I naively entered college expecting that I would meet my future husband there. When I thought of my future, I saw myself married with a family. Working, having a career was secondary. Almost an afterthought. But with each year of college and maturity, my viewpoint shifted. Beginning with my sophomore year, I worked at one of the "Big 6" public accounting firms through the school's cooperative education program. During my senior year, I was offered a full time position and my career as a CPA took off.
I had two failed relationships during my time at college. Neither one ended on a sour note and there was one that I attempted to keep alive long-distance after we graduated. But a few years later, I realized that I couldn't have asked for a better outcome. I not only spent my twenties "finding myself" but I had the freedom to climb the corporate ladder. When Rich and I married, we both wanted children and at that point in my career, I never thought about not working. Everyone I knew returned to work after having babies and while no one said it was easy, there's a lot in life that isn't simple. You roll with it.
And then Abigail died. This was a huge turning point for me not only with respect to my views on life but with thoughts on my career. Especially after I was asked when I would be returning to work. How could I possibly give a crap about work when my baby had just died? But I returned to work (much sooner than I was ready to) because I had to go through the motions. I had to act like it was all okay.
My employer and I parted ways after the girls were born. I secured a new position and returned to work when the girls were 15 months old, mainly for financial reasons. For those of you who are regular, long-term readers, you know it hasn't been an easy road for me. I know a lot of working moms say that we are responsible for making change but in the beginning, I encountered much opposition to that. For example, working from home was frowned upon. No one ever did it. I remember requesting to work from home one day shortly after I had started. We were extremely busy and the girls had a doctor's appointment. I said, "Look, I can take an entire day off which will delay the movement of this work or I can work from home." My argument won but honestly, it was an exhausting battle to wage, especially when I was already tired from caring for three little ones and from work itself. A few years later, I was able to move to a four day workweek. That helped, until the group changed and I ended up working 40+ hours in my 4 day workweek. Nothing like working full time for 80% of your pay.
I have seen considerable change for the better in the area of work/life balance for working moms over the last 9 years. (Although, from personal experience, it does seem like more effort is placed on hiring and retaining millennials than on work/life balance for working moms.) My boss now is a perfect example of providing a supportive workplace. You need to come in late or leave early? No problem. You need to work from home? No problem. Because he knows that I will get my work done. But for me, that's still a balance issue. I still have a ton of work and responsibility on my plate. If I arrive to work at noon because I've brought Anna to a urology appointment, I still have 8+ hours worth of work to get done. And then there's my commute of 2+ hours a day.
I am burnt out.
Rich and I began to map out our future several years ago when I was reporting to the worst possible boss in the world. She said she welcomed flexibility and that she didn't care when I had to come in late/leave early but secretly she was counting days and noting times. Plus, she was just pure evil. Her master plan was to rid the group of everyone who had been there before her and replace those positions with under-experienced tax persons. I was crying at work everyday and if you were to ask my friends and family whether Sarah is more likely to A. cry at work or B. tell the offender what she really thought (to word it nicely), they would all respond with B. Yes, Sarah would definitely go with B. But I couldn't. Rich was out of work for awhile and we have a child with a medical disability. All I could think about was health insurance. I could have quit and we would have been okay for awhile but I know from experience that finding a job when you don't have one is not the best position to be in.
So why wasn't I looking for a new job? I was burnt out even back then. I was anxious, down on myself and my abilities, and I was experiencing chronic stomach issues. And I hate to say this too, but my decision to stay was partly driven by money and my stubbornness. I was not going to let this unstable person push me out the door. I was waiting to collect a long-term bonus and she knew it. Eventually, management of my group was found out (it was being run like a mini law firm) and, poof, they were gone.
A few years ago, a former boss of mine (we are also friendly) told me that she may have an open position working with her. Would I be interested if it did come to fruition? As with any job, there were pros and cons to weigh, but what really stuck out to me was the thought that I wouldn't be able to give 100%. I feared a new role because I didn't think my brain could handle learning something different. I was too tired. The whole idea of it actually seemed overwhelming to me. She knew what I had been through and where I was coming from, but she thought I was crazy to have let them take my confidence away.
I can't help but wonder how my co-workers see me. Someone who could give more but doesn't? I feel like I'm giving all I can.
A month ago, I resigned from my position as Tax Director. April and May are very busy months for us at work and because I hold a great deal of responsibility, I gave them approximately two months notice. They need time to figure what they're going to do when I'm gone and I'm in a position to give them that time versus a standard 2-3 weeks notice. Admittedly, even though Rich and I have been planning this for years, it was somewhat scary at first. But after a week or so, all I felt was relief.
I have a little over a month left at work and then I'll be home with the girls indefinitely, which was the goal in making this decision. (So much to say on this, I can't even touch on it in this post.) I've been with the same company for almost 8 years now, which is the longest I've been anywhere. Regardless of burnout, it feels like it's time to go. I'm sure I'll do something else at some point. Maybe tax, maybe not. Right now, I'm excited to spend more time with my family. I'm excited for the release of work responsibilities. I'm excited for a future with unlimited possibilities.