I’ve left my job, and I don’t have another one to go to.
As of today, I’m officially unemployed.
Just writing that down makes it seem so real.
And so bloody terrifying.
It’s been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I loved my job; I’ve worked hard over the last 13 years to get to where I have in my career.
I pride myself on being unapologetically and outspokenly feminist, and for the last five plus years, I feel like I’ve been fighting an unending battle (in hindsight probably mostly with myself) against the expectations and stereotypes of a Mother’s role, in the modern world.
We are surrounded by imagery and messaging that nowadays women can have it all.
And maybe some can. I know women who are smashing working Motherhood, many of whom are in high pressured, high profile roles, and many of whom I am honoured to call my friends.
But what I’ve come to increasingly realise, is that however much I hate it, I can’t.
At least not without making myself sick, not without sacrificing things that it’s taken a long time to accept that I’m not willing to sacrifice, and not without ending up feeling like a failure in almost every aspect of my life.
And it’s changed me.
It’s shown me how quickly life can change, and it’s shifted my perspective on what really matters. I’ve had to experience more first and second-hand mental health struggles, that had previously been totally alien to me, than anyone should have to in a lifetime.
I became so weighed down in the hurt, pain and misery that felt all encompassing, that I stopped being able to enjoy how incredible my life really was.
Towards the end of last year, I had what can best be described as a nervous breakdown.
I was suffering from anxiety fuelled depression and I was in one of the darkest places I’ve ever been.
I was exhausted, fed up and I hated everything about myself.
I don’t want to go into the exact details, but in maternal mental health week, I think it’s important to acknowledge, because every time I’ve opened up about it, I’ve been shocked by the amount of women, especially working Mum’s, who have experienced the same, or who know someone who has, and we need to talk about it more.
If I had only known how common, and how normal it was, I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have hit rock bottom in the way that I did.
The road to recovery has been long and hard, but I realise now that in a strange way I needed that breakdown, so that I was able to find all of the pieces I needed to build myself up again.
I’ve had counselling, attended group cognitive behavioural therapy sessions and taken time to heal.
It’s helped me understand and manage my anxiety, navigate my feelings, and find solutions to seemingly impossible problems.
Which leads me to the decision to leave my job. I want a break from my career, I want to be able to prioritise “just” being a mum and I want quality time with my children.
I want to be present, I want to do the school run, help with the homework, volunteer on the school trip and be the one to cuddle them when they’re not well, without feeling guilty about it.
I realise what a privileged position I’m in to even consider doing this. I know in many ways that I’m lucky. But it’s not all luck, it’s been difficult choices too.
Financially, it won’t be easy. We’ve already cut a lot of luxuries, and our lifestyle will need to continue to change.
But the sad reality is that when I worked, our circumstances meant that the majority of my salary went on childcare anyway – so the financial hit is somewhat softened.
I’ll be honest, I have, and I still very much am struggling with my decision. Jokes and seemingly harmless comments about my feminist views and being a housewife have upset me probably more than they should have.
Whenever I tell people that I’ve decided to leave my job, and they ask what I want to do next, I squirm in my response that actually, I “just” want to stay at home with my kids. I still feel like I’ve failed, like I’m not enough, and I expect that will take some time to reverse.
But ultimately, isn’t all this exactly what feminism is about? Empowering women to be able to make their own decisions about what’s important and right for them?
This isn’t a blog to weigh up the merits of being a working Mum over a stay at home Mum. This is my blog, about what’s right for me and my family, right now.
I hate the cliché’s that they’re only young once, that no one lies on their death bed wishing that they had worked more and that time passes too quickly; but they all have so much truth in them.
I’ve dreamt of having my own family since I regularly played Mums and Dads, with my sisters and my best friends, as a child, and nowhere in that dream did it include dropping them at breakfast club at 8am, picking them up from after school club at 6pm and barely seeing them for most of the week.
I’ve got another 30 plus years of working life; my career can wait.
So, for now, I’m clocking off; from the pressures of trying to excel in my career and raise a young family, from unrealistic expectations, and from trying to be everything, to everyone.
But I’m never, ever clocking off from my feminism.