I’m crying as I type this because I quit my job today so I can stay home with my 5 month old. I’m crying, but really… yaaaaaayyyyy!!!
The moment my little chubba wubba emerged from the womb I was blessed with some other-worldly, divine knowledge in an instant. First, I knew beyond any doubt that I wanted 3 or 4 more of these tiny, sweet, adorable, fleshy little things in my life. (I’ve since been told this is some sort of hormonal response necessary for species survival, but the desire is, inexplicably, still present, though I remain very, very sleep deprived.) And second, I knew beyond any doubt that the 6 weeks of partially paid disability leave my employer was affording me to recover from delivery was not going to be enough time to recover anything whatsoever: not my mind, not my body, not the strange chemical reactions of pregnancy hormones leaving and postpartum hormones taking up shop in my brain and nervous system that was making me crazy, not anything; because – and, here’s something I don’t have to tell other new mothers, but which warrants reiteration for anyone not experiencing this phenomenon – you do not rest and recover for 6 weeks and then go back to normal after having a baby.
In fact, there is no going back to normal AT ALL. You do not, will not, can not go back to the woman you were before having a baby. Instead, you go from being a smart, confident, independent individual, possibly someone quite driven to succeed in her career, for whom taking time off is an effort, to suddenly being this mom person who leaks and sheds and sweats and who cannot for one moment FATHOM being separated from her newborn. A 6 week old can barely lift his head! And is completely dependent on ME! 6 weeks of disability leave is not enough time to recover. (Don’t even get me started on the fact that they call it disability. Having a baby does not make you disabled. Eye roll.)
Luckily in the states we have the Family Medical Leave Act (or FMLA for short), which allows an individual up to 12 weeks a year off when that individual has an affliction for which time off of work is deemed medically necessary – infant bonding is one such affliction. But in my family, even at 12 weeks old, when my newborn was technically no longer a newborn, I was still suffering through the adjustment period of going from individual to mother. At 12 weeks old, bubs was still waking up 4-6 times a night, and sometimes every hour on the hour, I was still pumping breastmilk every 2-3 hours AROUND THE CLOCK, and no one was really sleeping in our house. At 12 weeks old I began to wonder WHO GOES BACK TO WORK RIGHT NOW?? I am so fortunate that I am in a position to take this unpaid time off while my loving, doting husband works himself ragged for our family, but my heart breaks for all the people who simply MUST work after having a baby. HOW ARE THEY DOING THAT??
I am lucky. I had my baby in October 2015 and took 12 weeks of FMLA, finishing out the year. Then I took another 12 weeks of FMLA to start 2016 because by law you get 12 weeks yearly, and you can use your 12 weeks of FMLA as infant bonding in the first year of baby’s life. Which meant I got 12 weeks in 2015 and 12 more weeks in 2016 for a total of 24 unpaid weeks at home with my baby. Unpaid, because FMLA covers job security only. But bubba’s still not sleeping, and I’m still not at all back to my old self, and I am still not emotionally, mentally, or physically prepared to go back to work. But I have to because my time off is over.
So, what do I do? I scour care.com and Facebook mommy pages to find a nanny to stay at my home with my baby. I cry big, fat, salty tears of fear and remorse in the shower, and I get ready for work. I work two full days, vapidly greeting coworkers who are welcoming me back while I’m preoccupied with looking at my phone, willing text message notifications with picture updates from home. I receive said texts, pictures of my baby with the nanny, and they don’t make me feel any better at all. I cry more salty tears, at work this time, and I feel grateful that my job is mostly done over the phone. Then, I get on the phone and start talking about topics that interest me not at all, and I have an epiphany: this is bullshit and an utter waste of time.
I don’t want to be working! Moreover, I don’t want to be working at a job I don’t care about, for a corporation that doesn’t care about me, or my mental health, or my emotional well-being, or my family. To pontificate for a moment, I have ONE life to achieve as much happiness as possible, I have ONE chance to raise my son, and this stage of life is fast, fleeting, and completely temporary! This job is not worth the sacrifice. And honestly, I rationalize, with the cost of childcare my job really doesn’t bring in a whole lot of extra money.
So, I talk to my husband; then, with butterflies flipping around in my stomach, I talk to my boss. And I quit! And I am elated! And I rush right over and fire the nanny, who tells me she had a feeling that would happen. (Smart girl!)
With a deep breath of gratitude, I gaze over at my little chubba wubba, who is just now acquiring strength enough to sit himself upright on his own, and I marvel at the love, sacrifice, and utter devotion of his two parents, and I cry some more big, salty tears, but tears of happiness this time, and I scoop that little boy up and raspberry his tummy so that he giggles and clutches tufts of my hair. And in that moment I know for sure, without any feeling of doubt or guilt, that this was the right decision for my family. Man, I’m lucky.