How Losing My Job Changed My Life

by Charise Rohm Nulsen

This is an expanded version of a post published several months ago.

My ample midsection cramped up as I stood tapping my foot distractedly outside of a once welcoming room – a room that now held my fate. I tried to ignore the contractions that gently rocked me from the inside out and focus on presenting a confident countenance that would be worthy of hearing the words I had been told I would receive today: “We look forward to having you back as a faculty member next year, Charise.”

A fellow teacher suddenly burst through the closed door. Was that a tear on her face? I tried not to let this rattle me as I reflected on the possibility that the fantastic teacher who just brushed by me was a possible casualty of these district mandated layoffs. I focused instead on the promises this incoming principal had made our staff. He understood that the last thing the children of our tumultuous, inner city school needed was more abandonment. Whether it be by choice or not, these kids already had more people walk away from them in their short lives than most people experience in a lifetime. My students loved me and I loved them. I was respected by my peers and my teaching evaluations were perfect. I had nothing to worry about.

I smiled brightly at next year’s principal and the HR rep as I attempted to squeeze my copious belly into the miniature chair across the table from them.

“I’m sorry… What’s your name again?”

This startled me a bit as I remembered how many times we had emailed and at how many meetings we had spoken recently. Wasn’t I sort of memorable at this point with my 8 1/2 month pregnant belly?

I gave him my name.

“And what do you teach again?”

Oh. Crap.

“Special Ed ELA.”

He scanned a list, really looked at me for the first time, and pronounced, “I’m sorry we will not be having you back next year. Here is the paperwork you need. Thanks for your time.”

I was so shocked that I could not respond. Later, I would think of seemingly one hundred questions and retorts that I should have uttered, but nothing came to me in my paralysis of awe.

Oh my god. We just bought a house. And a car. And we’re having a baby. And I ADORE these children. How can I be without them? What the hell just happened? Didn’t he know how I didn’t think twice about throwing my lifegiving body in the midst of the fights and assaults that happened in our hallways on a now daily basis? Didn’t he know that these kids poured their hearts out to me? Didn’t he know that these children inhabited my dreams on a regular basis?

As the day went on and I saw crying teachers, outraged students, and hysterical children, I came to realize that our status as a turnaround school led to exactly what we were told wouldn’t happen. Eighty-five percent of our middle school staff had been let go.

My voice was shaking as I found a quiet corner to call my husband and share my devastating news. He was as shocked as I was. He actually thought I was joking at first because the news was so unbelievable to him. Luckily, once the reality set in, my wonderful husband responded with nothing but support. He eased my fears, proclaimed the new principal to be a jerk, and told me we would figure things out and that I didn’t have to worry. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

I was able to calm my nerves a bit after that phone call, and switched into action mode. I immediately pulled up my resume and started updating it. I wrote cover letters. I searched for jobs. I sent out networking emails. Being proactive relaxed me. I figured if I crammed this kind of legwork into the next couple of weeks, then I would hopefully get calls to go on job interviews once I was comfortably settled in with my newborn at home.

Well, I was wrong again. The calls for interviews did come, but they all came in immediately after I gave birth. I couldn’t believe how many messages I got during my five day stay in the maternity ward of the hospital. Not only was I recovering from a Cesarean section, but I was having the most sublime and special experience of my life as I spent my first days with my precious son. Returning these calls was not even on my radar. I did have my husband return a couple of the calls for me, but the schools needed to move forward with their interviewing process and no one seemed to have the time to wait for me to recover.

When Baby was about two months old, I received a call to interview at a really amazing school in a district that I would love to work in. Although I couldn’t even fathom going back to work and starting a new school year in a brand new place when my son was only two and a half months old, I forced myself to go on the interview. I held tightly to my pre-baby dream even though my heart seemed to be screaming otherwise at me.

Instead of looking at my layoff as an opportunity, I could only see it as an obstacle. I felt an odd inner pressure to meet the goals of my pre-layoff plan. I had never intended to be a stay at home mom. I always thought I would be out in the world and that I could balance having the perfect family too. I had been taught to believe I could have it all, and I pressured myself to make that happen.

I left my sweet newborn for the very first time to go on the interview. I, of course, felt completely secure leaving him at home with my husband, but after just two minutes in the car after pulling away from my house, I felt sick with grief.

I did not want to be away from my son. Like a ton of bricks, the answer hit me. Yes, I wanted to have it all, but I needed to redefine ALL. I already had my all, my everything. It was back at my house in the form of my newly formed little family. I had a husband and a son that I adored more than life. I didn’t need to look outside my home to have it all.

I did go to the interview, and it went fantastically. The job was high paying for a teacher’s salary and the environment was a teacher’s dream. I had excellent chemistry with the administrators, and I believed I had a very good shot at getting the job. Yet as I pulled out of the school parking lot, I felt very certain of my next move. I would go straight home, hug my husband and my baby, and then send off an email to the school thanking them for their consideration but letting them know that I was going to withdraw my application.

toddler in Boston College shirt

Nothing could be better than spending my days with this guy!

Fast forward to now. I am still a teacher. I am also a student. My sole pupil and inspiring instructor in life lessons is much younger than my previous students. He pays me in cuddles and adoring glances that empower me heart and my life with contented ferocity.

The curriculum may be different, but the process is the same. My days are filled with love and learning, inspiration and hope, and I never dreamed I could be this happy. I am proud to be a stay at home mom, and I am so thankful that I allowed myself to shift my perspective from seeing my situation as an obstacle to an opportunity. Life lesson learned!

