A Day Of Self-Doubt: Questioning the Decision to Stop Working

Today, I am doubting my decision not to be working. And so, I sit here questioning myself.

Photo Source: Office.com Clip Art

Photo Source: Office.com Clip Art

I know what we want (healthy pregnancy), and I know why we’ve made the decision for me to stop working in order to promote a healthy pregnancy by removing myself form a very unhealthy, high stress, long hour job).

But yet, doubt exists. Doubt is ever present. Doubt it at the forefront of my thoughts.

I stopped working on March 3, when we found out we’d be going through another miscarriage. For the first time in my life, I had to say “I cannot do it” and I will be unable to work (narcotic pain medication actually necessitated that I make this decision). The miscarriage was considered completed on 29 days later, and I actually tried resigning by my company refused to accept it and instead I went onto short term disability.  And, once that was rejected, I formally resigned in late May. (Feel free to read more on my decision to leave work here and here).  The decision was based on medical advice to take time to recover both physically and emotionally from 4 miscarriage. But, in my mind, I saw it purely as a means to an ends:

Leave work = reduce stress = get pregnant = healthy pregnancy (hopefully).

So, here I am now, nearly 4 months since I stopped working and just over a month into my self-imposed unemployment, with nothing other then a biochemical pregnancy to show for it.

My husband continues to support this decision, but I’m losing faith.

I’m losing faith in the no-work decision for a number of reason:

  • This week we bought ourselves a fun summer project and are actually driving nearly 1000km to pick it up this weekend (more on that later, I’m sure). The very next day, we discovered a leak in one of our showers, so we now have to do a major bathroom renovation. My husband’s car needs some work done on it. And my Subaru does as well. So, while none of these things are incredibly expensive on their own, all the sudden we are aware of the costs adding up. When I was working, none of this would have mattered. We wouldn’t have thought too much about it. And while we know we can make it all work, I really miss not having to think about our income and what we are buying or doing. This might sound really pretentious, but honestly, we’ve worked hard to get where we are and me not working has a big impact on our income and our lifestyle. I want it back.
  • I still have no word from the government regarding my illness related EI claim. So, this amplifies the money worry. And, my guilt about not contributing to our income.
  • I did not win that project with my mentor. I’m not really upset about it, other than to say, I would have enjoyed having something relatively low-stress to work on part-time.
  • We are not pregnant! I know my doctors wanted time for physical and emotional recovery, but I never saw it that way. I saw this as being all about getting pregnant one more time without stress.   In my mind, its one thing to be not working to help with a pregnancy, but it’s now been 3 months and we aren’t pregnant. The biochemical pregnancy was just that, so if I count that, then it means not working hasn’t helped sustain a pregnancy. I know, anyone struggling with trying to get pregnant likely won’t understand this, but we have never waited more than 4 months to get pregnant. Ultimately, I have no desire to just be sitting at home without a purpose. And without a pregnancy, it feels like there isn’t a purpose.
  • I need more  in my daily life then waking up, walking the dog, writing and reading blog posts, mowing the lawn, making meals, doing laundry, etc.  I never intended to be a stay-at-home mom, and somehow now I find myself being a stay-at-home wife doing the household chores.  This is not my idea of fun.
  • I’m not good with boredom, and here I am getting bored. Our summer project may fix that slightly, but it won’t solve it long term.

So, here I am, contemplating what I should do.

I know, I absolutely know, that I need to stay out of work to avoid stress because in 20 years if we don’t end up with biological child, I need to know we tried everything. This is our last straw. We need this, and this is just one of those things that I, as the women, have to do for the team.  So, knowing this, I have my answer.  But….

But, somehow, even so, this just doesn’t feel like enough for me right now. I want it all! I want a healthy pregnancy and a baby; I want my professional income; I want my stress free life; I want my career back. I want it all!

Ultimately, I actually think, more then anything my struggle right now, is that I want to feel like I’m succeeding. I’m used to being successful, I’m used to making an impact, and I’m used to doing great things.  And right now, I don’t feel successful and I am definitely not doing great things! It’s not that I feel like a failure either (I actually don’t blame myself for our lost babies at all).  And now that for 2 years the focus of our lives has been on each miscarriage and surviving each loss, I just feel average at best.  And I’ve never been average, nor do I want to be just average. Nothing in the last 2 years has even acknowledged my personal successes like wining new clients at work and therefore securing new work; achieving another professional certificate that took 4 years to get at an out-of province university; being asked to guest lecture at a university undergraduate course; etc. Rather our life has focused solely on loss, tragedy and the continued struggle. And, by not working, I feel even further away from my career successes because well, without work, there can be no work successes!  I thrive on being successful, so I think this is actually the crux of the doubt I’m feeling right now.

