“I am Job” to “You are Nothing?”
Far too many times I have heard the voice of Robin Williams in my head, “I…am…job…” (From his movie Mrs. Doubtfire when he was trying to create a bunch of undesirable candidates via phony phone calls)
It was true, though. I WAS my job. For a long time career success was my only definition of success. Family? Nope. Marriage? No Thanks. Super nice car? Didn’t care. My job would be my identity.
This belief led me to choose studying and grades over hanging out with friends in Undergrad. It drove me to pursue a master’s degree while working full time. I was going to be a CEO of a big business. I even had a t-shirt that said so.
Or so was the plan in my twenties. So much can change in a decade.
Fast forward to 10 years later. There I was, sitting in a CarMax talking to a sales guy about selling my Prius. I loved that car; to me it was the last representation of my independence. But I was selling it. And it was my idea. I was married now and we didn’t need 3 cars, especially one that didn’t handle well in the snow.
Sales Guy asked me what brought me to Reno. So I told him, “Initially it was a job. This time it was a guy.”
“So what did you do for this job?”
“I was a Branch Manager.”
“And what do you do now?”
“Well, I just came back from New Zealand. I was backpacking a trail and I decided that I just couldn’t live without this guy, so I came back and we ended up getting married and now we are having a kid together.”
“Oh. So you came back for love and now you are nothing?”
Look, I’ll be honest. A year ago I can’t say I looked at all the stay-at-home moms around me and yearned for their lifestyle. Despite the fact that my identity was no longer my job, I had a hard time asserting the value gained from not working. I was the overachiever who worked full time running a P&L, then taught group exercise classes and did volunteer work at night.
And man, having a kid wasn’t even on my radar. In those brief moments when I considered it, I had always thought I would feel torn between having a kid and having a job. And maybe I will in the future. But right now? Right now I can’t imagine paying someone else to spend the best hours of the formative years of our child’s life with them so I can work.
What is really weird about the whole situation is that I feel like the minority. While I was working I felt like the odd man out for not yearning for marriage and a family and now I feel like a weirdo for wanting to stay home full time.
The assumptions are fantastic as well. If I stay at home, there is no chance I could ever bring anything to the table again career-wise in the future. My career and life are over if I am not working full time.
There has definitely been a shift in society’s thinking about motherhood and I am not complaining. Books like Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” took the world of career women by storm: “Give up nothing. You are capable of doing it all.”
I don’t hate that message by any means. But I was also once challenged to live a “Jonielle-sized life.” That means I get to choose what my life looks like, no matter anyone else’s expectations. I can stay home with my kiddo and Lean the hell Out if I want to.
And, contrary to Sales Guy’s take on it, that doesn’t make me “Nothing.” It just makes me Jonielle.
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