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Two Roads Diverged in a Suburban Parking Lot

Noah's private school is around the corner from my old office. On Mondays I drop him off and then hang out at the shopping center across the street, poaching WiFi from the sandwich place where I used to get lunch. The parking lot is still a pain in the ass, the chicken salad is still too dry, but that's where the nostalgia ends.

I've been coming here since last summer, when I brought a very, very different little boy to the school's summer camp, and yet I have never once bumped into anyone I know. I drove by the office every day for months without noticing that the company name was no longer on the building -- they'd moved a couple blocks away, to another building that I drove by every day, but the name on that building is different too. The company was sold awhile back, then renamed and rebranded. I had no idea until I joined LinkedIn and tried searching for coworkers. Most of them are still there, though there were quite a few layoffs in the wake of the stock market crash.

I still can't listen to stock market reports without thinking about my job -- if the Dow or NASDAQ closed up or down a certain number of points, I had to stay late and send out one last update. When I started, the updates were recorded over the phone. Subscribers would call and listen to a pre-recorded message from their investment adviser about the day's action. When we started sending the updates out via email, I had to call the phone number over and over again to transcribe the messages, because some of the advisers didn't like typing it out first, but preferred to just call and ramble on for awhile about whatever they felt like. One guy was downright epic -- he'd talk for 15 minutes about everything from the Presidential election cycle to the auto industry to the Olympics to the yuan to the bulls and the bears and lagging indicators and buy some blue chips and short the dollar and by the way I'm recording this message from my yacht, have a nice weekend, folks. He always got a few ticker symbols wrong, and to this day I still know a good 200 of them by heart.

It's not my job anymore -- and that particular bit of drudgework hadn't been my job for awhile, as I lobbed it off on assistants and interns as soon as I could -- but I still call it my job. When a former boss sent out an employment posting on LinkedIn for a managing editor with an eerily familiar set of duties, I forwarded it to Jason and said something like, oh how funny, I could get my job back. I don't want it back, but still.

I was so terrified when I quit my job. That job. Whatever job.

The title and responsibilities sound the same, but not much else would be. The new building has cubicles instead of window offices and I hear the formal dress code has been relaxed. It's all very Internet-y now and I have no idea if they still do any actual publishing. Like on paper. Which was a thing, back then. Way back in, you know, 2006.

I imagine, if I hadn't quit outright, I probably would have dropped down to part-time by now, what with the realities of two babies in daycare, twice the cost and quadruple the sick days. Being away from Ezra for 40 hours a week sounds about as attractive as dropping off a couple of my limbs. And who would drive Noah to evaluations and therapy and private school in the afternoon? So maybe I'd be freelancing or contracting. Maybe copywriting, or handling the after-hours grudgework that nobody else wanted. Maybe I would have been laid off already.

I think all of this over just about every Monday, as I stare out the window at the building that the company I no longer work for no longer occupies. I wonder about that life for awhile, like it's the alternate reality B-plot from Lost. Then I get back in the car to go pick up the first of the two greatest decisions I ever made.



What a great post. What a great attitude.

cagey (Kelli Oliver George)

When I take my kids to downtown KC and point out all of my old office buildings, their eyes grow large at the thought I used to work in them.

So do mine.

When my fat, pregnant ass waddled out of the Federal Reserve for the last time nearly 5 years ago, I had no regrets. And I still do not.


You pretty much could have ripped this out of my brain.


Yeah, I hear you. I was assistant director of communications for a homeownership education and foreclosure mitigation nonprofit in DC, and if you want to know how good things were when I started there, it's a nonprofit that could afford an assistant director of communications. And my executive assistant too.

I got laid off in April 2008, about the time that I was thinking I'd really like to be laid off from a place that was increasingly stressful and stretched increasingly thin in every direction under the economy. It's picked back up, by lots, and I've been offered my job back, several times, but we've moved from the DC area and wow, am I ever in a different place now. And not just geographically speaking.

Anyway, yeah. I hear ya.


