I quit my high-pressure, brand-name job using this official PR statement: I’m taking a gap year to focus on creative goals.
Like all personal milestone announcements, this one, while true, it is also unfinished. The more interesting story — usually the truer-truth — hides in the unspoken.
“I’m moving to Minneapolis for a killer career opportunity (and to get closer to a certain blue-eyed someone).”
“I’m joining Teach For America to help children (and to boost my grad school application).”
“I broke off the engagement because the timing wasn’t right (and my fiancee still loves their ex).”
I’m leaving my big-deal job for creative pursuits (and to fix Dora).
I feel sure this decision will course-correct our little family. There’ll be no more of this begging to “go home” because Dora’s home will contain what Dora clearly needs: an unstressed, laid-back, fun mom who is 100% present and patient.
I’ll shadow Dora’s footsteps like a suburban Dian Fossey, filing observations and realizing epiphanies from the playground sidelines. I’ll volunteer at the school, befriend her teachers, maybe even find Dora another BFF. I’ll remain open and available for conversation. I’ll nail The Talk. I may even purchase a bento box, whatever that is.
In a few weeks, Dora and I will fall into a natural, easy rhythm together, visiting art museums, bumbling recipes and creating a stockpile of private jokes. (In my mind’s eye, Dora giggles at David’s confusion, explaining, “It’s a mommy-daughter thing!”)
“Fourth grade is going to be a great year for both of us!” I chirp to Dora on the way to the first day of school.
We slip into the crowded parking lot and I shut off the car engine. I place my phone in picture mode, already designing Dora’s First Day Of Fourth Grade album in my mind.
I am wearing my new Lululemon yoga pants, partly because I can now that every day is Saturday, and partly as strategy, a suburban smoke signal to the Home Mom tribe already chatting breezily with each other outside the fourth grade classroom: I am with your people now. Let us now drink lattes at Starbucks.
“Let’s go see your classroom, Dora!”
“My stomach hurts,” Dora says.
Happy First Day Of School, punching-feeling!
“But you’ve had your stomach medici—,”
New Me interrupts Old Me, saying, “– Tell me more, honey. How are you feeling?”
Dora is feeling like her stomach hurts. New Me is as clueless as Old Me.
Dora insists on waiting in the car until the bell rings.
This will change, New Me thinks, as Dora finally shuffles toward the classroom. She’ll be fine.
Later I sit alone in our empty house deliberately not thinking about leveraging technology to make the world a better place. My world is already a better place since I recently declared each day bra-optional.
I check my remaining email In-box. The total email number has not changed in 45 minutes. I refresh my email to be sure it’s working. It is working. My email queue is manageable — adorable, even! I disable the new email feature notification on my phone. I am free!
I water my plants. I briefly flirt with, then reject, the idea of actually doing yoga, seeing as I’ve got the pants and all. I rescue my dusty easel from the darkest corner of the garage. I clean my ancient brushes at the sink and spend the rest of the day thinking my own, non corporate-sponsored thoughts all the live-long day.
For the rest of the week I stay present and attentive to David and Dora. I make shame-free meals for us, bringing ambassadors from each food group together on the same dinner plate for perhaps the first time in ever.
I sleep like log.
I will need it, because fourth grade is when it all falls apart.