Why I quit my job in the middle of a pandemic

Sasha Lim Uy
Why I quit my job in the middle of a pandemic

Illustration by Nico Villarete

'Today, I am a mother, slowing down to appreciating the first steps and home schooling'

There is no way to romanticize this decision. I didn’t quit my job to backpack around the world or fulfill a lifelong passion to save the rainforest. I quit because I had just given birth to my second son and having two small children in a tiny condominium amid a ravaging disease plus the demands of working from home and school from home were a little too much to bear.

It’s a ramble, but that’s what life has been. 

You know when people say things can’t get any worse? I took that advice. Everything in the world was uncertain. What is more uncertainty?

It was not an easy decision. I had been working in my job for nine years and, for the most part, I thrived in it. But, amid everything that was happening concurrently in my life, it was easily the most dispensable. Despite the fear, I took the plunge, opting to stay on perpetual maternity leave.

Or, maybe opting to dive into a life where there are actually no leaves. It depends on how you see it. 

I grew up in the ’90s, an atmosphere where women work – my aunts, my cousins, my grandmothers. My mom, a single mother of five, had no choice but to work. It was the picture that was painted on my mind: this was a strong woman, someone who worked and mothered, with perfectly manicured hair and nails and, on the side, went out for ballroom nights and joined charitable women’s organizations. 

I have no charitable organization. The last time I had my hair colored was for my wedding nearly four years ago. Besides, my hair is falling out from mothering alone — literally, my 6-month-old is a prodigious hair-puller. 

Not even a month after relegating myself as a housewife, I put my contacts into full swing, getting writing gigs and other freelance work left and right. I was afraid that if I didn’t work, that if I was idle even for one day, I would, how can I put it? Become lazy? Open the floodgates of lethargy? That is, of course, assuming that being a stay-at-home mom with the round-the-clock breastfeeding, playing with a feisty toddler, and running a household was lethargic work. On top of that, I needed to exercise and get in shape because after fighting diapers and picky eaters and dirty diapers, I still needed to look good on Instagram (at least for that one-second snapshot). 

A friend told me to settle down. My husband, during a late working night asked me what the point of resigning was. I needed to relax, but I didn’t know how — and I was afraid to. 

The fact is, we’ve painted a very specific picture of motherhood and feminism in our head. The Sheryl Sandberg definition where women should find the balance between having perfect families and running a high-powered career. A woman who not only can do it all, but actually does all. Anything less would be a betrayal to womanhood.  

But here is another fact. Women cannot have it all (even Sandberg admits as much), and the pandemic only highlighted such a reality. There will always be trade-offs: from taking a half day to attend your child’s Buwan ng Wika performance or working overtime instead of reading a bedtime story. In today’s world, mothers are half listening during meetings as they make sure their child’s Google Classroom is linked properly. Cameras are off during the weekly brainstorming because breakfast at home is a messy affair. The idealized world is one full of compromises. 

Of all the things I was and could become, I didn’t want to be a half mother, especially now that I was bound home. I see time slipping away, my baby nephew suddenly a preteen who wants to spend Sundays with friends. I wanted to take this opportunity to spend as much time with my kids before they become old enough to desire to build their own lives — away from me. 

We were taught to be scientists and doctors and lawyers. On a yearbook, no one every writes “I want to be a mother.” It just feels hokey and unimpressive, even though being a mother meant raising another human being. 

So today, I am a housewife.

Being a mother doesn’t take away my 10-year working experience, devalue whatever accomplishments I’ve achieved. If anything, years of higher education didn’t prepare me enough to negotiate three more bites of vegetables in exchange for one M&M. Years of going to the gym didn’t prep me enough to carry two kids all at once. The all-nighters I’ve completed don’t compare to late-night feedings. All the crises I’ve had to deal with at the office didn’t quite ready me for the panic of figuring out a 37.6 fever and a suspicious rash. (Is it COVID-19? Is it dengue?) 

If it’s true what they say that we should constantly challenge ourselves by getting out of our comfort zone, then what’s more uncomfortable than getting food thrown at you or getting bitten while breastfeeding? Today, I am a mother, slowing down to appreciate the first steps and home schooling. While I may not be good at it and I question myself every single day, it’s as good a job as any, if not better. –

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