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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Family First

Accepting that the career path I'd envisioned for myself isn't the one I'm meant to follow.

To know me is to know that I’m not a risk taker. I play things safe. I always do what I think is expected of me, what is secure.

I was super involved in high school as yearbook editor, varsity cheerleading captain, NHS, honors classes, graduated with a stellar GPA, & the list goes on. I went on to college and, again, did what I thought was expected—joined a great sorority, was very involved on campus, held 2 jobs at once, one being an unpaid internship, double-majored in management & marketing, was accepted into the honors college, met my future husband, & graduated on time with a wedding date set & a great job lined up in the corporate world. I moved down to Baton Rouge (where my husband is from) to start my adult life, started my new job, got married, added 4 dogs to the family, bought a home, started growing our family, & loved every minute of it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some bumps in the road & plenty of reality checks that hit me pretty hard including, but not limited to, adulthood & the dedication it takes to excel in a career. But as I learned & adapted, I began to thrive—at work more than anywhere else.

I loved the hard work. I loved the sense of fulfillment I received after a job well done, receiving an “atta girl” or “great work” from a superior. I loved how important these jobs & activities made me feel. I was somebody that was needed, valued, & could be counted on to excel in any task. I was willing to do whatever work it took to ensure success. You see, I’ve always identified myself by my title—the job that I have, the club I’m involved in, and so on. I’ve always been so proud of the work that I’ve done that my various titles have been what defined me. My job has been my identity since my college years. When I was pregnant, I thought surely a baby wouldn’t change this, right? It’s how I’d always been. I’d always derived my joy from my work. Plus, there were strong women surrounding me who had successful careers and kids. They did it all, why couldn’t I?

And then, a tiny little girl named Madelynn came into the world & shook up everything that I thought I knew about life, what’s important, & myself. Suddenly, I was Madelynn’s Mom, & that title challenged everything I thought I knew about who I was. Before she was born, I thought it was my job to show her the world, but I’ve learned lately that she was really sent to show me. Strangely enough, as I settled into my new job as her mom, I found that my new title of Mom was enough for me.

Going back to work after having her was so much harder than I thought it would be, emotionally & mentally. But people go back to work after having babies all the time, so I could do it too, right? I could thrive at home and at work. Well, as you know, my journey as a mother has been a little bit different than most. I think we had about 2 weeks of normalcy before we received the diagnosis that Madelynn was blind. Then it all began. The constant doctors appointments, tests, surgeries, procedures, therapies, etc. In the middle of it all, a global pandemic hit. Only one parent could go to doctor appointments, procedures, & some surgeries. Add in other outside stressors and things gradually became harder & harder to keep up with. The mental load was ever-growing and becoming too much.

Trying to juggle a demanding career while taking care of my family led to a quick decline in my mental health. I wanted so badly to be perfect for everyone, the Emily everyone knew and relied on for so long, & in the process I was killing myself. I had customers that needed me, employees that needed me, bosses that needed me, a husband that needed me, & a daughter that needed me. Over time I became more and more run down trying to be who everyone needed me to be because the Emily everyone knows always gives her all to everyone. And I was failing at all of the titles. I couldn’t be split in so many different directions. I wasn’t who I wanted to be for all of these people, but, most importantly, I realized that I wasn’t the mom & wife that my daughter & husband deserved.

Madelynn deserves a mother that is mentally & physically present. She deserves a mother that is capable & ready to devote her attention to advocating for her, to ensure she gets everything that she needs to have a successful life. She doesn’t deserve a mom that is struggling to be all of these titles leading to her only being half as good at everything she tries to do. Madelynn deserves my absolute best. Every single day. This work isn’t the career path I’d always envisioned. In fact, few people are even there to see it & pat me on the back for it. It’s not anything that I can ever show off on a resume. But, I’ve come to realize that the work I do to ensure she has the best life, the life she deserves, a life full of unlimited opportunities, makes me proud & I’ll see the results of this work in every milestone that she hits.

I finally started to realize that the one thing I can never get back is being a parent & wife. I don't get a do-over if one day I look back and decide I wasn't who I wanted to be for my family. I wasn’t being the best parent, wife, or employee and knew that something was going to have to give. So, I started to make some changes. I opened my own business with a friend to give myself an alternate source of income should I decide to try to stay at home with Madelynn (hence, A Beautiful Sight) & started looking for new jobs, but wasn’t super serious about that second part just yet & definitely wasn’t applying anywhere—baby steps towards making a change.

After months of continuing to struggle to keep up & accept that it’s ok to admit that I can’t do everything, I finally embraced it—I didn’t have to continue to live like that out of fear. I could make choices that scare me but make me happier. Choices that I viewed as risky. Choices that a past version of myself would have judged harshly. Choices that not everyone may agree with. It took me a LONG time to accept, admit, and be at peace with this.

