“And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off…”

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One of my favorite quotes is from writer Muriel Rukeyser. In her first volume of verse she wrote, “Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry.”

I came across this quote in a women’s literature course during my senior year of college. This quote has never left my soul, and I am reminded of these words whenever I hear a song or read something that resonates with me and strikes me as absolutely beautiful or painful. Being able to absorb an experience, memory or emotion and radiate words, music, movements or other forms of art that reach another’s soul is an amazing talent. It brings us closer to each other.

I have a great appreciation of and for this talent, especially because I never came close to possessing this talent after years of writing poetry and majoring in English and creative writing. When I hear or read what is true poetry by my standards, I feel thankful for being able to have an understanding of an experience I have never encountered, and I feel thankful for being able to be reminded by poetry that I am not alone. This is why I am currently obsessed with listening to “Shake it Out” by Florence + the Machine. My soul is clinging to this song.

I am determined to shake out the negative energy that I have allowed to disrupt my happiness and restrain my motivation to live an intentional life. I am determined to make some thoughtful changes that will make it easier for me to be who I am inside. I know that by doing so I will need to face some consequences and I will need to accept that there are some things I cannot change. But I am ready now to face these consequences and accept what I cannot change so that I can see light again and dance through this life more freely.

Yesterday marked my second full week of being home with my kids since leaving my job. Already I feel more alive than I have since I was on maternity leave with my daughter. That was almost two years ago.  I have been able to truly play with my kids without the stress of my job clawing at me. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments when I want to go in my bedroom, shut the door and throw a tantrum when my kiddos are throwing their own tantrums. But these moments pass, and my kids and I go on with our days together laughing and dancing.

I have had time to focus on myself, too. I am writing, I am reading and I am learning. I am accomplishing tasks around the house and yard that I have been putting off. I am curious again. I am trying new recipes and crafty projects. I am actually trying to have real conversations with my husband again about his engineering adventures that are way over my head instead of just listening due to lack of mental capacity and energy to provide any input. I am trying to rebuild connections and relationships with others that I have let slip away due to my own selfishness. And I must confess, I also watched the entire third season of “Pretty Little Liars” on Netflix.

These past two weeks with my kids, my husband and myself  have been absolutely awesome, which is making the job search more difficult than what I had anticipated. I don’t want to be ripped away from my children again and this happy state that I am in, yet I knew going into this that I would need to make finding a new job a priority. To prepare myself for when I do find something, I have been making mental notes during my adventures, reminding myself that I can still have these moments with my kids, my husband and myself as long as I do not let that devil on my back again.

So before I get back to discussing how I am going to have to do some creative budgeting due to the reality of the situation I have put myself and my family in, I am going to listen to “Shake it Out” on repeat a few more times. This song is therapeutic and it is poetry and it has turned my pain and experiences into something I can sing and dance to. I was paralyzed in the dark for a while, but I am slowly regaining my ability to move out of this dark place and toward a lighter space. I just need to keep dancing.

No job means no paycheck. Now what?!?!?

Prior to becoming a mother, I thought I would never want to stay home with my children or work less hours to be with my children more during the work week. I wanted a career, I wanted to be successful in the workplace, and I wanted to make money. Well, if there is one piece of advice I can offer to women who are expecting their first child or adopting their first child, it would be that nothing and no one — not even yourself or your own mother — can prepare you for motherhood.

After I had my son almost four years ago, I realized that I wanted to work less or not at all to spend more time raising him. Why? Because I discovered that I had more love in my heart than I knew was possible, and because I discovered that I had a special bond with him that was stronger than any connection I had to anyone else. I wanted to stay home with him also because part of me was and still is a major control freak and I wanted to make sure that he was getting the attention and care he needed and deserved during the day.

I wanted to make sure my son’s food was cut up small enough so he would not choke. I wanted to make sure he was playing with toys that were not choking hazards. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t put in the pack-and-play with a pillow during nap time so he would not suffocate. Are you sensing a pattern here? Yeah, I am a control freak and a worrywart. Being away from my son for more than eight hours a day was awful. But I eventually got used to it, and it was easier knowing that my grandma and aunt were watching my son instead of some stranger. After I had my daughter, though, I had a different job that I was discovering was not right for me. Going back to work was awful, and it just got worse. I wanted to be with both of my kids and I wanted out of my job.

