If it ever feels like the working mama rat race is simply too much, this post is for you. If you ever dream of giving it all up and moving away from a big city, you’ll want to read this story. Mindful Return alum Amelia Cotton Corl wrote for the Mindful Return blog back when she was returning to work after her first baby a few years ago, with her post #workingmom – My List of Demands. And now she’s back to tell us about her big decision to leave Washington, D.C. and her full-time job, and head to the Midwest with her family. **************************************************************************
I did it.
I left the “perfect” job, the great daycare, the newly renovated house, and relocated to the Heartland with no job prospects on the horizon. And I thought about giving my Medela Pump-in-Style the Office Space treatment. But with another kid on the way, I thought it was best to keep it around.
That was 10 months ago.
Looking back, I remember feeling like life in Washington, D.C. had me at the edge of my limit for a while. It’s hard to even say what was the tipping point.
Was it the decision about who would take our sick son in for another doctor’s note before returning to daycare?
Or was is commuting for two hours a day living only 7 miles from our offices?
Perhaps it was it the supposed ‘flexibility’ I had at my job that still had me answering emails late into the evening and early in the morning?
Or the ambient stress in Washington from the political turmoil and the 24-hour news cycle?
Was it the constant reminders to ‘seek work-life balance’ and ‘do self-care?’
Or was it the ever-expanding circle of people and services — daycare, sitters, dog-walkers, house cleaners, grocery delivery — that we needed just to get through the week and STILL be exhausted?
With our second son on the way, my husband and I were on the same page. This wasn’t what we wanted for our family. And it was time for a change. A big change. A few months of job hunting later, he had landed an offer for a dream job in Minnesota. Eleven days later our house was on the market. 4 days later it was sold, and 8 weeks later we were moving into our new house, which we had bought sight-unseen. I guess technically we FaceTimed into it.
I had talked to lots of other moms in DC whose greatest fantasy — other than an extended period of sleep and quiet—was moving where the pace of life was slower, to have more time with kids, and a less stressful job. We were able to act on the impulse to return to a place we know and love.
To be honest, it’s been pretty amazing. It’s been a lot of big transitions for our family in a short period of time, but lest you think this is the perfect solution to your working mom burnout…
Some days my kids drive me absolutely bonkers.
I mean like really, REALLY, bonkers. Some days at home, it feels like time is ticking backwards — to borrow a term from one of my favorite blogs — and I’m just not sure how I can keep an 8-month-old and a 3-year-old occupied without injuring themselves or one another. (My two solutions: go outside, or enjoy 22 minutes of PBS Kids so everyone can hit the ‘reset’ button. Whatever your solutions end up being, know that they are the right ones for you. And that might be three hours of TV. No judgement here, Mamas.) But most days with them are full of high points and end-of-the-day exhaustion. Just like I envisioned.
Some days I miss my job.
There were a lot of challenging things about the type of work I used to do, but I was really good at it. And people listened to me. Important people. So now, on the days when the kids and the dog seem to not even HEAR me, this one really gets to me. I’ve found the hustle to start an independent consulting business to be much harder than I imagined. Yes, I’m hoping to get back into part-time work, but finding something that is worth the cost of childcare has been difficult. And it still pains me to check ‘unemployed’ on the various forms we’ve filled out during the move. That status isn’t really true anyway. Staying at home full time is without question harder than any of the jobs I’ve ever had. It’s 24/7 in a way I never fully grasped before.
I don’t regret it one bit.
Though I miss the family and friends we left back on the East Coast, I don’t regret our decision to move. Every day I carry a keychain reminding me that it’s not my job to make everyone happy. And this was the decision that was right for me and our growing family. I have worries and doubts like any person, but no regrets.
Though it’s scary to not know exactly what’s next on the career horizon, we made an intentional calculation (from a very privileged position) to build our lives around a single income stream for a while. And I’m finding my way in the world in this phase of life. I’m building my new tribe here and seeking a new equilibrium between paid employment and the gift of more time.
Amelia Cotton Corl was most recently working as Chief of Staff at the US Institute of Peace, and is now full-time-grownup to her two sons and Alice the Dog. Together with her husband, they live in the frozen tundra also known as Saint Paul, Minnesota. Best Big Change is where you’ll find her latest professional endeavors.
If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.