When I finally started to seriously look for a new job & actually apply, I knew I wasn’t going to leave my current company for just anything. This place was my home—my first job out of college—and all that I knew. Whatever I was going to leave for had to be exactly what I needed for myself and my family. I applied to a few places, got rejected from most, was interviewed for a position at a company I was very drawn to & loved, but didn’t get the job. Ugh.

I tried for another month to “see it through,” to keep pushing for the career that I’d laid out for myself 6.5 years ago when I started with the company, hoping that things would get easier. But things weren’t getting any easier for me. There seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Once again, I was faced with the reality that something was going to have to give & was finally becoming more at peace with the fact that it would likely be my current career path.

A month later, I did something very out of character for me—I made the decision to resign from my safe & secure position at a big corporation, the only company I’ve ever known, with no new job lined up. 😱 I’d grown up here, spent my entire adult life here, gone through so many big life events with the support of my work family here, and considered it a home. My husband, Spencer, had shared and been instrumental in my successes here. He knew and loved my coworkers and literally spent hours of his time helping me succeed in my roles. The thought of leaving felt like leaving home. This decision was scary, but I’d finally accepted & was at peace with the fact that this was the something that had to give. With Spencer’s support, I felt comfortable taking the risk & was hopeful that I’d be able to find another job quickly with more free time.

Spencer’s support throughout this entire process has been absolutely vital. He could’ve asked that I stay in a role that we all saw was wearing me down to continue to provide for our family financially. It was safe, & we both knew that. But, he saw my mental health declining & supported my decision to tap out, even though it put a big question-mark over our financial future. His support in taking this risk is the only thing that gave me the confidence to make a change. If not for him, I know I would’ve continued along the safe route & lost myself in the process.

Millennials job hop all the time, so a career change isn’t really a big deal, right? Well, it is for me. I’m not your average millennial. I don’t like job hopping. I’m fiercely loyal to the places I work & the bosses I have. I’m proud of the work that I do. I don’t like change. I stay where I’m safe—and corporate America is safe. I’ve been so lucky to have an employer that I could be transparent with through this entire process. One that was there to support me through this major life transition knowing that it was scary for me. One that valued me & wanted to keep me with the company in some capacity that would allow me to still meet my family’s needs. To work for someone that genuinely wants what’s best for you and your family is rare. I’ve been so lucky to have found that. Throughout this entire process of not knowing what I wanted in my career, for my family, & for my life, I’ve been supported as a human being, not just an employee. It speaks volumes of the people & the company that I've worked for. Combined with my husband’s support, this gave me the courage to admit what I needed, what would be best for myself & my family, & to make a drastic change.

You know what’s amazing, though? How God provides. Not one week after I officially discussed my resignation timeline with my boss, I was contacted by the company that I interviewed with & was so drawn to a couple months prior about another position that they felt I would be a good fit for. This time, I got the job!! A 100% remote position that would give me a better work/life balance to be able to take care of my family in the ways that they need while still allowing me to have a career I can be proud of. A blessing during a time I needed it most.

My career path now looks differently than I’d imagined when I first started it 6.5 years ago. I never thought I’d see that day that I’d leave this company or career. I’ve learned and grown so much over these last few years & am so thankful for every single person that played a role in helping me succeed thus far. But, I’m finally okay with leaving being the best move for myself & my family right now. I’ve learned that life happens & it’s ok to change up my plans as it does. I’m sad to be leaving a place that feels like home to me, but I’m thankful for the friendships that I’ve made & to have started my career with a company that has changed with & supported me through every phase of my adult life. I’ve learned that it takes a very special, tough woman to juggle a very demanding career with motherhood. It turns out that I’m not that woman at this time in my life, &, after many months of wrestling with acceptance, I’m now able to admit that. It doesn’t mean that I can’t have a career at all. It just means I can’t have the one that I thought I wanted for so long.

This decision may seem like a no brainer for some, but for me it wasn’t. It was overly thought out & considered from every angle. However, the beautiful thing is that I got to make the decision for myself. Without fearing the risk of being unloyal or of letting someone else down, I got to decide what was best for myself and my family. Period.

This season of uncertainty & acceptance has challenged me, & I’ve grown so much from it. As I enter this next season of life, I’m so excited for what the future brings. I’m hopeful that it will bring a new career path that I still find fulfillment in & allows me to be a more present wife & mother. So, I’m here to tell you that it’s ok to take a risk, to not know what comes next. It’s ok to put yourself & your family first and allow things you never expected to be the ones that define you. Better yet, learn to define yourself without any titles. A chapter of my life that I’ve truly loved & cherished is closing, & although it’s very bittersweet, I’m so excited for what the next one will bring!

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