Last weekend, for the first time in years -- even including vacations -- I turned off my work email. It was an unceremonious transition, my work laptop passed to the replacement executive assistant, a few final good wishes, followed by the usual commute home.
For five years, I've been in this rat race of commuting, running late, overachieving, impulsively checking in with work around the clock, shooting midnight and 5 am emails to all the other Dallas EA's, and like a hopeless crack addict, I spent the past weekend logging into my work email, checking on situations that no longer affected me, deleting the account, and then re-installing it again just to be sure. I finally realized that without the laptop, I couldn't accomplish much anyway.
Leaving my job was a somewhat reluctant and unplanned decision (kind of like getting pregnant with twins). Never one to let go lightly, it took a series of reality checks over several months to realize "Super Mom" is a delusion, and I can't actually do it all.
Leaving is full of uncertainty. We've re-run the new budget so many times this week, an exercise that usually ends with shrugging our shoulders and saying, "God's got this." (Or, as so many of our conversations end, with shrieking preschoolers calling us to the other room.)
What's surprised me is the joy.
In the last few days, I haven't held up my hand, asking my kids to be quiet while I finish a call. I haven't indefinitely prolonged reading "Thomas the Tank" or a hike to the park while sending a work email.
The opportunity to work part-time from home over the past year has been really great, but in only three days, I can see how work-life boundaries didn't exist (which is why it was such a good set-up for my company). I didn't have the freedom or the discipline to set limits or hours, thinking my physical presence at home with my mental presence at work was enough to satisfy everyone.
As young kids do, they adapt, make the best, overlook any faults in their parents, and they love.
But the past few days, sans email and laptop, have overflowed with small moments and seemingly insignificant joys.
"Mama, since we are so happy, I'm going to give you something," my four-year-old said spontaneously, and then reached little arms around my neck to gift me a hug.
Six months pregnant with twins (both of whom are on the normal-to-high weight range for singleton births -- so much for small babies), I'm slower and more limited than I've ever been. But I'm here, mentally and physically present with my family and beginning to think the work stress has all been for nothing.
I'm frustrated with myself for chasing the financial "American Dream." I feel like a pawn in someone else's game -- striving for accolades in a system that reinforces wealth and materialism, so I can mentally crash at the end of each day and then wake up too early to do it all again.
I expected financial crisis, transitioning to one income (totally could still happen). I didn't expect a calmer peace of mind, a happier home, and re-discovering so many moments with my husband and kids. I would downsize ten times over to keep this.