Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Touch of Regret

Yesterday I submitted my resignation. This day has been so long in coming and I expected to feel unmitigated glee. And I did feel glee and happiness and joy. There was the greatest Facebook party ever where friends posted drinks, food, and music in celebration of the occasion. Great fun was had by all.

And yet, unexpectedly, also felt a touch of regret yesterday. After I informed my supervisor, who has been newly minted into this position for less than a week, he reassured me it was good decision because a similar decision has been great for his family. There was no sense of hostility or accusation in our exchange, only momentary surprise on his part and then support and appreciation for the decision.

I went outside to walk off some nervous energy and felt that first moment of something hard to identify. I agree with him that my decision is the best one for my family, otherwise why would I be making it. Still though, I know that if he had previously been my supervisor, I would have been much more involved with implementing the latest project than I have been. I know that it is likely he is as mystified by my lack of involvement as I am. In fact when I first entered his office, he almost immediately began telling me how I was soon going to be brought up-to-date on the entire project. I had to stop him and redirect the meeting. There is a little bit of sadness knowing the my situation at work is better now than it has been in years, just as I am walking out the door. My time didn't have to be as futile as it has been.

Later in the afternoon, the next supervisor up the chain of command came into my office to confirm my resignation. He, too, was supportive. He said I was making a good decision for the right reasons and he would try to talk me out of it except that it showed that I had my priorities in order. Hanging in that statement is the completely unintended implication that somehow my priorities were previously out of order. I appreciated his support, but it, at the same time, it also felt a little paternalistic.

In a passing mood that could only come from a woman, I was simultaneously happy and annoyed by their unambigious support. What do women want? Isn't that the question. If they had been hostile, I would be on my high horse about the lack of respect for mothers at home with children. In their support, I wonder if they are happy to see me in my place. You just can't win. It is a touch of madness.

By any objective standard, my career has been a failure. I stayed in this job for far longer than anyone with ambition would tolerate. The only reason I am here now is because I chose to wait it out while the situation at home stabilized enough for me to do what I really wanted to do. From an internal point of view, I know I have been underutilized at work and have only been biding my time. From an external point of view, is there anything that distinguishes me from someone who deliberately chooses the mommy-track? Not really, but it was never my intention.

My supervisor came by later in the day and told me that upon reflection, the timing of my departure would work out alright, but if it had been several months ago, he would have been totally screwed. I am very much aware of this fact. This fact makes my departure easier on my conscience and harder on my ego. I am glad I am not leaving them in the lurch and also tweaked that they will never appreciate my contributions.

I look like someone who worked until I was tired of working and decided I wanted to go play with my kids. There is truth in that statement, but not the whole truth. I believe I was given lesser responsibilities partially because of my status as a mother. (Also because McDonald's is better managed than this place.) I feel some touch of failure in my exit because, in truth, they won't miss me. My responsibilities are complete here. Because I have nothing here depending on me, it feels like those decisions to not promote me and not give greater responsibilities are somewhat justified. They created the lowered expectation and I lived up to it.

I am not suggesting that I should continue working in order to make a societal point about working mothers. I am not crazy. I refuse to be miserable for "society." But it does feel like I have subtly reinforced the stereotype that you cannot trust a working mother who bears more than 1.3 children. There is nothing to be done about it. It is what it is.

In all, I feel joy and a sense of accomplishment but also a touch of regret. I really was not expecting that.

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