|Baby high heels. I'm half creeped out and half debating whether to buy them.|
Since the (seven) pregnancy tests turned pink, I’ve been asked a lot questions about Lorelei. The number-one question?
Will you go back to work after the baby comes?
Answer: Yes, that is the plan. Emphasis on the word plan. If there is one thing that I learned with one child, it’s that you don’t know squat until she gets here. The plan is to return to work.
Some of this was already covered in my post where I fretted about child care, so I apologize for content repetition. My brain is a chaotic mess, with my attention split about ten gazillion ways. My writing most likely reflects it.
Did we play with the idea of me staying home? Yup, briefly. But like I said, oodles of factors are at play. First and foremost, Charlotte is thriving at her school, and Chris and I are extremely reluctant to crash her world and pull her out (which we’d have to do if I stayed home). By the time we pull out of the garage in the morning, she’s asking for her teacher and telling me which way to turn so we can get to school, and we have to drag her out of her classroom or off the school playground in the evenings. Simply put, she’s very happy—and busy—there. Her life is going to significantly change with the addition of a sibling, and for her sanity and ours, we think keeping as much of her old routine as possible will help her to adjust.
Although that decision might seem like we’re putting Charlotte’s needs ahead of Lorelei’s, the truth of the matter is that 3-month-olds don’t give a hoot they’re at daycare. They just don’t. I learned this lesson with Charlotte. For all of my wasted angst and guilt, she was perfectly happy, and we still had our mommy–Charlotte bond, especially with nursing in the mornings and evenings.
I’m already very familiar with the very sweet and incredibly capable infant staff at Lorelei’s (and Charlotte’s) school, and I completely trust them. These women, to put it bluntly, are a gift.
Related to work, maternity leave, and daycare, I also get asked whether I’ll keep Charlotte home during my maternity leave.
The answer? No. This here is a perk of working mommyhood, and dang it, I intend to use it. The main reason Charlotte will continue to go to school is so her routine stays intact while her life at home changes. The second reason is that the newborn stage is hard on Mommy. Kudos to moms with newborns and siblings at home—obviously, that’s not easy. The thing is, I’ve struggled through some truly awful days balancing work and mommyhood (you know, the days I have deadlines and I get The Call that Charlotte is sick). Right or wrong, I feel like I’ve earned this little perk—to have just one kid at home during the day at a time. I get a small set period of time to be home with Lorelei, and I want to be able to give her all of my attention, as I did with Charlotte. Besides, I know myself pretty well, and I know Charlotte extremely well, and everyone will be happier this way. I don’t want to hear myself snapping at Charlotte because I’m dead tired, or plop her in front of the TV while I tend to the littlest one. Simply put, her school can give her much, much more than I can during my maternity leave.
That said, I am looking forward to attending all the school events without having to play work-schedule musical chairs: the Halloween parade and party, Thanksgiving lunch, and winter (Hanukkah) party—all of these will fall within my maternity leave. I can just go. If Charlotte gets sick, I can easily keep her home without having to rearrange a day and tick people off who are waiting for things. Of course, we then have the threat of her infecting her baby sister.
So, the plan is to return to work, but I’m very aware of the flexibility children require. You just don’t know what you’re going to get with each kid. We’ve coasted through all the prenatal testing and doctor’s appointments so far, but we could have a child with special needs or health issues, and those are game changers. Until Lorelei gets here, we really don’t know our situation. Thus, we can only plan.
Finally, with two kids enrolled at school, our girls’ tuition will indeed suck up the majority of my salary. Chris and I (and our financial advisor, actually) have discussed this at length. The fact is, tuition is temporary (until college!), and at this point, it seems wiser to just eat the child care cost, not to mention higher taxes (my income increases our tax bracket), and continue progressing in my career, one book at time; continue contributing to retirement; and allow Charlotte to stay at her beloved school. Is it a black-and-white decision? Of course not. If my salary doubled, it might be, but it hasn’t, so it’s not. All a couple parents can do is try to make the right decision for their own family.
In the past 2.5+ years, I’ve learned a lot about how to be a working mom. I learned how to defend myself and my mommy heart against those who think I’m BAD for working. I learned how to work with my employer to ensure work–life balance. I learned that cleaning ladies are hard-working GODDESSES and a huge key to working-mommy happiness. I learned how talented daycare staff is for the love they give kids day in and day out. I learned how to be uber efficient at work and at home. I learned how to endure countless children’s songs during the commute into work. I learned how to get spit-up, toddler snot, and diaper rash cream out of a cardigan in the office bathroom. I learned I don’t have to LOVE being a working mom every day, and it’s OKAY to sometimes want to stay home. I learned it’s OKAY to leave work right on time. I learned Halloween parades at school trump book deadlines. I learned a good work schedule is worth more than a higher salary. I learned which leftovers freeze the best for toddler lunches. I learned that it’s not child neglect if Chris and I enjoy the occasional quick happy hour together before picking up Charlotte. I learned that those with an ax to grind against working mommies typically have major self-esteem issues and, to be quite honest, often aren’t real bright.
And I learned that THERE IS NO SINGLE RIGHT WAY TO BE A WORKING MOM.
So, there you go. I’m not going to put on my Super Mommy cape and high heels and declare that come hell or high water, I WILL make working mommyhood work. Because maybe this time, it won’t work. Who knows? Every family’s financial goals are different. Every mom’s desire to stay home or work is different. Every child’s needs, temperament, and overall health are different. Every family’s support network (and its locale) is different. Every commute is different. Every job, employer, and work schedule is different.
Overall, I feel very lucky that I have a supportive employer with non-antiquated schedule options, Chris has a secure and good (if stressful) job, our girls have a great school to attend, we have a pretty and pastoral country-bumpkin commute, and my little family gets to carpool together most days (we’ve had more than one super dorky family sing-along during our commute—Charlotte LOVES singing).
Lorelei, of course, could turn all this on its head. But in the meantime, if it’s not broken, why fix it?