Eight years ago, I left my job as an elementary school teacher in Boston to move to Philadelphia where my boyfriend lived. I could barely get the words out of my mouth when people asked me why I was moving, sure that someone was going to come around the corner and revoke my feminist card if I admitted that I was moving, without a job lined up, for my boyfriend who I’d known for less than a year.
I did it anyway, I survived, and it got easier the more times I told people. While driving the U-Haul from Boston to Philly, I was offered a job in Philly in Jewish communal service, which I accepted, and I began my new life in a new city. I even used my anecdote about moving under unknown circumstances to counsel many young professionals through some scary life decisions. Fast forward a bit, and my boyfriend and I got married, had one kid, then had another kid, and it stopped seeming so crazy that I had left Boston “for a guy.”
This month, I have once again made the decision to leave my job because it’s the right thing for my life rather than the right thing for my career. As anyone who’s worked in Jewish communal service knows, this sector isn’t known for its work/life balance or generous compensation. Instead, we do it because we care, and what we give up in free time or money, we gain in nachas by giving back to our people. Unfortunately, nachas can’t put the kids to bed at night while I’m out creating positive Jewish experiences for my childless peers.
When my daughter was an infant, my husband and I had a ton of fun bringing her to my programs, showing her off in bars, and modeling the “next life stage” to the grad students and young professionals attending my events. Then she got older, she got a bedtime, she got a baby brother. Instead of having a job that was fun for me, I had a job providing fun for other people. A student, who has also become my friend, said to me, when I told her about my decision, “We love having you around, but everyone knows you’d rather be with your kids.”
So, starting in a couple of weeks, I will be. While my goal isn’t to be a full-time stay-at-home mom (I simply don’t have the stamina for it), I’m fortunate to be able to be home with them while I find the thing that’s going to be right for me and for my family. I realize that in these days of googling job applicants, publishing this declaration of leaning out may not help my employment prospects. I know, though, that at this point in my life, with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old at home, my kids are at the top of my figurative resume. So potential employers who found this post by googling me, now hear this: I’m very responsible! But if you need me to change my schedule at the last minute, I’m sorry that I might not be able to oblige, as my schedule (6:00 am wakeup all the way through the 6:30 pm viewing of “Curious George”) really lacks flexibility.
I’ve had the “why are you leaving” conversation dozens if not hundreds of times so far. Each time I give my, “this is a really tough job to have with kids, and it’s just the right time for me to move on” answer, I cringe the embarrassed cringe of a lifelong third-wave feminist who never thought I’d have to give anything up or make any tough choices based on being a mother. But I do, and I am, and I’m actually looking forward to it.