So, knowing that we are trying one more time, how do I balance my desire to feel like I’m contributing and succeeding with not being involved in my profession?  How do I stop associating my personal success with my career after defining myself that way for years? How do I find success in the mundane, daily life of being at home?

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23 Comments on “A Day Of Self-Doubt: Questioning the Decision to Stop Working

  1. Friend, that’s a lot to think about.

    I am so envious of you not working on one hand but I’ve gone through a huge self-esteem re-evaluation recently because I’m significantly under budget at work for the first time in my career (and first time not on target for the first time in my life other than when I failed the trigonometry exam in my first high school math class, maybe). I was considering quitting my job and moving to something with better hours and less stress even though I was working few hours with little stress because work was so slow. I can’t say with certainty but I suspect I’d feel very much as you do now if I actually resigned at this point and didn’t take up other work (which is so far from a financial option for us it’s not even laughable; it’s terrifying).

    I think you need to make peace with yourself about the bigger piece – why you cannot get comfy not “doing” something or “earning” your way. Are you still able to afford your counselor? Can she or is she helping you with this? It has taken me years to have even a very limited ability to sit still and meditate – as in almost 5 years – and I still completely suck at it despite advocating the inherent value of mindfulness and relaxation. I know that stuff works, but when I’m unsettled, it doesn’t get done without me wrestling myself to the mat and clobbering myself right in the noggin.

    I feel your restlessness and it’s not just about your job or the money. Sending bigtime empathy on that front.

    EI claims take an obscene amount of time for processing for disability claims (even the mat leave ones take at least 6 weeks, it’s ridiculous). When did you submit it?

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    • Thanks so much for your thoughts!
      I think your comment “I think you need to make peace with yourself about the bigger piece – why you cannot get comfy not “doing” something or “earning” your way”, pretty much sums it up! This is exactly what I need to work on and find a way to accept. Most recently, my counselor commented that I need to learn to realize that I am still contributing even if its not financially – i.e. taking care of the house, cooking, etc. But, I’m clearly still struggling with accepting this as a contribution. And, she also loves to tell me all about mindfulness, but I constantly resist this one, as I don’t see how it will actually do anything. For the time being we’ve decided i don’t need to agree with it, I just need to give it a try.
      And you are also completely accurate that my restlessness is about more then working and more then money. I kinda feel like, I just want to know if this whole pregnancy/baby thing is going to work for us. We’ve both committed to trying one more time, but like so many of us going through this, I just want an answer. I just want to know if it will ever work. And taking time off work and not having it work is just going to piss me off. And, of course, if we choose adoption, I know my working will really help us get a placement sooner due to our income. So, a lot of what I’m feeling right now really is about being restless about the entire situation. Work and money are just obvious causalities of the situation that I can easily point a finger at and complain about. And thank you, for making me acknowledge that.
      As for EI, my application was submitted less then 4 weeks ago. So, I totally know I need to be more patient. And, I even know that if I do get approved, it might make me feel better about the income situation, but it’s not going to fix the work situation. So, really, it will just mean I have to reduce my complaining about not contributing financially. Oh, and if the offer still stands, I do plan to contact you if I get rejected (as per an earlier conversation).
      Thanks again! And sending you lots of love as you work through your next steps which will likely keep you very busy!

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      • Thank you for the love and good wishes.

        The offer is a standing one, of course!

        I didn’t mean to sound bossy to you, I was trying to help reflect back what I see, I hope it came across that way and not as directive or prescriptive. I see in your post a great deal of what I imagine I’d be wrestling with if I wasn’t working. I think the most important thing you are contributing right now to your family of two plus furling(s) is your self-care, healing and exploration of how to make peace with the loose ends and messy life – a perhaps perpetual state of imperfection. That’s a big job! So don’t undersell yourself. And remember that work will be there when you want to or need to or choose to go back.

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      • You did not sound bossy to me at all! No worries.

        You sound just like my husband! Focus on family, work will always be there, and in the meantime learn to accept life without work defining me. Take it as an opportunity to re-define myself, learn to live messy and enjoy a stress free summer. The biggest catch will be learning to actually accept living messy and being okay with it. I know it will take work and effort, but that’s one thing i have right now while I’m not working.

        Thanks again!

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  2. I too decided with my wife’s support, to become unemployed to relieve stress from my job to become pregnant. 8 months later I’m still not pregnant. I understand your feelings even though I’ve yet to be professionally successful.

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  3. The feelings and emotions you described are my fears of quitting work. Reading through this post though, I realized you’re not giving yourself credit for the stress you have removed from your life, which is a huge accomplishment, even though it meant giving up your career, at least for the time being. There are obviously tradeoffs. The stressors you’re currently experiencing though, they would have been there whether you were working or not, well, at least most of them you mentioned. So think of it as the accomplishment of lowering the overall stress in your life. Which is hard to do sometimes, so kudos to you? As for your days… What about volunteering, or making a more structured schedule for your week, taking a fun class… I don’t think we need work in the form of a career to feel fulfilled, but I do think we need that ‘something’… Maybe you just haven’t discovered that yet.