As budget cuts loom in the school district my wife is a teacher in, this is a decision we've discussed several times - the pros/cons of her continuing to work a job she doesn't absolutely love vs. staying home with our daughter.

We both agree that it isn't the job she wants to retire doing, but oh, the loss of disposable income, at least until we might have two kids in daycare.

Glad to hear a perspective from the side of left and hasn't regretted it. At the time, did you ever think you made the wrong decision to quit?


My first baby is due late August.

This makes me really, really wish I didn't have to work. Alas, my husband is starting a PhD program this fall...


Oh, this stresses me out. Because I'm not there yet, but what if I want to be? And what if I can't afford it? GAH.

But, I mean, stresses me out in a really well written way, of course.


Yeah, I hear you. I have had those thoughts myself, especially when I get emails from old co-workers (while I sit in my pjs at 11 AM and am wiping a dirty tush for the 1000 time). But you summed it up perfectly when you wrote, "...the (first of) two greatest decisions I've made." YEP!

Amy K

I occasionally miss working outside of the home, and then my one-year-old daughter will start dancing or imitating the Jeopardy Daily Double sound, and I'll remember how lucky I am to be able to stay home and watch her grow and learn. I wouldn't trade it for anything.


I'm jealous. Though I know every family is different and "makes it" in different ways. I know change is coming for me, and this gives me peace knowing it will be the right thing. At the right time.


Couldn't agree with you more. Thanks for the encouraging Monday post!


I wasn't in the corporate world as long as you were, Amy, but I totally understand feeling like it all happened in some other life, or some other dimension. I see my old office building all the time and still can't believe I put on pantyhose -- PANTYHOSE! -- 5/7 days a week and paid for parking for the privilege of working there. I'm much happier in my sweats having my car in my own driveway. But I sometimes think that maybe I'll be back there one day. Errrr. Ahhh. Hmmm.

Don't really wanna. Not yet.


I've re-typed this stupid comment three times now because it's too long and not very interesting. So...long story short; yes and yes. I often think about what the alternate version of myself would be if I hadn't decided to have a baby when I did and instead continued with my career. Then I look at my sweet babe and I'm reminded exactly why I don't go to an office 40 hours a week anymore, my life's work is right in front of me...needing cheerios, or a snuggle or a diaper changed.


Every night I dream of being able to walk away from it all.


I hope hope hope I can say this one day. (As I type this comment from my office in corporate america, wearing slacks and being "professional")
I cant wait until I can look back on this phase and never have to leave my baby again.


A 20-year-old asked me yesterday, "So you JUST stay home?" Yes, I just stay home with my beautiful, inquisitive, bubbly, loving 16-month-old daughter. And I am thankful every day that I made that choice.

Sprite's Keeper

I'm guessing where your grass is greener. This working mom envies you.


It's so nice that you can be thankful at at time that isn't late November. Good for you. I'm not a mom but so many of my friends are and they really struggle with this decision - it's such a biggie. I remind them that it's all about pros and cons and no decision is perfect! Glad to hear that you have found peace in your choice.


I really appreciated this entry. So many mom blogs are "argh, it's so hard," etc. Yes, I know it's hard. But I love hearing from you, someone who is just a regular person like me, that your kids are such a good thing in your life. Thanks for saying it!


I am on maternity leave right now and do not want to go back to work. Even part time work is just not that appealing right now. But, I'm so worried about the long term outcome if I decide to quit my job...I have a masters degree, a professional license, etc. and have been working "up the ladder" for years. I know this is an unfair question for Amy and readers, but here goes anyway... how will I figure out what to do???


i also quit my job in 2006 after my first was born. i don't pass the office often, but i do think about the alternate time line quite a bit. the money would be great, but i'm pretty sure i'd be downright miserable.


Good to hear Amy, especially on a day like today when I part of me just wanted to run away (and for me running away would mean getting a "real" job where I wouldn't have to bear the 24/7 responsibility of having 2 small boys). Thanks for the perspective. :)


Kay -
As a working mom with now-grown children, I suggest that you imagine yourself 10 years from now in both situations. Try to imagine what you would gain or lose, and see how you think you would feel about it. There's no one right answer; it's a question of what works best for you and your family. And that answer can also vary over time. Good luck!