Fortunately, many women are lucky to have options these days when it comes to work, school and family life. Women have the ability to work outside of the home to further their careers and earn an income while also being stellar moms. Women have the ability to go back to school or finish school while also raising their kids. Women also have the ability to stay at home with their young children so that they can monitor and choose how their children are spending their days. Unfortunately, all of these options require sacrifices and a lot of juggling.

When both parents work, finding child care and being able to afford child care can be extremely stressful, both financially and emotionally. How do you find a child care provider you can trust? Will you need to cut other expenses to afford child care? When moms or dads are working toward their educational goals while raising their kids, they need to be very strict about how they manage their time with their kids and their studying time. This may mean that parents may not be able to go to special events or family gatherings as much as they would like to, and they may feel like they are missing out on bonding activities. When one parent stays home, families may need to carefully monitor their expenses in order to afford living off of one income while raising kids, and this can be stressful and frustrating, too.

Yes, mothers do have options. But some of these options are not really options for women. This is a tough reality to face. Some moms can’t work because daycare expenses would break the bank. Some moms choose to put off their education because they don’t want to sacrifice time with their kids when their kids are young. And some moms can’t quit their jobs because doing so would break the bank. Yes, this is a tough reality to face for me. I want to stay home more with my kids, but I also have debt. In order to make this work on a temporary basis, I need to start getting creative, and I need to focus on the possibilities instead of the roadblocks.

How can I make it an option to stay at home with my kids more while also finding employment that is meaningful and allows me to gain new skills and further develop my strengths? Ideally, I should have figured this out prior to leaving my job. I get that. I should have come up with a plan A, B, C, D, E, F and G, which is something I normally do when it comes to making a huge decision like this. Instead, I have decided to wing it. Yikes!

Staying home full-time with my kids is not an option because I have some massive student loan debt. With a bachelor’s degree comes student loans. This is not news to anyone. However, a lot of college kids don’t realize how much they will be paying for their education if they are financing it all on their own. In my case, I can only blame myself for my student loan debt because I did not put the effort into figuring out how much I would actually owe after going to a private university in the Twin Cities for four years. I did save money by living with my parents during my junior and senior years of college and by also taking some of my electives at a community college. Yet, I was still bitch slapped with a statement after graduation showing that I owed nearly 100 g’s. Damn that accrued interest! Word of advice kids: Borrow money wisely and make sure you understand how much you will owe when you are financing your education. Your monthly student loan payments may be almost as much as your mortgage payment.

Luckily, my husband does not have student loan debt, but we do have a mortgage, car payments and other expenses that come along with owning a home and having kids. We are saving money by not sending the kids to daycare right now, but we still have to figure out how to pay for the other bills my income was going toward every month.

Obviously, the easiest way to afford not working right now is to cut expenses and to spend money wisely. But discussing ways to cut expenses and spend less money is going to take up another post if not more. Let’s save that for next time.

Why I started this blog.

I didn’t start this blog just to complain about how my job was smothering me. I started this blog to document my journey of finding something that better aligns with my values, skills, interests and goals. I started this blog because maybe something I wrote about what led to my resignation resonates with you. I started this blog because I want to create and be a part of a community of talented individuals who are searching and striving for the same thing: a job that makes us feel good about ourselves and a job that serves our community.

A lot of bad things have happened in our world within the last 12 months, but one thing that hurt me the most was hearing about the children who were murdered while they were at school. I was overwhelmed by my emotions, and I know that many other parents were as well. I was not directly affected by what had happened, but I thought about the parents who lost their kids that day and all I could do was cry and pray for them. And like every other time I hear of something awful happening, I thought wow, this world is pretty f*@!#$ up.

But then I saw some comments on Facebook that kind of slapped me in the face. We can’t let bad events make us feel helpless and hopeless. Yes, there are a lot of messed up things going on in our world, but is there a way to change this?

Being just one person, I know I can’t change anything. But God did put me here for a reason, and God put you here for a reason, too. If we collaborate and work together, we can make positive contributions that may help to create a better community, a better country and maybe even a better world.

