I’m quitting my job.
I have always assumed I wouldn’t want to be a stay-at-home-mom. A friend says to me at some point, “I LOVE my kids, but I don’t want to hang out with them all freaking day.”
This seems totally right to me, totally reasonable. I’ve heard stories about people who go weeks without having an adult conversation, grown-ass women describing their 1-year-olds as “my best friend.” Seriously? I like work. I like productivity. I will love my baby, but surely I will want to keep the rest of my life the same as before, right? Mm hmm.
I work for the federal government, so I am allotted three months of FMLA after the baby. They have to let me take the time, but they don’t have to pay me for it. I can use up all my leave, and my unit gives me an additional two weeks off, paid. This seems, to a person who has always worked, like an eternity. NEVER have I not worked for three months, not even right out of college. This should be plenty of time to get the hang of breastfeeding and not sleeping and being responsible for a helpless human life. Hooray!
I take on some side gigs to save up for the time when I won’t be getting paid. We don’t make a lot of money by DC standards, so we take some steps to prepare for a one-salary life. We have local family — we’re extremely lucky that way– so we cobble together a post-maternity leave childcare plan. My mother-in-law will take him Mondays, her day off. My husband will work from home on Tuesdays. I will work from home Wednesdays and Thursdays, and my mother will take him Fridays, her day off. Complicated, but free. We know we’ll eventually need to get a nanny/sitter/helper to be here during the work-from-home times, but in the beginning, at least, he’ll sleep most of the day, so we’ll be fine.
During those first hormonal weeks, I am a weepy mess, swearing that I will never remove him from my arms, let alone leave his side for even one second, ever. A little later, postpartum depressed, I can’t stand to be away from him but I don’t feel qualified to care for him myself. From now on, I will watch my mother watching the baby. She’ll just have to quit HER job. After proper chemical calibration I think, sure, I can go back to work in three weeks. I can totally go back to work in two weeks. Work in a week? Um…yeah! Work tomorrow? OH. HELL. NO.
I extend my leave twice. I am generously allowed to change the arrangement so that I go back half days at first. This is the benefit of working in a woman-dominated business; they’ve mostly all been there. They all understand. I am lucky (for the U.S. anyway. I’m totally moving to Sweden before my next baby), and for a while it’s going OK. Eventually, though, he starts to get more active and require more interaction. I really do try to find childcare. I research nanny shares and daycare centers and print out checklists of what to look for in a care provider.
And I can’t do it.