The woman at the Clinique counter turned out to be right. The day I visited her, I was 7 months pregnant…feeling a bit fat and looking for a “feel good” purchase. Lipstick is always fun! She rather ceremoniously uncapped a long, thin silver tube and twisted the base so that I might see the color. “Perfect,” she effused. I was not initially impressed, but, at her urging, I applied it and checked myself out in the mirror. Fabulous! Almost Lipstick in Black Honey has been a staple in my cosmetic bag ever since.
“So, are you going back to work after the baby?” she asked. I replied affirmatively to which she responded, “Ah, too bad.”
When I left her counter, I’m sure my lovely, shimmery lips were parted in an “um, what?!” expression. That was some opinionated salesperson. I was working in high-tech marketing and had received a promotion and stock options the year before. Not to mention the fact that I was, and remain, a staunch feminist. Of course, I was going back.
I did return from maternity leave, but lasted only six months… and that was a stretch! Everything had changed. The 30-50 minute drive to and from work was never enjoyable, but now it was a lost hour that could have been shared with my daughter. The early morning calls with the European sales force that I had once so enthusiastically anticipated created a logistical nightmare. The high level meetings that I had felt proud to attend seemed unimportant; I was no longer impressed with myself or anyone else in attendance. I did not feel the zeal for advancement or the thrill of competition that was fostered in the company. I found myself wondering who would be there to see my daughter’s first steps: me or the day care workers.
Home life was difficult, too. It was a mad dash every evening to retrieve my daughter within the approved pick-up time. My husband’s work in high-tech finance was demanding and he usually arrived a couple of hours later than us between 7 and 8 p.m. When he got home, he needed the same things that our baby and I needed: rest, relaxation, dinner, understanding, attention. We were all simultaneously extremely needy! And, very tired. We had only each other. There was no household help or familial assistance. It was just the three of us.
My husband supported my decision to quit working. We took a leap of faith together knowing that the budget was going to be extremely tight. And, it worked out just fine! Our daughter is a 20-year-old college student today and the three of us are very close.
In the two decades since I made my decision, technology has changed things so much. I see so many women who successfully combine work and family life. Neither my husband nor I had any flexibility in our jobs. It seems ironic that we were both working in the high-tech industry that has revolutionized life for so many, and yet our employers offered no allowances to accommodate family life.
Today, I have an empty nest and time to pursue my interests, but I don’t think I could fully enjoy myself if I didn’t feel that I’d completely embraced my role as a mother. I feel grateful that I had a choice; I know many women don’t. I have never regretted my decision to be a stay at home mom.
P.S. I wouldn’t recommend seeking life advice at the Clinique counter, but that saleswoman was wise! I recently read that the lipstick she sold me more than 20 years ago has become a cult-classic. Clinique now ships one Black Honey lipstick every two minutes.