I discovered several of my favorite blogs shortly upon my return to work after my maternity leave. I was looking for advice on how to manage the work/life balance, how to deal with the heartache of leaving my baby at daycare, and how to save some money. From the moment we started telling people we were having a baby, everyone started asking, “Are you going back to work after you have the baby?” The strange thing is, my husband and I never really had an in-depth conversation about this topic. We both knew that in order to provide the best possible life for our children, we would have to be a dual income family. That doesn’t mean that we couldn’t make it on just his salary, we would make it work, but it would mean no vacations and no big purchases for a while, which was a big risk to take if you’ve ever seen our second car.
When I first got pregnant, I was working at a low-paying job that was supposed to be my bridge from the academic world to the business world. It was pretty miserable but I had been there for less than a year. It was also the kind of job that if I were to return to work after maternity leave, the bulk of my salary would be going straight to daycare with very little (and by that I mean $200 a month) left over. We probably would have been okay, but was the stress of working and leaving our baby at daycare really worth it to walk away with $200 a month? No! And was I in a field where taking a leave of absence for 5-6 years would allow me to jump right back in when I decided to return to work? No! So at 3 months pregnant, I started looking for a new job, and luckily, I found a great job, with a great company, (that didn’t mind hiring someone who was going to take a 12 week leave in 6 months), that I really enjoy. And I think having this job has really contributed to my ability to balance being a mother with having a career and finding both rewarding. Not hating work surprisingly makes life a little easier.
The difficult part of all of this is that as our friends are also starting to have children, the wives are making the choice to stay at home. Originally, I partially justified my decision on the thought that we live a huge city, with a high cost of living. But these couples live in the same city as us. The difference is that up until my 3rd month of pregnancy, I worked at crappy paying jobs. So while my husband is feeling bad that he doesn’t make enough money or that his friends are more successful than him, the onus of the situation is more on me. I didn’t earn enough during my 20s to support our future family. But the experience I got from working those crappy paying jobs was key in landing my current job, a job that I find both personally and financially rewarding, my “dream job”. I do feel guilty about this situation. I feel guilty because my husband understood my desire to work for personal reward rather than financial reward after graduating from college. I feel guilty because overall, this choice may have set us back a little financially. I feel guilty because now I have to leave my beautiful baby girl at daycare every morning. But then I think about that choice I made, and look at our friends who are staying home. In many cases, they made the choice to work for financial reward hoping to find personal reward, but never did. I have to be confident in my decision to seek personal happiness. If it all works out as planned, in ten years my husband will be the one who can choose whether or not he wants to work or stay home and be a “kept man”, and I think he deserves to have that choice.
The first few months back were hard, mostly because I didn’t really know any other new working moms. I felt very alone and very exhausted, like I was spreading myself so thin that I wasn’t very good at any of my responsibilities. Then I found blogs of other working moms, who were feeling the same way and going through similar situations and reading their words was immensely helpful. Just knowing there were other women out there having the same feelings and dealing with the same situations was comforting. Here is a big internet “Thank You” to all those women from me and I hope to pay it forward by sharing my experiences as well.
There are mornings when I don’t think I’ll ever get it all together in time to leave by 6:45 am and there are mornings when it takes every ounce of courage in my veins to drop the baby off at daycare . There are evenings where I am so exhausted that getting to the gym is a huge accomplishment and making dinner is the last thing I want to do. There are always dirty dishes in the sink, and folding laundry is a forgotten art in our household. But together, we make it work. I would much rather spend 30 minutes on the couch watching our daily TiVo recording of Jeopardy! (I know I am smarter than him, just not as quick to shout out the right answer), than slave over keeping the kitchen clean.
So last week I made it to the gym 3 times, yay! (During one of those trips, I gathered enough courage to weigh myself, and it wasn't as bad as anticipated, but I'm still shooting for at least 5 pounds gone by March.) And we’ve decided on a NEW paint color for the master bath, yay! And my parents were in town so my mom folded all my laundry and helped me clean the kitchen, yay! But the dishes are all dirty again, oh well.