Four weeks after the birth of my son I was laid off from the non-profit where I had been working for almost four years. This role had fulfilled my existence for a very long time; it was the job my college aged self-dreamed of having. It involved long hours, frequent travel and stressful days and sometimes nights.
The timing of the lay-off could not have been more absurd. I had given birth via c-section after a long and arduous labor and was having serious issues with breast milk supply, I was hanging on to my sanity by a thread. My mind and body were not prepared to absorb the shock of this event and I was in a daze after it happened. On the upside, I knew that every ending is also a new beginning.
Aside from the financial concerns, this lay-off also meant that for the first time since high school I would be unemployed and that for the first time in a long time I would no longer have a career to help define the narrative of my existence. I had a new role to define me — mother. Yikes. I had no idea how to do that one.
In my silly naiveté, I had felt ready to take on motherhood and my career. I was excited to “lean in,” instead life decided it was time for me to “lean out.” I had been working non-stop for a very long time and the change of pace still feels foreign to me. Motherhood is definitely the hardest work I have ever done but it is very different from the professional world. Being a caregiver to an infant is at times repetitive and monotonous (didn’t I just change his diaper?) but it is soon followed by moments of sheer elation (look he smiled at me!)
Ultimately, being laid off helped me stop and enjoy the scenery. It gave this domestic skeptic time to fully appreciate the gift of motherhood. It forced me to enjoy the quiet moments. I had not had those moments since childhood. I was definitely a type A, wannabe overachiever. I was the first person in my family to graduate college, and I did it with honors. I rarely took time off. I worked on a presidential campaign in the Mid-West that involved 16 hour days for a few months and after a devastating loss I returned to my regular desk job at a public affairs firm the following Monday. I took some kind of pride in never stopping.
Don’t get me wrong, motherhood is definitely not a vacation. But there is a lot of appreciating to do and that appreciating can’t happen if you cannot be fully present. There’s that moment when your baby recognizes you, that moment of sheer delight when they discover something new, and see a new place for the first time. Parenting a newborn is very intense but those quiet moments are what keeps you going.