Frequent reader, now de-lurking. I am a single mom, with a fabulous 9 mo. old son, who used to go to school and work 3 jobs. I qualified for ChildCare Assistance when I was working at the daycare where my son attended. When I no longer qualified, I quit my job at the daycare and now stay home with my little man. The daycare costs and my paycheck would have evened each other out. Not worth it. I am lucky enough to still have 2 jobs with flexible, very part-time hours, and excellent pay. I still attend school and only pay a sitter for the time I'm in class. While I was pregnant and even on maternity leave, I couldn't imagine not working. Now I can't imagine not being home. This is the best decision I ever made. I LOVE being home with him to see him learn and grow. The budget is tight, but we are making it work. I'm continually learning new ways to shave a little here and there. I wouldn't trade it for anything. More money isn't worth the time away.


I'm a little over half way through my pregnancy and set to meet next week with my 'big boss' to discuss part-time work. She's already made it clear I will be allowed to work part-time and that is absolutely the best scenario I could imagine. And yet there are so many 'what ifs' for me. I'm taking a deep breath and reminding myself of my husband's wise words, if this doesn't work, then we'll do something else.


I'm typing this from my office, while The Dad watches The Kid run around in the park. Because of the kinds of jobs we had, it wasn't a choice -- that's the way it had to work out. If I'd had the choice, I don't know what I would have done, but I do know that when The Kid was The Baby, leaving for the office did feel like leaving a part of my own body behind. And now he's six, and it's still really, really hard. But ... life goes on.

Donna P

You're a very lucky girl, Miss Amy.


I would love to have the financial flexiblity to allow me to quit my job....but not yet. However, I am fortunate enough to at least be able to work 20 hours from the office and 20 hours from the home office. One of these days I would love to say that I don't miss a single moment of my son's development... but sadly that probably won't happen for another couple of years at best. Good for you though... I am jealous!


I could have written this exact post, though not as eloquently. I was a communications professional who unexpectedly walked away from her corporate career in 2006 for the first of her two best decisions in life. Thank you for putting this out there.


Nicely written ----- I totally get where you're coming from. My family-friendly job is so much better than the other work I could do. And I am very grateful to have it.


Nicely written ----- I totally get where you're coming from. My family-friendly job is so much better than the other work I could do. And I am very grateful to have it.


Whenever I see debates like this it always seems the arguments for working are just about more money. Isn't there anyone out there who enjoys the stimulation and challenges of a rewarding career? I'm pregnant with my first and plan to come back to work, if only part time, because I really love what I do and I don't want to give up that part of myself that I've worked so hard to attain. It's still a difficult decision however because I want to be the best mom I can be too. I just wanted to see if there's anyone out there struggling with the thought of leaving a career behind, not just a job.

Aunt Becky

I think about that stuff all the time. It's crazy. The choices you make and where you end up. It's amazing how different things can be from where you started.


You know, my story is almost exactly the opposite--stayed at work, decided not to have anymore babies, now looking at a promotion while the Mr. takes a stab at being The Primary Parent for a while.

But still, I totally get it.


why can't still working be one of the good decisions? After my second son was born I had to accept that I LIKE working outside the home. Miss them both? Yes, like crazy but it works for us.


I've been working from home a FRACTION of the time (like I'm AMAZED when I get 18 hours in for the 2 weeks). There have been days when I think, the stress is sooooo not worth it, trying to squeeze in some work while I'm taking care of the two under two and the house - my husband works 2 hours away from our home so is gone 13+ hours per day, so I'm stuck with it as if I was a single mom. I think, I should just quit this, relieve the stress.

But then I remember how good it feels to be the expert on something, to be needed by people, to pick up a handful of tasks and juggle them until they fall into place and think "most people I know couldn't have done that".

