Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Identity

I've always known I wanted to stay home with kids until they're in school -- that's what my mom did. Little did I know I'd be staying home before kids too.

In November 2009, I quit my (high profile, high stress, Silicon Valley) job. Not working, by choice, at 35, with no kids, is a weird place to be.

Back story:

We were more than 2 years into our infertility journey, and we were planning to start IVF in January 2010. Juggling IUIs (and related medical, lab, and acupuncture appointments) was challenging, and we knew IVF would be more intensive.

On top of that, I wasn't happy in my job. For two years, I'd planned on working until I had a baby, going on maternity leave, and then not coming back. Ha. On the plus side, that was two more years of vesting stock, on the down side, it was two more years of a frustrating, stressful job. And not that stress is sufficient to cause infertility, but it certainly wasn't helping.

Luckily, we could afford to have me not work, and we both agreed (and continue to agree) that growing our family is our #1 priority. So it was a pretty straightforward decision for me to quit.

The first month after I quit was December, which was busy prepping for, and having, and cleaning up from Christmas. January was the first month I had to think about what I was going to do with myself. We were starting the IVF process (testing, consults) but not in an IVF cycle yet.

The two big things that you lose when you quit a job (apart from the money!) are routine and casual socializing. All of a sudden, I had nothing to distinguish one day from the other. And I also had no one to keep me company in my temporary retirement status. I signed up for The Dailey Method (a barre-based workout class), which helped with the route -- 2-3 days a week I'd go to a mid-morning class, thus forcing me out of the house and helping me get in shape (I didn't realize how important this would be between IVF cycles until after my first one...) And I started scheduling regular lunches with friends.

I also experimented with GirlFriendCircles.com -- it's sort of a dating site but for (busy) women to make friends. I've always had more guy friends than girl friends, and my husband has always been my best friend. So I don't have a broad circles of girl friends to pull from for fun stuff. It helped enormously with finding women who could meet during the day. (Note: I've had mixed experiences with the service -- met some cool people but also went to a bunch of circles that were a waste of time. YMMV.)

Back to not working. Scheduling appointments at our clinic got a lot easier. Fitting in acupuncture was a breeze. Running errands that we used to devote our Saturday to was easy to fit in during the week. And I had a to-do list of various house projects to work on. Oh, and we also started planning a medium sized remodel/addition project. So I was able to fill my time and feel productive. That last part is important -- if you don't feel productive it's easy to wonder where the time went. And trust me, you can while away an entire day just checking email, facebook, twitter, etc.

But when I met someone knew, I wasn't sure how to answer the question 'so what do you do?' Here are some of the answers I've used: "temporary trophy wife", "voluntarily unemployed", "product manager", "not working by choice", "quit my job so we could do IVF". There aren't a lot of people in their mid-30s who aren't working (by choice) and don't have kids. And what you 'do' is really a big part of your adult identity, both pre- and post- kids.

I feel really lucky to be able to not work, but it's definitely weird. My husband and I have had to figure out what the right balance is -- I have more time, so it makes sense for me to do more of the 'us' chores, but I don't feel it's right for me to do all of it solo. Our remodel project was helped tremendously by me being at home (and being able to run construction-related errands during the M-F 8-5 hours most places seem to have).

I did end up doing some consulting in the fall -- three weeks full time and then a few hours a week through the end of the year. The three weeks fell between cycles (which is why I agreed to it), and the few hours a week have been easy to fit in. But fitting things in between cycles is challenging, and scheduling anything in advance is just about impossible (see our delayed vacation from the fall...) So until I'm past a first trimester, I won't look for other consulting opportunities. At that point I might commit a few months if I found a company I was excited about, but I'll have to cross that bridge if I come to it.

8 comments:

  1. Cysterworld on TwitterJanuary 19, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    Awesome post. I too am contemplating making a run for it after I have a baby - but there are so many pros and cons. I'm totally undecided.

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  2. Work and IVF are an impossible balance. I know my work has suffered because of this process, and I hate feeling like I'm not doing my best. I've also rushed back to work and work too hard on days I should be resting for IVF. I'm still hoping to find balance- but I may be dreaming to think it's possible. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

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  3. I always thought if I didnt work that I could and would stay very busy. i think you hit the nail on the head about keeping some sort of schedule. I took a summer off many years ago when I got laid off and I did the same. i hired a personal trainer whom I met with 3 mornings a week @ 6:30 am. it kept me sane and productive.

    You are very fortunate to have this time and I think its great when cycling to be able to make that your prirotiy instead of trying to juggle a hectic schedule.

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  4. Great post - definitely has made me think. I think it's wonderful that you have been able to do this, and that you make sure you stay busy as well. I don't know that I could do it - I might drive myself crazy, but I have suffered from depression in the past, and have learned that staying at home does not help...

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  5. You've been through so much and I'm glad the stressors of work aren't a factor for you these days. IVF + work sure don't mix for me.

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  6. Yeah, I bet it is weird. A fabulous and delicious weird, but probably only cause I see if from afar.

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  7. I read a lot of IVF blogs and forums. This post got my attention. It is the first post I've seen about choosing not to work. I "retired" about a year ago, after finding that I wasn't able to be my best at my job or at IVF. We have been able to swing it financially because my husband has always made more than me. It was really cool to read that I wasn't the "only one". And your thoughts on the division of non-fun chores, your identity sans-profession, and keeping a schedule. Thanks!

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