Leaving work Post Partum
Originally published on 7-24-13
Before graduating high school I was an honors student, played varsity golf and was a drum major of a 300 person marching band. When I graduated at 17 years old, I ranked 5th out of 600. After high school I attended UT Business School and clipped through that in 3 years, only to graduate at 20 years old. Immediately after UT I enrolled in graduate school at the University of Houston where I worked full time and took a full course load. After two years in graduate school I graduated with a 4.0 and got hired onto my then dream job, a manager at Eddie V’s Edgewater Grille in downtown Austin. In 2006 Eddie V’s was the sexiest place in town. The restaurant was filled with money, power, fame and beauty to boot. I was having my cake and eating it too. At 25 my family hired me full time to help run their million dollar business, Holiday Wine and Liquor. I attended community events, filmed commercials, conducted wine tastings, created team culture and built our brand. After four years with Holiday, I was hired in 2011 to be General Manager of Bar Operations at ACL-Live in downtown Austin. I was back in Austin and working at the hippest place in town. Mariah Carey told me to make it happen, and I did.
Well, a month ago I let ACL and all the cache that went with it, go. I left for two reasons. The first was to create a better environment for my relationship and future family. The second was to focus on Anna and see my dreams of writing and coaching come true.
But, seven days after I left ACL, it hit like an anvil, I was making less money and I had turned in all my street cred. Money equals power, right? Or does money equal freedom? Or does working at a cool place equal power and freedom? Whatever money and job status equals, I started to feel a little less than. I felt like a financial burden to my partner and it seemed the only way to rectify this was to work really hard at making our house perfect.
On the 8th day, I woke up at 7:45 and made the bed by 8am. I had never made the bed so early. By noon, I had washed dishes, rearranged the living room furniture, took out the trash and recycling, made iced tea, and thanked my boyfriend 78 times for reasons known and unknown. I kept thinking, “Oh, what a nice man to take me in with all my student loan debt, I’d better be extra appreciative today, he is the breadwinner after all!” I was thanking him at the rate that Pippen thanked Jordan. I was thanking him like Katie Holmes and Nicole Kidman thanked Tom Cruise. I couldn’t stop thinking how disrespectful it would be to say, “You bring home the bacon and don’t forget to cook in for breakfast too!”
Maybe it was the Mexican servitude in me and maybe it was all those years of Catholic guilt indoctrination, but it was there and it was loud.
The fact that I was not contributing as much money to the family bank account grabbed a hold of me in a way I didn’t think it would. But, like the sun rises every morning, so too did God send me a teacher.
In the few weeks after my mind had been spinning, Guapo and I sat down with friends for dinner. There were three couples, and we sat divided at the table, three men and three women. Conversation got rolling and I had the patience to wait until our entrees to do what I do best, spill my beans.
I detailed my latest life developments which included: leaving ACL, making less money, feeling overloaded with domestic duties and feeling a little less than. I described to these ladies who are wonderful mothers and strong women, how I had been unsettled and how I was trying to get my sea legs for being what I have coined a ‘house person’ (since I’m not a Mom yet), someone who largely works from home and tends to house hold duties.
Elizabeth, a mom of three, looked at me and said, “Girl, when I left my job, it took me a year and a half to adjust!” She said, “Even though I knew it was the right decision for my family, I felt less than because I no longer had a job that people were in awe of.” Elizabeth continued with, “It took some real effort not to say, I’m just a stay at home mom. When the babies cried, I felt the need to jump out of bed and not inconvenience my husband who works long days.”
Vanessa, a mom of two, said, “Oh yes, I totally understand. At first you’ll feel the need to always have the dishwasher empty and have elaborate dinners cooked.” She too had a really cool job where she had more street cred than she could ask for. Vanessa also opened up and told me about the first time she went shopping after she became a stay at home mom. She said she paused out of guilt before buying a $50 bra, because maybe it wasn’t really communal money. Thankfully, Vanessa didn’t let the conversation end before telling me that there was a time she apologized to her husband for not having the dishes cleaned and he replied with, “Don’t worry about it, it’s not your job.” Surprised, Vanessa asked, “It’s not?” And she grabbed my hand and looked at me and said, “It’s not.” I felt relief sinking in.
There’s a lot to be said for women who support women. They could have easily brushed aside my comments, but they didn’t. They listened and empathized and responded. They held my hand, told me they knew exactly how I felt and sent me on my way. I am very grateful for them.
On the drive home after dinner, because I just had to have it all figured out before we were in the driveway I asked Guapo “What is my job now that I have so much free time?” He took a second and said, “Your job is to be kind and thoughtful and fulfilled, without those things our world doesn’t work.” He said, “You took a leap of faith on us, and I honor that. You giving up a job where you work nights and odd hours enhances our lives, and for that I’m grateful.” It finally started sinking in that I in fact was not a financial burden and that my increased presence in our lives was valued on time alone.
We parked the car, walked inside our home and I sat at the kitchen table while I watched Guapo buzz around the house. He fed the dogs and changed the slip covers on the sofa cushions and I told my Catholic guilt to hit the road.
The next day I reconciled that all my go getter accomplishments were still there and that “I” the person who did all those things didn’t vanish, I just decided to take another route. I made a deliberate choice to channel my energy into my home and my family and my dream of writing, and that doesn’t make me less than who I was six months ago. It in fact, gets me closer to being who I want to be.
Ladies, thank society for their idea of who you should be and if it doesn’t work for you, set it aside. Our greatest responsibility is not to make sure we fit into perfect boxes. Our greatest responsibilities as beings are to remain fulfilled and healthy and happy, so that we may make each of our corners a better place.
Some days I’ll have the bed made by 8am and some days I won’t, and it’s all okay.