You must know this about me: I’m not a quitter. If I start something, I finish it. Some people love starting things: projects, chapters in life, new tubes of toothpaste. I like finishing them (let’s not get into how often I feel paralyzed about starting something and so never do). When I was in college, I took a temperament analysis that ranked my level of self-discipline off the charts. I liked this about myself.
But, time, age, marriage, and motherhood have changed me. I’m no longer off-the-charts disciplined (maybe that’s a good thing!), and now, I guess I’m a quitter, too.
It all started at the end of October, when my husband, my roommate, and I decided–impulsively–to do Whole30 together. Whole30 means for 30 days you only eat whole foods, and you avoid sugar, grains, beans, peanuts, dairy, and alcohol. So, in other words, you’re eating a bunch of meat and vegetables for thirty days. It was awful. I almost immediately entered a crazed state where all I could think about was food! I was in a terrible mood. I didn’t see the weight loss, or any of the “non-scale victories” the program touts, like better sleep, more energy, better mood, better skin, etc. Two weeks in, I was still hungry all the time, and I was super stressed out constantly thinking about what I could eat and planning meals/shopping lists.
It was dumb. I thought about it and realized it was not a good program for me. I’m much better at moderating my intake of something rather than abstaining all together. Also, I’d had a pretty dysfunctional relationship with food for several years in my twenties and this just seemed to trigger that. And, as much as I hated to admit it, even though Zadie was 10 months old at the time, I still felt like I was getting used to all that’s involved in being a mom. Adding a strict diet program on top of that felt like so much pressure.
So I quit. I didn’t finish Whole30. I didn’t even finish Whole15. On the 13th day, I quit. And I kept eating within the program for a few days–I didn’t just go out and eat a pizza or something. I just needed that weight lifted off of me, and the feeling of freedom I had was amazing. I also felt proud, because I realized that I had honored my story, my temperament and my needs in this situation. Before I quit, I dreaded having to tell people I didn’t finish the program; I couldn’t do it, I was too weak. But the freedom that came from honoring myself in my decision extended to the freedom to tell people I had quit, without shame.
It felt so great, I’m thinking of quitting something else: stay at home motherhood. I’ve written about it here before, but I just don’t know if it’s for me. To be honest, I’ve been agonizing over this decision for a couple of months now. Partly because the only kind of motherhood I’ve experienced so far is the stay-at-home variety, and it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to mother Zadie if I weren’t with her all the time. But it partly feels like I’m giving up. Like I couldn’t handle something that lots of women handle beautifully every single day, with many more kids, or kids with special needs.
I wanted to give staying at home a try; I tried and it sometimes feels like I failed. I enjoy being with Zadie immensely, and have moments of heart-exploding joy and love with her every single day. But I also have many times throughout the day when I just don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to be a full-time caregiver. I don’t want to continue to lose other parts of myself in order to be the one who changes Zadie’s diaper and feeds her and reads to her all day. It’s difficult to not feel selfish, or weak, or to worry that I’ll regret my decision to go back to work.
But after my experience quitting Whole30, I’m curious: what if instead of giving in to guilt and social pressure, I take a good look at myself, my strengths and weaknesses, my skill set and my dreams, the needs of my family as a whole, and make the decision from there? And if that decision is to “quit” being a stay at home mother, what if it leads to the same feeling of freedom and release from pressure that I had when I quit Whole30?
So I guess sometimes it’s good to be a quitter. Maybe it’s more about knowing when to quit?