A close friend sent me this text message recently and it brought tears to my eyes.
I have always loved you sweet friend, but I like this Cara who is slowed down. Your job was killing you. It’s so nice to see you in this space.
I haven’t yet mentioned a huge change in my life that took place two months ago. After nearly nine years of blood, sweat, and tears at my last job, I decided to leave. 2012 was a dramatic year for me in terms of my career. I left for my maternity leave extremely stressed and unhappy at one company, working 10-12 hour days preparing the division I managed for an acquisition. I returned from maternity leave to a brand new company that provided a much happier, healthier experience. Returning from maternity leave is, however, an emotional and tumultuous experience in itself and probably one of the most stressful things a new mom can go through. One day, you are a full time mom with the important job of caring for what you love most and the next, you are in your car driving to an office park and expected to jump right back in to the usual. My first day back was surreal and I don’t even know how I made it through. It was like I left half of myself at home and I my entire equilibrium was off. I don’t think it ever stabilized.
My intentions were good after having Anderson. No more working late. No more sitting at my desk at 9:00 PM. My new company had the philosophy that family is first, work is second. It seemed like it would be such an easy line to draw with a child at home. However, when you are managing a significant number of people, particularly during a period of intense change, there is no such thing as balance. Caring deeply for the people I worked with actually made it worse, from the people I managed to the new boss that I adored. A horrible commute left me coming home in tears at least once a week.
This just wasn’t going to work. My family had to come first. Being home or working part time wasn’t in the cards for me. Oh, I kicked and screamed about going back to work in the first place. I had us selling our house and moving into an apartment so that I could stay home. My husband brought me back to the reality of a new baby and three cats in a small space while undergoing the stressful task of selling our house in a bad market.
So, when an opportunity came up to change, I took it. I took a pay cut. I left my bonus that I worked harder for than any other year behind. I stopped being a manager. I left a group of people that are some of the smartest and most driven people I’ll ever work with. I let go of some of the expenses I was able to afford before (like a bi-weekly housecleaning…which was soooo lovely). And…I’m happier than I’ve been in a very long time.
Now, I get to…
Walk Anderson to daycare when I work from my home rather than rush around like a maniac trying to get the two of us ready for the day.
Eat dinner with my family.
Spend my days completely immersed in photography, which was already a hobby that I wanted improve upon.
Make my own deadlines (for the most part).
Feel more peace and calm throughout the day.
Dress casually–like jeans every day casually–something that I’m still trying to feel comfortable with.
Avoid the 1-2 hour commute I had previously.
Have time alone in my house, a luxury I haven’t had since Anderson was born.
These changes are not small changes. They were the catalyst of many other changes that have started to take place.
Exercising at a nearby gym on my lunch breaks because I’m not trying to eat my lunch with one hand while typing on the other.
A more stable schedule meant that we could budget our time and money better…such as creating grocery lists and cooking healthier food at home as opposed to high-calorie take out.
Returning to my yoga practice that I left behind years ago.
Feeling creative energy throughout the day, which I had lost along the way as I climbed the ladder.
There are still stressful days, deadlines, and the challenges of carving out time for extracurriculars as a full-time working mom. I still have a commute. Sometimes money is really tight. Sometimes I log back into work at night when I have to finish something up.
At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to take a chance, make a big life change and trust that other good things will follow. When people ask me how work is, I actually say “really good” without hesitation. That is still a crazy thought for me after years of answering with a sigh and some sort of mumbling about being stressed out.
Here is one of the most inspirational blog posts ever written about change. I’ve kept a printed copy of this in my notebook for years now.
Create Time to Change Your Life (Zenhabits)