I am so incredibly lucky that my boss allows me to do this - lucky that I got that three day temp assignment at this tiny company, a chance to show myself off, that led to getting hired. Lucky that the company buys lunch for everyone, every Thursday. I grump because I never get that perq any more since I work at home. Lucky that the company takes us all on a summer trip. I grumped because this year I was informed of the dates (instead of asked to vote on a couple different dates) and told to make a decision within 4 hours. We're going to the freaking Bahamas, people, my husband and I both for FREE for four nights five days, and I found myself complaining that they didn't consult me on that and made me make a snap decision.

I am SO incredibly lucky with my job.

I would drop it all in a HEARTBEAT if they insisted that I had to come back full time instead of working my piddly hours from home, playing with the baby, building towers with my big boy.

But I'm hoping I can keep my foot in the door long enough to see them both into preschool/kindergarten, and then I can go back full time. Because I DO like being the Photo Lady and the File Queen and everything else they depend on me for. The Bahamas is just icing.


Although I think it's lovely that you have been able to be home with your boys, I must say that if you had had to keep working you would have found a way to make it work. I am sure that you didn't write this intending to judge anyone who has made different decisions about work and children than you have, but couldn't help feeling a bit like this was one of those "SAHMs > working mom" posts.

ps - I know that you work, and work hard (and are AWESOME at what you do!), but it is just not the same as working out of the house 35 hours a week and taking your child to daycare.


I don't think Amy was being judge-y of other people at all - she was talking about HER experience (it is HER blog, after all).

I just "retired" to stay at home with our 14 month old, and it was absolutely the best decision for us - I realized I didn't enjoy the job, and about 1/2 of my salary was going to pay for a (wonderful) nanny. I feel a little sheepish when I think about the fact that I am STILL paying off student loans for that fancy-pants private college I just HAD to go to, but oh well.

We are making it work financially and so far it seems to be the right decision for us.


Karen- yes, I am one of those people who has a career that is not about money to our family but about me loving what I do. I have two kids (ages 4 & 4 months) & the best thing for me has been being able to continue to work 3 days a week & stay home the other days. My career is something that brings me a lot of fulfillment and sense of purpose & I love being able to balance that with the joy I get being home with my kids a couple of days a week. I think for many women it takes having the baby arrive to get a feel for what you
really want & what you think you want when pregnant may be very different from what you want when the baby is here. It is a hard decision to make & one that is very personal. Trust yourself & you will make the best decision for your family.


I totally understand where Amy is coming from! But to join cjlo from the other perspective, I'm one of those women who loves her two children and loves her job. I'm a physics teacher at a public high school and adore all sixty of my "kids" that I see from 7:30 to 3:00, then I come home to be with my own loveable crazies. I stayed home for a year after each of my kids were born, and was delighted to go back to work each time. My husband makes enough that I could stay home. I choose to work.

So for those who are wondering - yes, it IS possible to work and feel that you are both a great mom and a great something-else. Be whoever you are.

Gram of 3

I remember reading, "You CAN have it all, just not at the same time."
Life ebbs and flows and choices are made and changes come and we all adapt for what WE need to do for our own sanity.


Nothing like staring at a computer screen and nodding as chills run over every part of you. Lovely post!


That's RIGHT! LOST is on tonight!!! Sweet deal! What are we going to do when it is over!?!?

I look back on my 'old' life often... Lots of it I miss, but I wouldn't trade it AT ALL for where I am right now.


Miss Britt

It's a rare gift to be able to look back on past decisions and ask "what if...?" - and know you made the right decision.

Pam Host

Another career-loving working mom here. My kids are 2 and 4, and I have worked 30 hours a week as a lawyer since the oldest was born (aside from two long maternity leaves.) I love what I do, it's important to many people (I am in public service), and I know my kids will come to know and appreciate the contribution I make and how hard I worked to get to this position. I love my one day home with them too, and for me it is the perfect balance. I think you are exactly right -- easy to leave a job, not so easy to leave a career. And leaving a career is not necessarily the right decision when you look at it from a long-term persective. It's an important difference that many overlook. Good luck. You will find the balance that is right for you.


