also felt compelled to work. Quitting, I began to realize, felt like quitting. Giving up. And it felt that way until a friend suggested I stop looking at it as leaving work, and start looking at it as being with my daughter.

Something clicked. I wasn't giving up. I was moving on.

Miraculously, once I finally made the decision to quit my job, I felt lighter. Instead of agonizing, I'd walk around the city giddy with the thought that I could shape the day any way I wanted — any way we wanted.

The truth is, I won't always have this time to watch her grow up. My decision to not go back to work was essentially to stop the clock a bit. Take a time out, a breather from corporate life. Appreciate simple things, like my daughter and my cat having a staring contest. Have time to actually iron my husband's shirts. Go food shopping without running through the aisles like a chicken with my head cut off.

So much of the joy I've gotten from my baby is in bringing other people joy. Seeing my parents light up the second I carry her through the door. Watching my dad teach her to roll from tummy to back. I feel like my husband and I aren't the only ones raising her. Everyone she meets helps shape her in some way, and now I get to be a part of witnessing the transformation.

Okay, okay. I couldn't totally let go of work. I decided to freelance as a writer part-time. It's my gray area in the "having it all" debate. Yes, it's sometimes a struggle to find time between diaper changes and feedings, but I feel happy that I'm still connected to my old life in some way, while forging ahead with my new one. I've carved out my own version of having it all. My job is being a mom and a writer. And I'm about to say something that many people never say in their lifetimes: I love my job. I truly do.
 

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