It may be strange to think, but I never considered that quitting a job would lead me closer to one—or to myself. Only gradually did I learn that time at home could teach me so much about time in the office.

During my college years, I studied hard to obtain my degree, never giving a thought to marriage, let alone motherhood!

I was focused on getting a degree so that once I graduated I could work my dream job (never mind that I still had no idea what that might be).

Even when my husband and I got engaged, and basically right up to our wedding day, I was intent on being a career woman. I didn’t want to have kids, and even if I did, I told my husband, I was going to work at least part-time, if not full-time. I didn’t see myself giving up my professional life once I had kids, but rather continuing to work and building a career.

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All my thinking changed when I got pregnant and was suddenly faced with the reality of adding a child to our family.

Throughout my pregnancy, I worked full-time at a nonprofit organization. While it definitely helped pay the bills, it wasn’t a job that I was attached to; the role had nothing to do with my degree, the work environment was not especially friendly and it wasn’t even close to my “dream job” (which, go figure, I still hadn’t discovered yet).

Staying at home, I found out, gave me time to reflect on this aspect of my life a bit more and answer some big questions, including: What do I intend to do with my one life?

Soon enough, after trying to imagine what this would look like for us, overwhelmed with how in the world we were going to make it all work, I knew.

I knew I couldn’t keep working.

I knew I needed to be home with my first child. If we could make it work financially, I was going to stay home. I guess you could call it a motherly instinct.

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While my mind changed about the whole SAHM thing, making it a reality was still out of reach; I would have to wait a while longer while we adjusted our finances. I had returned to work soon after my short maternity leave, but I was left with an ache in my heart.

During the day at work, I craved with all my being to hold my daughter in my arms, to simply look into her eyes—and to be there for her to look into mine.

I was grateful for my family’s help with babysitting, and they did such a splendid job. But I couldn’t help feeling it was meant to be my job and no one else’s.

I wanted to bear the burden of doing the difficult work of raising my child. I wanted to nurse her and introduce her to the rhythms of nourishment and life; I wanted to put in the hours to practice cooking and spend more time making a home not just for my baby but for my husband, too. I realized that I wanted a simpler, slower life.

My husband got a new job that could better support us, which also made us feel more confident about our decision. We re-budgeted and slimmed down on nonessential goods, such as cable and internet.

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After more discussion, some practical planning and a leap of faith, we came to the conclusion that it was time for me to leave my job.

So I quit.

I stopped doing a job I really didn’t love for one that brings me profound meaning: motherhood.

I immediately felt a great deal less stress no longer having to juggle two jobs, as an employee and a mother. I had more time to bond with our little girl, I didn’t have to pump extra milk for the sitters and I took advantage of some obvious perks: lazing around in my pajamas all day long, napping during baby’s naptime, watching the tube, drinking coffee. My life is more peaceful and purposeful. It’s not always easy, but it brings me great joy.

Altogether I felt a new sense of freedom and vocation. I now had time to discover myself – and there was much more to uncover than I had realized: what skills I wanted to keep practicing or develop, how my values and priorities changed, and where my place was as a wife, mother and homemaker.

This season of personal growth enabled me to branch out and explore activities and endeavors that I never took the time to develop before, for example, blogging, photography, my faith, natural home solutions and the benefits of organic eating. I recognized how much I enjoyed the role of mother and continued to research new subjects that were of interest to me as it related to baby and motherhood, such as breastfeeding, baby-led weaning, appropriate milestone developments, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, how to embrace my vulnerabilities (see: Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly), and the realization that “homemaker” has many different meanings depending on which person, man or woman, you are talking to.

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I was so relieved that I could take a break from a career that wasn’t meaningful to me. It was as if my previous disinterest in this SAHM life almost precisely set me up to experience the joy at the opposite end of the spectrum. This life as a stay-at-home mom, it is so good for me.

It’s funny how life clarified things for me. With all the distractions of my own limited desires washed away in the course of that year, I had that peaceful, clear, giving, so familiar and yet completely new desire: that this is my calling for this season of life, to be a mother.