I went on medical maternity leave about one year ago. I was nearing the end of my pregnancy and I was more and more uncomfortable every day- from lightning crotch (Google it) to shortness of breath I was ready to get this thing done. I was finally forced to admit I couldn’t work out anymore and I needed to be off my feet. A doctor’s note later and there I was. Off work. Woohoo! It was like someone gave me permission to play hookey from school. Baby wasn’t here yet, and I didn’t have to get myself up and be a productive grown up everyday. I basked in it.
Sooner than I thought, we were in the hospital being induced for a risk of blood clot. Then Baby O was in my arms and it was all a blur of breastfeeding (struggles), frequent night wakings, doctor appointments and C Section recovery. The novelty of being off work for the first time since I was 18 was eclipsed by the sheer learning curve of a new baby.
Fast forward to 9 months later and see me at my baby group week after week as moms tearfully announce this is their last day because they are heading back to work and Baby is off to daycare. I started to realize this was getting very real and I better make some serious decisions about what I was going to do. My window of leisurely ignoring the issue was rapidly closing.
Now, don’t get me wrong- I had thought about what I was going to do. A LOT. I was picturing the early mornings rousing Baby O from her slumber, hurrying her through our morning “getting ready” routine and frantically tossing food down for our cats before juggling all our daily gear out the door and through rush hour traffic to drop her at daycare and get myself to work. I imagined a hectic exit from work, more rush hour traffic, making meals, packing lunches and snacks, feeding the cats again, then falling desperately into bed only to repeat this the next day. And every day.
The days my fiance would be home would be better than the days he worked evenings or worse yet, night shifts for 12 hours each day, four days running.
Or maybe I could try to arrange part time work with my fiance and I alternating being off with Baby O in four day rotations. Would my bosses be okay with me never being in the office the same days each week? How would we arrange staff meetings? Or budget meetings? Or how would we make sure to communicate when I was out of the office four days at a time? Could I work from home? This all just seemed like more hassle for everyone. So I was left with the question- go back to work and juggle daycare, the pets and my fiance’s 4 on 4 off shift-work schedule or leave my job and stay home with Baby O, at least for now?
I know moms and families do this dance all the time. I know that millions of families make it work… but I also know me. I am relentlessly driven to “do it all” and be “perfect”. I would place immense pressure on myself at work and home and try to do superhuman feats of time management and organization. I would not cut myself any slack and I would likely burn myself out. The toll on my relationship would be huge as he watched helplessly as I drove myself crazy. The toll on Baby O was more than I wanted to consider- a rushed and frantic start and end to every day. A mom who was frustrated and tired and too busy “doing” to really be present. Days spent experiencing milestones under the eyes of benevolent strangers. And don’t get me started on the cost! I would be sacrificing 160 hours a month with my daughter, and untold peace of mind, for what would end up being about half my monthly income after childcare and travel expenses.
It started to look like I had one option- stay home with my daughter and say goodbye to a career and friends 14 years in the making. No easy decision and certainly not one we made lightly. My fiance would have to bear the full brunt of our expenses if I gave up my job. Could we even do it? After much discussion and number crunching- and 3 overtime shifts a month- we can make this work. Now the only hiccup is coming to terms with the grief and fear around leaving my job and being financially dependent on another person for the first time since my teens.
My new coaching business helps. I can set my own hours and rates and work from home with little or no overhead expenses. I can do it by phone around my fiance’s work schedule and Olivia’s needs. I can keep our mom and baby support groups, music class and swimming trips. I can see all of Olivia’s firsts. I can make a life for my family and not lose myself in the process.
So I resigned. Even though it is the right thing for me and my family, it is one of the hardest things I have had to do. And moments after it was done I felt a rising panic and doubt and an almost crippling urge to take it all back….but I breathed deep and walked away.
I know I will have moments, hours and even whole days where I wonder if this has been the right decision. I don’t know if a truly “right” decision is possible in this situation. I just know in my heart that it was the best decision I could make for us now.