“Can I see you in my office after this meeting?” he casually dropped as the team walked out of the board room. And just like that everything was about to change.
I had been with this company for six years. I was comfortable there, and I knew it inside and out. I was also six months pregnant, with a toddler in daycare and a family that relied on my income and healthcare benefits. To say the layoff came as a blow is an understatement. I was devastated.
I went through the usual stages of mourning: denial, self-pity, anger. But at the same time, I was determined to get back to work – some way, some how – and as fast as possible. I saw my pregnancy as almost a human timer. I only had a few months before this thing buzzed and I needed a game plan stat.
Needless to say, life had other plans. Nobody – not my husband, my family, colleagues – understood my urgency for maintaining “career woman” status this far into my pregnancy, when I’d have to bow out for a few months anyway once the baby arrived. Everyone recommended I wait for the baby, use this time to take it easy and love on my toddler, maybe do some nesting. Because seriously, what’s the rush?
For me, the rush was my identity. I was a business person. This was who I was long before becoming a wife and a mother. I had never gone more than a few weeks without a job, and the idea of just hitting the pause button for potentially months was beyond terrifying.
I was afraid of losing my skill set. I was afraid of losing my momentum. I was afraid of being forgotten. I was afraid of my identity being redefined overnight from successful career woman to stay-at-home mom who doesn’t leave the house much and never seems to shower.
As hard as I fought, the working world wasn’t open to my determination either. I only landed a few job interviews leading up to my baby’s birth, and either the job wasn’t a great fit or we mutually agreed the timing was off. “Let’s chat after the baby’s born,” was a common close to career opportunities.
So I started to relax a little. I started to think about what I actually wanted in a job, not just what looked most promising on current job boards. I thought about what an ideal job schedule would look like to me. Would I want to work from home? Would I consider working for myself?
I also tried to be more mindful and present. I started meditating, and directed more time on now, not where I’m going or where I’ve been. Breathing exercises, reading more, and putting my phone down and focusing on what’s around me has helped me stay present and not worry so much about things for which I have no control.
My baby is due any day now and I’m nowhere closer to finding a job. And you know what? I’m beyond grateful. This time at home has been the most professionally life-changing, exploratory months of my life. I’ve had ample time to fathom every possibility for who I am, and what I want.
How often does life hand us a pregnancy pause (no pun intended)? A moment, a week, or months to step back and just breathe it all in? When I finally realized life wasn’t a race and focused on being present, I discovered new interests, new passions, and new inspiration that I never knew existed inside of me.
It’s taken me thirty-something years to finally realize I have a say in my destiny. Some people come to terms with this at a far younger age, but others never reach this realization. All it took was the end of a job. And while it felt like the sky was falling at the time, now I realize the opposite was happening… the world and my very existence was opening up.