Going From A Career Woman To One Who Doesn’t Work

November 21, 2017  |  
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Going from being an active professional to someone who does not work is quite the adjustment. Whether you’re making the change to be a stay at home mom, or have had some financial fortune that allows you to call the hustle quits and finally work on that novel, or just chill, it’s a big change. Obviously, being a stay-at-home mom and a (let’s call it what it is) lady of leisure are two very different things, but either way, you’re saying goodbye to your deep involvement in the career world. And that can come as a bit of a shock. Your career took up 90 percent of your time and your thoughts. Your profession was a big part of your identity. All of this hits you when you leave it, for better or for worse. Here is what it’s like going from being a career woman to a woman who doesn’t work.

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Your friends may talk down to you

When you get together with friends who still work, they may bring up work and then say something like, “Well, you wouldn’t understand.” As if you’re some dimwit since you left the workforce—as if you didn’t live lives just like theirs not long ago.

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People question how you’re happy

You can feel your friends doubting whether or not you’ll be happy. Their identities and sense of purpose are so closely tied to their career. They not-so-subtly suggest that you’re wasting your life.

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People assume you’re always available

You become the on-call babysitter, dog walker, soup-delivery person, taxi driver, and couch mover. People almost seem to think your time isn’t valuable anymore and that there is no way you’re doing something more important than walking their dog for them.

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You have to re-meet yourself

Your identity was greatly tied to your career. You’ll learn that quickly. Much of your confidence, calmness, and sense of purpose came from your work. You can feel like you’re free falling for a while when you first leave your work. You have to find a new center.

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Sometimes, you and your partner have little to talk about

You and your partner used to swap stories about your workday. Were the stories great? Important? Impactful? Not necessarily. But you had things to share. Now you may find that the dinner conversation falls flat at times. But this will change when you find your new purpose and pursuit.

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You need a way to break up the monotony

You had no idea just how much time and mental space your work used to take. Between your commute, your actual hours spent at work, and the time you spent thinking about work when you got home, your career consumed your life. The stillness of being someone who doesn’t have to go to work can be frightening at first.

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The new possibilities are intimidating

You can do anything you want now! How exciting! Or…terrifying. You feel like you have this immense responsibility to make the most of this new gift of time. Should you do things to enhance your wellbeing, like travel, or get into yoga? Or should you give back to the community through volunteering?

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You waste your time with busywork…at first

You’ll feel yourself wanting to prove something to others—to show that you’re plenty busy, with or without your career. So you’ll make up dumb things to do at first. You’ll rearrange your furniture more times than you can imagine.

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Your instinct to create a new routine is strong

Being a guinea pig on that wheel—following a demanding routine—allowed you some blissful ignorance. You didn’t have the time to think about things like your emotional wellbeing, your purpose on this planet, and what it all means. So you may feel an impulse to create a new routine (gym at 8, grocery store at 10, lunch at 1, read from 2:30 to 4) but don’t. Get comfortable in the chaos of a non-routine life.

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You see your job for what it really was

You see your job for exactly what it was: valuable but not important in the grand scheme of things. Sure, you were a cog in a wheel that kept some company running that created some product that people enjoy. But in a thousand years, what will that mean?

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Spending money changes

If you are single, then your money is somewhat finite. You don’t have the comfort of knowing, “I can always just make more money.” You understand that, with each purchase, you’re chipping away at a money block that isn’t self-renewing. If you’re in a relationship with a partner who works, you’re still hyper-aware of your spending because it’s someone else’s hard-earned money.

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You feel compelled to make an impact

Now that you do have time to think about the meaning of your life and just how futile your career really was, you want to make an impact. You’ll feel a drive to get involved in your community, help those that need it, or write a book that will change people’s lives.

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Mortality stares at you

There was always some thing blocking your view of your mortality. There was always this goal to meet or that promotion to get or this sale to make or that milestone to reach. Those are gone. And now it seems like your life is just a straight, unobstructed path until the end. It’s freeing and frightening and dizzying.

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You realize you left some people behind

You realize that you got a little high and mighty when you were working. You forgot about what mattered. There are some old friends and family members whom you really owe a visit.

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You eventually find your rhythm

Eventually, you find your rhythm. Life feels less daunting and empty when you wake up. You find a nice balance of routine and chaos. You find a new purpose. You laugh at how much you used to rely on your work to feel important and have something to talk about. You learn that a cute story about an old lady you met at the Farmer’s Market is so much more valuable than any anecdote about a coworker.

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