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    • You sound just like my husband this morning when he read this post!
      First, I have to admit, I don’t feel like this every day, just sometimes I have these moments of doubt (usually as a result of not having enough stimulation during the day).
      So, that said, while I will agree with you that that it has been a huge accomplishment to remove stress from my life, it just doesn’t feel that meaningful and it most certainty is not the type of accomplishment I’m used to. And I’m clearly having trouble accepting that and acknowledging just how big of step it was for me to leave work in search of a better quality of life.
      You and my husband have both pushed me to realize that there is definitely something to be said about needing to come around to a new way of thinking, which involved not defining myself by my career and my career accomplishments. But, I’m just not sure how to do that after working towards a successful career since preschool essentially. And, you both mentioned the idea of volunteering and taking classes. Yes, volunteering is a really good option, but I haven’t done anything about it yet because I know that as soon as we are pregnant again I will be unable to continue. And I absolutely hate making commitments and then not following through. And, the idea of taking a class (i.e. yoga or spin class) also sounds great, but I hate to spend the money. These money for these classes are things I would never have worried about before (and in fact prior to our first miscarriage, I religiously went to spin class multiple times a week), but now I am being such a cheap ass that I cannot bring myself to spend the money.
      So, I really think there is some work for me to do to figure out and discover what will make me feel fulfilled while not working.
      By the way, thanks for the comment! As always, super appreciated! 🙂

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  4. I found this post so brave. I’m so pleased to hear you say that you want it all, I’ve often said this in secret to my Hubby in the past but instantly felt guilty about it, like I should be grateful for all our material wealth, health and careers. But sometimes it feels like some people do have it so easy and I found that hard to deal with at times. But why shouldn’t we wish for – and deserve – it all? Trying to conceive is extremely stressful – I think more so than any job – so I fully appreciate how hard it is, especially if you have more time to think about it now you’re not working.

    As suggested above, I was going to ask if you’ve considered volunteering or doing a night course in something you enjoy that isn’t related to your job? Like a pottery class or book club or something? – often you don’t have to pay for some classes or community groups in your area. A couple of years ago when I was in a similar situation (I was working full time but I needed something at the weekends too to help me cope) I found a little focus on something else goes a long way. Something just for you that perhaps you wouldn’t have time for with a job. And don’t worry about volunteering and then leaving if you become pregnant, that’s what’s great about volunteering compared to an employer, you can have more say about when you’re available and if you can/can’t continue. I stopped volunteering when I became pregnant in order to allow me rest etc and there was no problem at all because you’ve already contributed and helped out.

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    • Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I love that you can relate to wanting it all! It may be seen as selfish, but why can’t I want it all? I may not get it, but striving for better is what makes us better people. Or at least that’s my current theory.

      I think I do need to start volunteering in some way shape or form and just get over being non-committal about it. It will be a productive way to spend a few hours a week, which will probably make me feel a lot better. Now I just have to decide which organization I want to volunteer with.

      Thanks again!

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  5. I am so with you on this. I too quit job and got on the trying-to-get-pregent bandwagon. Now, I have nothing to show for except a birth certificate and a death certificate. I smell failure and I am a failure. However, along the way, I have started volunteering at the hospital, in a not stressful environment. It somehow helped my anxiety a bit. (Do not worry about changing course. This is the beauty of volunteering. No one will die if you are not there.)

    I also like what you said about how work has defined us. Without work we feel less of ourselves. I am re-thinking this and fighting this notion. As women, we give so much in every possible way. Why work should define us?

    On the other hand, stay connected with the professional network is important for future consideration.

    Or take the time to learn about your dream job. I hope to switch to a better career path in the future. I have seen/heard too many unhappy working related complaints.

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    • First, I don’t think for a second you are a failure! You were and are an amazing mom. Yes, your life has been forever changed, as it should be once become a mom!

      Second, thanks for the encouragement to get over my worries about committing to a volunteer organization. I think I’m going to have to find an organization that will give me something more meaningful to do.

      I also agree with your comment about fighting the notion of defining ourselves by our work. This is something I really need to work on, because you are right, as women we are constantly giving everything of ourselves. It just doesn’t work long term.

      I too am trying to figure out what my dream job is. I know its not what I’ve been doing, and I need to figure out what it actually is. So, I know I’ll definitely be thinking about that too!

      Thanks again!

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  6. Try to give yourself a break hon. You’ve been through so much, and 4 months, though I know it seems like a long time, is really not that long at all. There will always be jobs, but taking care of your health and your future is so important too.

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    • Thank you for having such a positive outlook! Most days I agree, it has only been 4 months and there will be other jobs, but some days it is a bit more frustrating.

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