Sigh. As soon as I hit publish I worried this might get read as a PRO-SAHM! and BOO!WOHM! thing, which is so isn't. It's about looking back at decisions and wondering about the road not taken, and knowing that you took the right one. FOR YOU. FOR ME. Etc.

The "best decisions" I refer to at the end are *my children themselves*, not anything about choosing to stay home or continue to work.

I think it's obvious that I love my career now as a freelance writer/blogger waaaay more than I loved my old one, but you can't know that stuff for sure sometimes. I wrote this to say that I'm really happy that I made the choice I did. I hope everybody else is happy with their choices. Most of my friends work outside the home, and most are full-time, and they are fabulous mothers who love their children and I really don't get how anyone could think otherwise. I'm sorry people here felt the need to defend themselves.

(And I go to the sandwich place on Mondays and leave Ezra with a sitter simply because OMFG, I NEED TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND DO WORK LIKE OTHER GROWN-UPS LEST I LOSE MAH MIND.)


My first thoughts upon reading this post was "HOORAY!" I think it's wonderful that staying at home has worked out so well for you.

I've got a full-time desk job, and my sweet daughter spends her weekdays at a lovely daycare, and I am so glad and so relieved that I decided to continue my career. I don't feel judged by your post, because this is your blog and it's all about you.

Or have I missed the point of blogging?


Happy for you, but I am so jealous of moms who can stay at home. We just haven't figured out how to make that work, financially. I love your writing and your point of view, and appreciate the sentiment of this post, but I think I might have to take a break from reading this blog for a while.



I am one of those moms who has a career, loves it and continues to pursue it not just for the money. I think there is a big difference between a career and a job. A lot of people have jobs and as soon as the clock hits 5 p.m. they are out in a flash. I think people make choices that suit them, which of course is fine, but I do find it sad that so many people simply do not enjoy their jobs, or even actively hate it. That sounds miserable.


It's great, yes? It wasn't easy when I quit working almost 15 years ago, financially or emotionally. But the rewards FAR outweigh any negatives. I'm so glad you're appreciating this. Like you, I do some work from home, but my real shift starts when school is over!!


Great post Amy! I'm glad that you found the road that was right for you and your family and makes you happy. That's all that matters in the end.


I am sitting here at a job that I no longer care for wishing I could have your experiences. Since my second was born in August, I've really wanted to be able to stay at home with him. This was a complete surprise since with my first I couldn't wait to go back to work. But I can't and never will be able to and it just makes me sick to my heart.

But they are, as you so eloquently put it, the two best decisions I've ever made.


Lovely post, Amalah. And I totally get where you were coming from--this wasn't a judgy post at all, it was just validation that you made the right choice for you. I'm very happy for you.

I have to admit I chuckled a bit at the "first of the two greatest decisions I ever made" comment at the end. What about Jason? ;)


What a great post! I often wonder where I'd be had I not made the decisions that I made. I'm happy with my life, don't get me wrong, but thinking about what roads I could have possibly gone down and where I would have ended up is fun to do sometimes!


"I stare out the window at the building that the company I no longer work for no longer occupies"..and thank GOD FOR THAT! girl, you knows what I mean ;-).....


I didn't feel judged by this post, I just felt jealous. If I wanted to stay home full time, we could afford it. I feel lots of social pressure to put my master's degree and my fancy private college degrees to use. But also, I don't think I would be a fabulous SAHM. I think I would be a really good Part-time SAHM/WOHM, which isn't an option right now with my career. Someday it will be though, and I'm looking forward to that day.


I have been really debating the working vs. SAHM thing and this post really made me feel better about making that leap. Thank you so much!!!


