Megan's Story: No Plan!
When we got married, I don’t think people waited a full 24 hours before the ‘k’ questions were asked. I understood, families and friends had waited a long time for my husband to get married and the potential of kids was exciting for them. My husband is 14 years my elder and despite his youthful and outgoing personality, what people didn’t see was he had grown accustomed to living as a bachelor and relished having his own schedule and hobbies. As he transitioned from his thirties to forties, my husband’s personal desire to have his own kids started to shift.
Not only had people not considered my husband’s feeling and thoughts on having kids, it was apparently inconceivable that I would not want kids. But I had a plan. That plan centered on completing graduate school without debt and landing a job.The key to this plan was the ‘without debt’ piece. Paying for graduate school in cash takes time; taking one or two classes when the funds are there and skipping semesters when your last two required courses are cancelled due to low enrollment. I had envisioned 6-8 years for this plan. That included the job hunt and establishing myself in one spot before I thought about any changes. We’ll round numbers for simplicity here but if my plan was carried out on time, I would be in my mid thirties and my husband would be nearing fifty as I completed a steady tenure in my first career stepping stone.
As we deflected questions about pending childbearing, my husband and I carried on with our lives- loving each other and our spot in the world more than I could ever had imagined. I was steadily picking away at graduate school and we felt whole as a couple. We had discussed having kids and what that would look like for us. There was a time in my husband’s life when he desperately wanted to have kids and had he met the right person it would have been a no-brainer. But timing is everything. I know there are thousands of women and couples that are able to juggle school, careers, marriages, and life with kids. I envy them. Somewhere deep inside I knew this wouldn’t be possible for me. I wasn’t able to pinpoint why it wouldn’t be possible for me- I am organized, focused, have a supportive partner and have spent my life working with kids. But there was something, just something that I knew would throw a wrench into my plan.
In the Spring of 2014, my last class was complete, I had an ideal job offer, and we were headed into the summer with a feeling of satisfaction and gratitude. Seriously, what are the chances of laying out an almost decade long plan and then having all of the pieces fall into place?
Here comes the wrench. Sometime during our end of summer vacation in Nova Scotia, I had a hunch something was up. I started putting the pieces together; distaste for coffee, firm breasts, desire to sleep...a lot, just to name a few. I kept quiet, fearful that any mention of the word ‘pregnant’ would ruin our last few vacation days, not to mention seriously impact the new jobs that were scheduled to start (yes, we both were starting new jobs!) the day after our return. The series of events that followed are deserving of their own blog post, so you’ll have to check back for how the lawnmower ended up in a ditch in a few weeks.
Once home, unpacked, and gearing up for major life changes we started our journey into the unknown- what would this mean for our jobs, daily life, finances, us? We had not planned this and didn’t think it was going to happen. We openly talked about how much we enjoyed a ‘child-free’ life and now we had to rewire our thinking and our lives.
The new career and pregnancy went amazingly smooth. Almost too smooth in retrospect. I was able to put in my hours, above and beyond the expected forty, maintained a fitness routine, continued my established yoga practice, and it looked like "The Plan" wouldn’t be impacted as much as I had feared. After the birth of our daughter, I took my unpaid time off. Championed by my husband, I was able to take as much as I wanted and needed. Things were going well.
When I went back to work, things finally started to feel weird. I was waking up super early to make sure I had time to pump, nurse, and shower before work. I was going to bed as soon as the baby went down so I would be rested enough for the morning. The conversations with my husband revolved around the logistics of child rearing with little attention paid to us, and I wasn’t able to get everything accomplished during the work day. My head was consistently busy thinking about work- planning for the next day, writing reports in my head as I nursed or changed our daughter, jotting notes about meetings during tummy time, lying sleepless obsessing over how to manage the emotions of my co-workers. The work/home distinction wasn’t there. When I was at work I was able to focus and be wholly there, but when I came home, work never quite left.
Then I found it. The thing I couldn’t quite pin point before. Why "The Plan" wasn’t compatible with having kids. Being present, fully engaged in the moment is something I have worked hard to establish as my normal. I had mastered this at work, but work was leaking into home life and the pressure to not ‘mail it in’ as a professional meant I wasn’t fully present with my family. That realization was shocking and painful. That was the thing, deep inside I KNEW that nothing would matter more to me than my family and when we were home together- work should have no place in my head. I wanted to be a present and engaged in only us. I needed to make a change.
I felt like a failure. I had laid out a plan, initiated it, followed through and saw it to near completion, and now I was throwing it all away because I couldn’t hack it!? I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. These are hard feelings. I am not sure where they came from. Whether its internal, social, or cultural these feelings, feelings parents are faced with, are nothing short of toxic. In the wrestling match of making the decision to leave my job, these feelings played well with insecurity and well established feelings of inadequacy. I wasn’t going to be that career minded mom who was able to be great at her job, great at being a mom, and a great partner. I wasn’t living up to the gold standard that I was told strong women should aspire to.
But I had made up my mind. The decision was made. I just didn’t feel great about it...actually, I felt great about the decision, just not myself. But, timing is everything. As these feelings, emotions, and realizations were taking shape and making themselves known in full force, I was presented with the opportunity to work for a good friend and her newly established non-profit. An opportunity that provided flexible hours, commensurate pay, and the ability to stop working at the end of the work day. Ideal. Ideal except, it wasn’t part of "The Plan" and the world of non-profits is scary and uncertain and not something you can base a long term plan on. But, better than a plan, I have my family. When we are home, we are all HOME... Present in each other, engaged in our lives. We have time to make and eat dinner together each night. I don’t need to rush to bed once my daughter falls asleep, giving my husband and I time much needed time with each other. I have time to snuggle in the morning if one or more of us needs a few more minutes of sleep. The time to be completely in love with the two most important people in my life has been amazing.
In many years when we are sitting there as empty nesters, I am positive that I will be grateful for the opportunity to step away from "The Plan"; to step off the track for a more important endeavor, life as a family.