[Dash of SAS] The day I hung up my stilettos

Ana P. Santos
In the eyes of my boss, I was giving up the guarantees that come with a fulltime job, but I found myself quoting Harrison Ford and said, 'I missed so much of her life already, please don't let me miss any more'

Around this time two years ago, I hung up my stilettos.

I handed in my resignation to my boss; I told him I wanted to be a writer and spend more time with my daughter.

“Have you gone completely nuts?” was what I was sure he wanted to ask me. Instead, in a gentle concerned voice, he asked if I was ready to give up the stability and security of my tenure especially since I was (and still am) a solo parent.

In the eyes of my boss, I was not just giving up the designated parking slot and the certainty of the corner office with a view, but also the guarantees that come with a fulltime job, effectively throwing away the 9 years I had invested in a banking career to do what? To become a freelance journalist reporting on sexual health rights.

I could have been daring, bold and slightly arrogant by quoting the girls from “Sex and the City” and saying, “I want to leave while I’m still the life of the party!”

Instead, I found myself quoting Harrison Ford in the movie, “Regarding Henry” and said, “I missed so much of her life already, please don’t let me miss any more.”

I was talking about my then 8-year-old daughter. I didn’t want to miss any more of her growing up.

Oh, I had my doubts then. I knew no other life than being employed. All my career life, showing up for work and doing my job meant a paycheck every two weeks. I finally reached a point where I could say I had a dream job.

But what I couldn’t tell my boss was what it took to get there. It took many nights of working late, of not knowing what time I would get home, days of getting ready to go home only to find out that there was a need to stay.

“Comes with the territory,” I told myself; there were bills to pay and even with her father helping out, I was scrambling to make ends to meet.

This is all par for the course for working moms, but in the life of a solo mom who shared custody of her child, that did not leave me much time with my daughter. She stayed with me during the weekdays and with her father on weekends – so she would only get to spend time with the wraggled worn-out mother I was by the end of the day.

When she was younger, it meant being too tired to read the bedtime story a second time, “this time with the funny accent, Mommy” and finding excuses to just put her to sleep.

When big school came, it meant conversations over homework and my short-temperedness and impatience at having to go through Math problems yet again. It was as if I had used up all my patience in the office that I didn’t have any left for the home.

On the most extreme nights, I would wait – sometimes in the office, sometimes in the car – until she was asleep before going home because I was so afraid that my exhaustion and weariness would bring me to a breaking point that would just make me lash out at her or anyone else I came in contact with.

It was time to devote the same energy I spent on my corporate career to being a mom.

I wanted to tell my boss, “It’s more important for me to be whole than to be successful.”

Being whole

But I knew myself well. To me, part of being whole was also being successful. I knew I could not leave the corporate world without achieving a level of success and stature. I would feel like I gave up too much of what I needed to make myself happy as a person.

I know myself well enough to know that I needed to be happy with myself before I could be happy with myself as a mother. I knew that I would resent the responsibilities of parenthood if it came at the cost of my own self-identity.

In a way, it was also having a career, the validation and fulfillment it brought me, that made me appreciate the privilege of raising a child and watching her grow up.

Now, going on 3 years since I left my corporate post, I would like to think that while my stilettos have secured their own rung on the corporate ladder, I can still pull them out from time to time to wear for big meetings, presentations or speaking engagements.

They’re not as overworked as my flip-flops and sneakers when covering a story or doing fieldwork. And I have a found a much more comfortable replacement that still give me a much needed boost – wedges!

On some days, I don’t wear shoes at all; like while I’m working in my living room, waiting for my daughter to come home from school. On the occasions when the two of us want to live dangerously, we watch a DVD on a school night and eat not one, but two bags of microwave popcorn.

When her school declares a holiday, so do I. I make my own self-declared holiday and don’t take any meetings, assignments or speaking engagements so she and I can watch a movie. (If we want to be really badass about it, we eat dessert first before having lunch and watching a movie.)

It is a life of domesticity that my – shall I call it “old self” – would not have ever thought I could embrace. It is a life of many ordinary-nothing-special days that are marked by simplicity and filled with something that was previously so elusive: content.

I used to say that it was more important to be whole than to be successful.

But I don’t think you have to give up one over the other. Just like learning to walk on high heels, it’s all about finding your balance. – Rappler.com


Ana P. Santos is a freelance journalist who focuses on women’s sexual health rights. She is also a work from home mom to her 10-year-old daughter. This article was written after Ana read Anne Marie Slaughter’s article in The Atlantic made her think about what having it all meant to her. Follow her on @dash_of_SAS or at www.sexandsensibilities.com


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