Exit-Stage Left

“That’s what motherhood is. You’re working, you’re doing 25 different jobs and you’re not getting paid.”
– Melissa Peterman

The last year of working and being a mother was wreaking havoc on me. Ever since Greg accepted a promotion I had a life that resembled a struggling stage show: too many Acts, no Intermission and a distracted director: me. For nearly a decade I owned my own drapery business and I was happy and successful in it. My nights after dinner were when I caught up on work email and Greg got time with our 3 boys. It was busy, but manageable. Enter the promotion. On paper: no question, promotions are good. He worked VERY hard and earned it. We were so happy about it, it didn’t dawn on either one of us that MY life was about to change. I discovered there is a slim line between manageable and complete chaos. The new job meant Greg was out of town often and overnight. Routinely, I was working while cooking dinner and working while eating dinner. What I wanted to be doing was put work away and talk to our boys about their day. Nothing comes without a price and yet something had to change. Greg and I discussed it. We made lists, pros and cons and money. After all the lists it was obvious: I should quit. After grappling with the choice for year to leave the interior design stage and be more available to my kids, I did it. Drop the curtain, sweep the stage, show’s over. Sigh.

I always thought of myself as a career woman. A child of the 70’s and teenager in the 80’s I was going to be like the woman in the Enjoli commercial. I was going to bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. Suddenly I was the opposite of Sheryl Sandburg: I leaned back. Exited. Off-ramped. Opted out. Essentially, I’d fallen off the planet.
I was now a stay-at-home Mom.

Crap.

My inherited feminism gene freaked out. Summer, I admit, was great. For the first time in my life I slept in. Once the boys went back to school in the Fall I started feeling guilty. Shouldn’t I be working? Sleeping in, I reminded myself, is not a career choice. After a few months of missing my professional life I fell prey to the evil of late night nostalgia: I Googled myself. There I was at 2am sneaking a private audience with my previous accomplishments. If you find yourself in a similar situation, do not do this. Go back to bed. You may find, as I did, that your biggest and very recent accomplishment (in my case, one that received big-name press) is buried on page three. Yikes. Not only had the stage curtain closed, but the orchestra had packed up all their instruments and gone home.

I had done such a good job promoting myself in my industry, colleagues were shocked when I left it. “What are you going to do?” they asked. I could empathize with their puzzlement. I remember reading that actor Sylvester Stallone, token tough guy, was also a painter. I recall thinking: He’s a what? Just when you think you know somebody… My new life presented a very different show than the one my colleagues were used to: me dressed up, made up and diligently working on my fabric creations, silently dressing windows. Instead, there I would be, in jeans, sitting on a stool, bare stage with one spotlight and no makeup. My soliloquy would begin: “Parting is such sweet sorrow, but hey, there’s laundry to do.”

I am adapting to my new life. I’ve replaced drapery with writing and painting. I had an opportunity to do a motivational talk and I certainly enjoy dinner with my kids. For a non-working mom, I am surprisingly busy. I am trying to let go of the past and embrace the present. I still miss making my own money and I shared this with Greg. He got out his iPhone and tapped away. “By my calculation you are worth 2 million 844 thousand dollars.” “What’s that?” I asked. “Your weight in gold.” Good to know. Since motherhood doesn’t come with a 401K, I may need to trade myself in.

Until then, the show must go on.

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