Now, with this reflection in the back of my mind and dealing with what was going on in my work and home life, I began to make some other connections that helped me to finally have the guts to send in my resignation.

Prior to sending in my resignation, my husband and family listened to my ranting for several months. I went on and on about how I hated my job, how I didn’t have enough time with my kids during the week, and how I had no time for myself. At first I felt like no one understood the pain that I was feeling. And I didn’t want my husband, family or colleagues to think that I was lazy or giving up or going crazy. I felt alone for a long time. Mainly because I thought that leaving my job would make me a quitter, and I thought that I would be letting my family down. I wanted so badly to feel like someone understood me, but I realized that I was the one who didn’t completely understand where my pain was coming from. Rant after rant after rant, something finally surfaced.

I realized that I was so unhappy because my job was going nowhere for me. I was stuck.

At home, my number one duty is being a mom, and I love being a mom. I never knew how much love I could have for someone else until I had my first child. I never knew it was possible to love someone else just as much as I loved my son until I had my daughter. And I never knew how difficult and rewarding it could be to care for someone else more than yourself until I became a parent. Although being a mom is effortless when both kiddos are laughing and loving you for chasing them with a stuffed Yoda saying, “Catch you, I will.” Being a mom is also exhausting when both kiddos are screaming like someone is beating them with a belt because you asked them to try just one bite of their meal that they have already decided is “icky” because it has a sauce or doesn’t come with a sauce or looks like poop or something. But because my husband and I love our kids more than anything else, we find ways to get through these challenges, and we add a win to the board when everyone survives dinner without crying or banging our own heads on the table. We take it one day at a time. Some days are easier than others, but all days end with me loving my children more.

Being a mom has made me realize that I have the power to raise two children to do good in the world. This is a huge responsibility — and it’s scary to think that I have this sort of responsibility — but this gives me a purpose. Being a mom has also made me realize that I have a lot of flaws. This isn’t easy to accept, but this makes me want to be a better person for myself, for my husband, for my kids and for God. I learn something new every day as a mom. Some days I have a better understanding of my children’s personalities and behaviors, other days I have a better understanding of who I am and who I want to be.

What does all of this motherhood talk have to do with starting this blog, collaborating with others and having a job that makes me feel good about myself and serves my community?

Work can be effortless at times when you enjoy what you are doing. It can also be challenging, but these challenges are worth it when you gain new skills, earn achievements that are important to you and see how your work is having a positive impact on others. When work is effortless and challenging for the wrong reasons, it can make you feel stuck and hopeless. And this can poison you.

After months of feeling like I was barely surviving managing work and home life, I realized I was so frustrated and miserable because I wasn’t learning new skills at work and I didn’t have time after meeting production goals to participate in extra activities at work that would allow me to learn new skills. I couldn’t see a career path where I was at, and I couldn’t see how my work was having a positive impact on others. I felt like I was at a dead-end. I felt like I had no purpose outside of my home life, which made being away from my children the majority of the week even more painful.

A few weeks ago, my son told me to stop crying because he wanted me to be happy. My son is 3. His words were a wake-up call. I needed to make a change. I need to turn this dead-end into a new path.

It’s time to find my purpose. I don’t care if it’s big or small. I don’t care if I find it right away. At least I know now that I was no longer on the right path and I can redirect myself. And I know I am not the only person who wants purpose. I am not the only person who has left a job to find another job that is more fulfilling. I am not the only mother who has decided to leave a job or to work less hours to focus more on her children and being a mother she wants her children to look up to. I want to learn about how others are pursuing their “dream job” or applying their interests and talents at work. I want to learn about how others are trying to make a positive change in our world through their work or personal time. I want to learn about how other moms are living, not just surviving.

I created this blog because I want to hold myself accountable for finding my purpose and finding a job that is more meaningful. I also created this blog because I need some guidance, and I know that I am not alone.

Do you know what your purpose is?

Why I left my job.

Hi. I’m Aimee. I’m almost 28.

I have a bachelor’s degree, I’m a homeowner, I’m married and I have two toddlers. I have student loan debt, I have a mortgage, I have car payments, I refuse to carry a balance on my credit card, and I am saving for my kids’ future college expenses. I’m a planner and a hard worker. I have had a job since my freshman year of high school. Ever since then, I have always had a job. Until last week.