Amy, PLEASE please tell me you're framing & hanging some of the pictures from your vacation. They. Are. Beautiful. I'm just floored. (And I have a BFA degree w/ an area of specialty in photography...so I know good photos.) PLEASE


Oh, and I also left my job when I had kids. I stayed after the first was born, but went through a depressed period because of it. We decided we needed the money from my job, so I stayed. I was miserable, and when I was pregnant with my second, I decided I could not go back. I hated my boss, I hated her boss. I just couldn't do it. I came home one day and told my husband I would not be going back to that office when I had the baby. I did work part-time for awhile until our babysitter quit, but now I'm home. We have no money, but I wouldn't go back if given the choice. They'll both be in school soon enough and I can start looking for something then...and we'll look back on this time as the rough time...and that's ok. And PLEASE frame those pictures! :o)


I'm at the precipice of a possible crossroads, and I'm not sure exactly which of the roads I really want to pursue. I'm hoping to walk my own line right down the middle between the two. But reading this reminded me that whatever the outcome, I'll end up right where I'm meant to be and soon (hopefully sooner rather than later) I'll look back just like this, satisfied with my choice.


That last sentence, I feel the exact same way. I've done a lot of dumb things in my life, but leaving my very stressful job to be a stay at home Mom was not one of them. Great post!

Daily Cup of Jo

Thanks - because we so often doubt ourselves and the decisions we made to NOT WORK. Now, the NOT WORKING stuff has caused some financial hardship, but I'm still convinced that there is an answer and it's not necessarily in a cubicle somewhere. I'm gonna keep telling myself that in the belief that it just might turn out to be true.

Daily Cup of Jo

Thanks - because we so often doubt ourselves and the decisions we made to NOT WORK. Now, the NOT WORKING stuff has caused some financial hardship, but I'm still convinced that there is an answer and it's not necessarily in a cubicle somewhere. I'm gonna keep telling myself that in the belief that it just might turn out to be true.


Wow. Great post and this is something I think about all the time. It really is like D2 in Lost when you think about it. I can't imagine "doing the drill" and being on call 24/7 like I was the first year of my daughter's life. It was exhausting and when I look back I have a hard time remembering anything but the gray walls in my office and not her first year. It's sad.


Karen. I love my career. I am a pretty high-up person and 60% family provider whose company went bust about 6 months ago. I get pissed when people say "oh you can spend more time with kid" because I am *not* a SAHM but an unemployed working mom (Although more time with kid is a guilty pleasure, she still has nannyshare/preschool which I was unwilling to disrupt).

I absolutely know I love my 2.5 year old as much as any SAHM but I choose to work because that is part of my identity and I am certain it makes me a better mom. I am 2 mos pregnant now even though unemployed because i know I want another child and will not let career interfere with my family goals either, because it is the combination of the two that make me who I am.

Almost every conversation about this devolves and I LOVE LOVE LOVE Amalah and do not want to disrespect the point she was making which is that she took the road best for her. And any long time reader of this blog knows that she *is* a working mom :)

But to answer your question, I love my career and my family and think I've done a decent job making both work. Everyone picks there own path.


"We have a motherfucking PLAYDATE"

Ouch. I winced when I read that sentence. Some words don't lose their meaning no matter how many times you hear them.


I've been thinking a lot about this post the past few days. I have to admit, that as a working mom, I found myself kind of put out at Amy's post. I felt judged. I felt like she was saying that because I work, I do not love my child as much. But when I really thought about it, I realized that I am just defensive because I am not always sure that working is the right choice for me. And therefore I felt judged even though Amy was just sharing what has worked for her, not judging those that have made different decisions.

I have to work to meet my family's financial goals. Some days I love it, some days I hate it, but I hope my daughter will grow up to respect me for doing what I had to do to provide for her. Hugs to all the mommies out there that make the best choices they can for their familes, no matter what that choice is.

domestic extraordinaire

Isn't it crazy what things cause us to reflect on life.

What a wonderful post.


I quit my job when my second son was born; how lovely it was to call in and say that I wouldn't be in tomorrow--or ever again. It's strange to think about what it would be like if I'd never left, and every once in a while, when this life gets me down, I fantasize about going back. But then a little movie plays in my head, where I'm in the parking lot of my office, crying about something that happened, saying, "I've hated it here for five years. Five years!" I didn't quit for two more years.

Amen. I am so lucky to have fallen into this gig, where I get to spend all my time with the people I love most in the world.

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