Several years ago, my life was the picture of success.
I had a high-level executive position in a wealth management office in Philadelphia. I lived outside of the city, in the affluent suburb where I had been raised.
Every day, I woke up in the dark, roused my two young children and began my morning routine: get out the door by 6 am, drop both children off at their private school and race like mad to catch the train.
Most of my memories from those years revolve around work. I felt very proud of my expensive old Victorian home, my two nice cars, my career. I’d worked from the bottom up in the investment world, starting just two weeks out of high school. I’d fought the male-dominated industry, triumphed over not having a college degree and balanced having a demanding career and a family (or at least so I thought).
My Life Until Then
Yet, I’d known that something was off kilter in my life for a while. My marriage was falling apart after ten years and my career required me to be “on” all the time. I came home late and took calls at midnight with international clients. I was buried under files and my laptop. I knew my kids were not getting the kind of attention I envisioned giving them, but someone had to pay for this life that we lived.
Sadly, I realized they were the ones paying for it. I was only funding it.
This wasn’t the way I wanted to raise kids. Although I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom, I tried for so long to be Superwoman. At a certain point, I realized I was a version of Superwoman, but my priorities were off. I focused on giving my kids material things, some of which were causing our growing credit card debt. My husband and I ended up accruing at least $25,000 in credit card debt, some of which he brought into our marriage and some of which we accrued together.
Yet, despite the long hours and credit card bills, the bigger sense I wanted to give my kids was an appreciation for material things because they represent security and gratitude.
The Day That Changed Everything
One day when my son was 3 years old, I was sitting on the train after a long day at work. My husband (a carpenter whose day ended at 3 pm) sent me a text message: “Meet me at the ER. Zachary had an accident.” I reread it several times. I called his cell; it was off because he was in a hospital. I’d never felt as helpless as when I silently pleaded with the train conductor to blow through every stop before mine.
I lambasted myself on that half-hour ride and continued to do so while racing to the hospital. What kind of mother couldn’t be there quickly when her son had an accident? How bad was it? Was he calling for me? Would he make it? I had no idea how bad his accident had been, but I imagined the worst. It remains the longest hour of my life.