The decision that I wrote about struggling with a little while ago, has finally been made. I have left one of my two part-time jobs to stay home, manage the household affairs, do more with my son, ensure the harmony of our daily routine, and begin a new path toward reinventing myself as a working artist.
I labored over this decision for months.
I never fancied myself a stay-at-home mum until after I had a child. Even then, it wasn’t something I wanted to do immediately or permanently. I like being involved. I like using my professional skills. I like contributing financially. But then, several months ago, Jeramy began working for a new company, and received a significant raise in pay. Suddenly, the possibility to stay home was more real, right at a time when our lives were the most hectic. Our days were structured around trading off; while one person slept or worked the other took command of the parenting and made an attempt at maintaining a passable level of cleanliness in the house. We were spending so little time together as a family, that any financial boost we were gaining was not worth it.
So I reduced my hours. But the problems persisted. I was stressed out all the time trying to make this work, but it just wasn’t quite piecing together the way we had hoped. Even on the days that I was off, we were scrabbling to make up for the time we lost on my days away. Calm eluded us, except when I was able to put in for many days off in a row. Between the two places of work, this was nearly impossible.
I felt trapped between two worlds. You see, I felt that my jobs helped to make up who I am, my sense of identity. When people asked me about myself, I always listed “Barista” and “Librarian Assistant” right after “Mother”, “Wife”, and “Artist”. I worried that if I let go of my barista job (the one that was making life crazy), it somehow meant I was giving up a part of myself. I am passionate about coffee and espresso, and I love sharing that knowledge with others. I had even gained the occasional nickname: “Krista the Barista”.
While trying to explain this potential loss of part of my identity, my husband gave me an unexpected piece of wisdom from an episode of Ally McBeal, of all ridiculous and unlikely places. (I was obsessed with that show as a teenager, and we have been re-watching the entire series together on Netflix, and loving it.)
In this episode, the character Elaine wants to win a twisting contest, because she values her dancing abilities as one of her major reasons for worth. The other characters may have law degrees, but she can dance and sing, and takes great pride in that. With the arrival of the contest, she worries that if she loses, it might mean she loses part of what makes her who she is.
In the end, she does win, and is sitting in her office admiring her trophy. The character Larry, played by Robert Downey Jr., sees her doing this and advises her not to display the trophy on the shelf, but rather to keep it in her drawer. The direct quote is: “You should enjoy [the trophy], but it’s where you display it that matters. If you put it on the mantlepiece, it says this is what or who you are. If you stick it in a drawer, then it’s something you’ve done, you’ve accomplished, and it doesn’t tarnish so easily. You won it; keep it, it’s yours. Just don’t hold yourself up to it.”
Jeramy reminded me of this quote, and then explained to me: just because I don’t work as a barista anymore, doesn’t mean it can’t still be something I have done in my life that I can be proud of. I put in three-and-a-half years, gained a lot of knowledge, discovered a real passion for coffee and tea, and made some friends. Leaving the job behind does not mean I leave behind the memory of all that I did there. I can still list it among my accomplishments.
The time has come though, to put that part of my life in the drawer.