On June 7, I turned in my work laptop and my employee badge to my boss. He had security open a gate for me so I could exit the building. We shook hands, I walked to my car, and I never looked back.

This was a big moment for me. It’s right up there with getting my diploma, marrying the only person in the world who I think will ever know me better than I know myself, purchasing a house with my husband, and giving birth to my son and daughter. It was a big moment because I chose to leave my job. I chose to leave my job without having another job lined up. That’s right, I’m unemployed now.

Wait, what the !@#$ did I just do?!?!

Let me explain.

I started my most recent job in late 2010, and for a while it was awesome. I was writing, and I was making decent money doing it. The company offered great benefits, and I was working with many talented and motivated individuals. I thought I hit the jack-pot in terms of jobs. But then things got overwhelming really fast.

I had a second baby. Production goals increased. I was breastfeeding my daughter at all hours of the night and trying to fit in pumping while in the office during the day. Then I started working remotely at home five days a week, which meant I could shower during my lunch break instead of before taking the kids to day care. But then production goals increased again. I started working at night to catch up on the writing I couldn’t finish during the day. I stopped breastfeeding and pumping. I started potty-training my son. I was finally at a point when I was not having to work as much at night after the kids went to bed, but then production goals increased again. My husband started grad school. And I unraveled.

Going back to work after maternity leave with my daughter was a struggle. I wanted to stay home with her and my son, but I also knew that I needed to help support the family financially. I couldn’t make my husband be the only one responsible for making the money to pay the bills. After about three, four or five months of being back at work, I was finally able to get up in the morning without crying about wanting to stay home with my kids. And I was doing fine for a while.

But when production goals increased to the point where I had to start working at night after a full work day just to meet goals, I was miserable again. I kept telling myself that once I was done breastfeeding and pumping, I would have more time during the workday and more energy to get my work done. But by the time that happened, it was only a few months before goals increased again.

By the beginning of this year, I had no time to work on my career development. I was just writing, and writing, and writing. My motivation to advance at the company was gone. Employees who started after me were already advancing far beyond me. My husband also started grad school, which meant he was at night class once a week and also had to study on Saturdays and some Sundays. He is a great father and does so much for our kids, but because he couldn’t help as much as he used to, I started to feel like a single parent. I supported his decision to go to school and made sure he had the time he needed to do well in his first class, but I didn’t expect to get so exhausted so quickly.

I have been drowning. I want to swim again.

Things came crashing down on me pretty hard a couple of months ago. I was exhausted. I knew I needed a new job, or no job at all, but when I was asked what I was interested in or wanted to do, I didn’t have an answer. When I was with my kids, all I could think about was the basket of laundry that I still needed to fold and what I could do to try to accomplish more work in less time so I wouldn’t have to work at night after putting the kids to bed. I was angry at myself for being so miserable. I was angry at myself for wanting to leave my job. I was disgusted with myself for not being able to fully enjoy my time with my kids  because I was constantly worrying about everything else. I knew I needed to change something, and I knew that meant quitting my job. But I was scared. So I made an appointment with a psychotherapist.

After a couple of sessions with my psychotherapist, after months of praying to God for clarity, and after numerous discussions with my husband, family and friends, I finally allowed myself to send in my resignation.

I cannot keep my passions caged any longer. It is time to open the cage.

There are so many things I have been wanting to do. I want a job that is fulfilling. I want to further develop skills I haven’t used in a few years, and I want to learn new skills. I want more time to spend with my children, and I want to learn how to play with my kids without constantly worrying. I want to allow myself to indulge in my interests without feeling guilty about it. I want to go on more dates with my husband. I want to write a children’s book. I want to socialize with others more. I want to try bartending. I want to live.

Was it necessary to quit my job? Yes. It was smothering me.

Do I understand that most people don’t just quit their jobs without having another job lined up? Yes, I do. But I have so much more to offer, I have a husband who is willing to support this decision, and I will not let my family down. My husband deserves a happy wife, my kids deserve a brave mom, and I deserve to live life.

Watch out world; here I come.