When I first decided to leave my full-time teaching job, everyone thought I was nuts. They assumed I was having a difficult time to a recent death in my family and shook their heads sympathetically when I told them I was quitting. In today’s society a woman is expected to not only work a full-time job earning income, but take care of the household and children as well. Clothing is sent out to the cleaners, a housekeeper cleans the house (if you’re lucky), and meals are quick and usually not homemade. Many women burn themselves out before turning 40, feeling the weight and sadness of an unfulfilled life that passed by all too quickly. When I turned 30 this year I decided I was not going to be one of those women, so I quit my job.
I had been happily employed as a lead preschool teacher where I was very highly regarded by my employers, the parents and especially the children. I have been working since the age of 13, and past jobs range from sales on Wall Street to working with autistic children. What I got out of the job each day was a great sense of pride as I watched each child grow and learn under my planning. I wrote lesson plans, evaluated the children’s progress and completed trainings. I kept the classroom organized and clean. I helped my assistant get together all of the necessary materials each day for whatever I had planned. I woke up each morning at 5:30am, and got home each night around 4:30pm. Everyone I knew commented on how “lucky” I was to have such great hours which left me time to do things when I got home. By the time I got home, however, I was always finding myself too exhausted to do anything except more work for my job. I was constantly working even when I wasn’t at work.
My husband would come home from work shortly after me, and I would rarely have dinner ready for us. We often ate take-out or pre-made meals from the supermarket. We used paper plates and plastic forks and never sat at the dining room table when we ate. Many women all across America choose this way of life and claim to be happy with it. I thought of all the women I knew in my life and realized I didn’t want to live such a fast-paced and overwhelming life the way they did. Plus, I wanted to be home with my children when I started a family, not put them in daycare at 6 months old and in after school programs until 6 PM each day. After all, what is the purpose of having children if strangers spend more time raising them than their own parents do? I fast forwarded my life 5 or 10 years down the line and added a few kids of my own into the mix. Where would I ever find time for housework with them added on? Even more importantly, when would I ever find time for myself? It seemed as though today’s working women don’t have enough hours in a day to ever have time just for themselves. I decided it was time I consider what was most important to me and set out to organize my priorities.
Each day I awoke feeling like something was lacking, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I had a great job and couldn’t ask for a better working environment. I was doing what I loved to do and yet it wasn’t enough. Coming home exhausted and unable to keep my home the way I wanted was weighing on me, it just took a long time for me to figure it out. Some women work out of necessity, others work because they are passionate about something. However, there is another group of women that work simply to have the finer things in life, the $400,000 home instead of the $200,000. The name brand shoes instead of the fakes at Wal-Mart. Fancy restaurants instead of diners. Yet the old adage says, “Money can’t buy happiness”. Money was not going to buy my happiness, it turned out. After I looked closely at many of the women I knew it didn’t seem to be buying it for them either. It’s just that they were older and had already built up a life that included their salary as well. So now they were stuck. I never wanted money to force me to be stuck in my own life. I wanted to control my own life, not allow material things and the means of attaining them possess me.
After all of these things considered, both my husband and I decided it would be perfectly feasible for me to quit my job while still living a comfortable lifestyle. I had always enjoyed maintaining my home and cooking but found it frustrating and upsetting while working. I never could quite catch up or find time for special things like crafting or baking. Now I find the time for everything and more. I make dinner almost every night, and my husband does the dishes. My home is always clean and I have time for food shopping, crafting, baking, redecorating and just about whatever else needs to be done. We save money by not using a dry cleaner or ordering take-out all the time. I continue to stimulate myself by learning new things and taking on new hobbies.
Women who read this article will probably have mixed feelings. Some of you will relate and wish deep down that you could stay home but have found it too late with a high mortgage and credit card bills. Others will read it and argue that they could never be the type of person to just “stay home” all day. But I’ve never been happier in all my life as right now. I guess I’m just old-fashioned in the sense that although I know I can do anything I want in life, this is where I feel I belong. I’m just glad I was able to break the cycle before having my own children so that they may learn about what’s important (or should I say what’s not important) in life at an earlier age than I did.