I quit my job some weeks ago. Actually, it'll be a month, tomorrow. Without question, it's been one of the riskiest things I've ever done, primarily because I didn't quit this job to take another job. I quit this job because I wanted to take care of myself, and I'm still having a hard time believing that into existence.
Juniper was recently diagnosed with ADHD, and we're having her evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorder and sensory disorders, among other things. As a parent, that's more than a little intimidating, because anything that's unknown is intimidating. I also wasn't sure how I was going to be present for her through all of that, because of how much I was working, and how much my job required of me - physically, emotionally, mentally. My job demanded at least 45 hours from me a week, but usually more like 50-55 hours a week. I would get home and toss scraps of myself to my family. I had crusts for Juniper when she deserves gourmet sandwiches. I would piss and moan to my boyfriend about nothing but the job, and my stress level was practically off the charts. None of that mattered, however, because MONEYCONSUMERISMBILLSMONEY. At least, I convinced myself it didn't matter.
I had something of an epiphany one day, when Juniper asked me when I was going to be happy again. Cue the knife in the heart. Besides the weekends, I saw my child perhaps 10 hours a week, and those hours were consumed with frustration and exhaustion because I took work home with me and would dish out my woes like dinner onto their plates. I was only half committed to anything else, driven mad by what I felt was a required allegiance to this vapid employment. When Juniper said those words to me, it was like all the gears in a machine shop grinding to a halt on Friday night when everyone was heading home. All of the pipes, all the connections in my brain, stopped instantly, and I just stared at her. I said, "Junie B, do you think I'm not happy?" She replied, "You're always angry and sad. You're always at work. I want you to be with me."
I put in my notice within days.
Now I'm unemployed, but damn, do I feel good. I have time to sit and snuggle Juniper in the morning, instead of yelling at her to "get her shoes on because we're late and how many times do I have to ask you to finish your breakfast?!" I have time to research recipes and make food that fulfills my creative longings and satisfies my family's hunger, instead of stuffing their faces with anger and stress. I'm sitting outside in the sun as I type this, not fielding phone calls with my shoulders already up to my ears and the work week hasn't even started yet. I'm making frayed ends meet, but now it's on my terms.
So why do I feel so lazy? So unmotivated? So helpless?
There is a school of thought that I have realized women buy into. We are frenzied trying to fill our time, because if we are viewed as doing 'nothing,' we are labeled as free-loaders; lazy women who sit and home and spend their savings or their husbands paychecks, useless to the world. Even stay-at-home moms serve on this committee and volunteer at that non-profit and sign their kids up for this event and that sport - fill the time, fill the time. Moments spent relaxing or sitting around are forbidden, because we have been led to believe that we must be productive at all costs.
Maybe it's because women make less than men, and are still viewed as 'lesser-than' in the business world, so our frenzy is a desperate attempt to prove to the men that we're just as busy and important as they are and we deserve as much. Maybe it's because stay-at-home moms want to be seen as just as productive as working moms (BELIEVE ME, I KNOW HOW HARD SAHM WORK, I was a SAHM - bear with me here) so we throw ourselves into anything with a sign-up sheet to show how dedicated and committed we are to this or that.
Maybe, it's because....we don't even know how to take care of ourselves. Self-care feels SO foreign. Why would I sit for hours and drink coffee when there's laundry to be done?! Why would I let you clean the car by yourself?! How can I possibly let you cook dinner without helping?! We slip into a modus of 'do-it-all-or-die-trying' and completely lose ourselves in the process.
I have said for many years, and probably to some of you reading this, "You can't pour from an empty cup." I can safely say that, while I was preaching this to others, I was certainly not practicing it myself. My cup has been empty for YEARS. I didn't have the money to fill it with anything (yoga, a wine club, a gym membership, a little trip alone) and even if I did, I didn't have the time. I would make due with a new dress from Goodwill or Target, splurge on a bottle of wine, do a yoga video I found on YouTube, or get some henna. Nothing permanent. Nothing that even made a dent. It was comparable to Cinderella trying to go to the ball in the dress after her step-sisters destroyed it. Like the meme of the dog sitting in the room on fire, saying, "This is fine."
IT'S NOT FINE. AND IT'S NOT ENOUGH.
Our bodies and our minds deserve so much more than a 10 minute yoga video once a month. We deserve more than a clearance dress that makes us feel pretty until our kid vomits on it or we spill on ourselves (inevitable). We deserve more than a bottle of wine that will be gone in an evening. We deserve hours to ourselves. We deserve hot coffee and yoga class and time with our friends and to sit and do nothing every now and then. Certainly more often than once a month.
Despite the fact that I am unemployed, and I am floundering and broke, I am going to take care of myself. It helps tremendously that I have a partner who encourages and fosters that, and I hope that you do, too. If you are taking care of any other living thing, even a pet, know that self-care isn't audacious. It is absolutely 100% necessary.
And so are you.