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 OneMommy September 26, 2011 at 10:23 am

I remember reading your shorter version of this… And as awful an experience of losing your job, I am glad that you have found the silver lining. I, too, never saw myself as a SAHM; I was positive I would want to continue teaching. But every day going to work was hard as I dropped our daughter at her Mamaw’s house. I finished the school year and turned in my resignation that summer. Strange how those little ones change all your dreams – and make them better.
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2 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama September 28, 2011 at 9:40 am

Thanks! Yes, it really is amazing how our babies can change our dreams for the better!

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3 Lisa @Granola Catholic September 26, 2011 at 10:59 am

what a way to lose your job, so impersonal. I have heard the other side of the story, because my dh did just that sort of thing for a company at one time. They have to make it impersonal, because if they get to know the person it makes their day hard.

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4 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama September 28, 2011 at 9:39 am

I can understand being on the other side too, Lisa. I’ve actually had to lay people off in a previous career. The difference here was that we were promised a different experience. It was a very hypocritical approach.

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5 Lisa @Granola Catholic September 28, 2011 at 9:56 am

so sad for that , I can tell you really enjoyed working with the kids. I completely understand how it made you feel. I have been let go from a couple of jobs, suddenly and unexpectedly, now as a part time teacher I see the other side of the education system too. It is not a pretty picture.

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6 Sarah September 26, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Isn’t is amazing hw we can do so much more than we think with what we think we don’t have!? ;) I pray HARD everyday for some way to be able to stay home with my son instead of having to leave him everyday.
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7 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama September 28, 2011 at 9:38 am

I hope that life brings you a way to stay home with your son too, Sarah!

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8 Sarah September 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Thanks, Charise. It means a lot!
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9 Kayla @ Furniture Stores Los Angeles September 26, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Sometimes a change in perspective is all you need to turn what seems like a horrible thing into a blessing. I’m glad you got that change when you did, and your little one is lucky to have such a great teacher/pupil at all times. :)

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10 Michelle September 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm

WHat an amazing story. Such a triumphant ending. Giving yourself the opportunity to trust yourself and being reflective enough to rethink thus redefine your life goals and dreams is nothing short of courageous.
I’m glad you found the peace you were seeking.

And I’m sure baby is too.

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11 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama September 28, 2011 at 9:36 am

Thank you so much, Michelle!

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12 Kelly September 26, 2011 at 8:36 pm

It’s so tragic that our society doesn’t hold more value for teachers…but I am glad your story ended up the way it did. I can never get over how much our plans can change to what we least expected…and it usually turns out to be so much more awesome than what we first planned too. :)
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13 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama September 28, 2011 at 9:36 am

I agree, Kelly. Teachers are way too undervalued.

Yes, life really plays some wonderful tricks on us sometimes!

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14 Life As Wife September 26, 2011 at 11:55 pm

This is a fantastic post! I was Miss Career until I had a family. It’s funny how a child can change your life in such a big and exciting way!

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15 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama September 28, 2011 at 9:35 am

Thanks! Yes, it really is amazing!

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16 Momma Jorje September 27, 2011 at 12:49 am

Sigh. I can relate to some extent. With my older daughter, my ex-husband pretty much told me I’d never be able to NOT work. I managed to work at home until her 2nd grade year (and homeschooled her). She shifted to day care as I started an outside job, then to public school as I went full time. It was a difficult transition for her.

After 6 weeks off work with Sasha, I returned to work and it very often broke my heart to leave her (even just at home with Daddy). I cried on many of those drives. Then, when she was 1½, I finally bit the bullet and traded in my FT for a PT job. I still hated leaving her, but it was a better solution. A short two months later, I was laid off. (Worse yet, that lay off was because my mother had a stroke – I was working for her as a Home Health Aid.)

It has definitely been… WONDERFUL to not work! I do not want to return to work. Ever, really. I don’t want a “day job.” I have ideas on what I’d like to do with my future, but none of them involve leaving my family for hours each day!

And I agree – what an impersonal way to get laid off! I realize they had to process a lot of people, but UGH!
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17 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama September 28, 2011 at 9:33 am

I’m so glad you’re now getting to be at home with your daughter since that’s what you really wanted! Life has a funny way of working out.

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18 Betty September 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Life is good. When I saw your son’s picture I remembered the time when my son was the same age. Your son is beautiful. I can imagine how much joy he brings in your life. I am glad everything is turning out fine in your life especially that you have much better teaching job.
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19 Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama September 28, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words, Betty!

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20 Lizzy @ Japanese Car Lease Broker Los Angeles September 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Trading one classroom for another is not too shabby. Sounds like you’ve upgraded, too! :)

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21 Rosie @ Hollywood Cosmetic Dentist October 3, 2011 at 2:08 pm

It is always hard for anyone to lose a job, but kudos to you for being positive and turning what could be a negative situation into something that is great for you and your family. Your child (or children in the future) will be able to look at you as a source of inspiration.

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22 maryanne @ mama smiles November 13, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I love that you see being a stay at home mom as a career in its own right. Being home with my kids is very different from what I did before having children, but I find that the skills I gained are still useful – and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
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23 Kayleen Considine January 24, 2013 at 1:52 pm

I’m very happy that you were able to be a stay at home mom, but the thing that cried out to me about your story was the school that you left. I live outside of Seattle and the big thing now is a new arena to bring back a professional basketball team since the Sonics left. I think money should be spent on education and police protection, but who am I? So many school programs are cut and there is no place for kids to go after school so they get into trouble. Children go hungry. I just think that money could be better spent, like teachers in the inner city schools such as the one you left.

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