While I was in college, I was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Professional Promise. I went straight to law school and graduated in 2.5 years instead of the normal three years. I passed the Bar on my first try and immediately got a promising job. I was on my way to be a success! I was going to be someone who was going to make a big difference in the world before I was 35. That was the plan and everybody that knew me was positive it would happen.
Except, it didn’t.
I turn 36 next month and I no longer practice law. I do not plan on going back. I HATED it. Now, I am a stay at home mom, despite the earlier hard work for my education and success. But I’ll take it one step further — I’m a HOMESCHOOLING stay at home mom. I have three children under the age of ten (8, 4, and 1.5), so I have very little time for myself. And I would not change a thing. I love it.
BUT I’m not going to lie. When I realized that for my entire family’s happiness and health (including my own) I needed to step away from my career, I GRIEVED. I mean really grieved. I felt like a failure. I was not yet thirty when I decided to stay home for my family, but I knew I had failed in my career. If I didn’t keep it going, I just knew that I was not going to succeed ever! I was done.
As the years went by, I came to accept that I needed to be home. My family was lucky. I could stay home, and while I saw mothers that have been able to have babies at home and still follow their dreams, I was not one of them. I could not healthily balance it all. It was too much for me, so I took a step back and saw the benefits for my family. But I still had moments of shame. I was sure that others thought I stepped back because I had failed at law.
But that wasn’t the case. While I loved learning law and analyzing it, I hated the practice of it. Stepping away from practicing law helped me realize that it is not my dream. I didn’t waste my law degree. On the contrary, I use the things I learned. Law school made a positive impact on me and it will never leave me. I was not a failure. Leaving a career to be a healthier and happier me for my family was probably the scariest and bravest decision I made. Yet, I was still scared. Will I ever make my mark on the world? I have cried countless tears to my husband about all that I had to give up for motherhood. I didn’t have anything FOR ME. Everything I do is for my kids. I still wanted to shine. Have a time to really REALLY succeed in something that I put my mind to. Not just do it, but excel in it! Did I lose my chance because I am getting into my mid-thirties?
You see, we are taught that in order to succeed we must push for it from college (or earlier) and never cease working for that success even when we finally reach it. We celebrate the “thirty under thirty,” the people who seem to become a success almost overnight. We don’t celebrate that woman in her fifties that has just become a best-selling author. We don’t celebrate the empty nester that has finally received her PhD.
It wasn’t until this year that I realized that I’m not giving up my dreams. I’m putting them on hold. I am waiting for my time. I have chosen something else. I have chosen to be there for my children. I am not saying that every woman must do this — absolutely not! I know several amazing mothers who are successful in achieving their dreams. But if you are like me and decide that it is not the time to pursue your dreams because you already have so much on your plate as a mother, that’s ok. Before you know it, your children will be older and a little more independent. You will be able to open that business, write that book, go for that PhD.