Baby Girl is now 8 weeks old and I am finally starting to feel a bit more "normal"--well, my new normal that is. The babe went through a fussy/clingy phase all last week, but has been totally awesome this week (hence a bit of time for blogging). I have loved being home with her and have spent a lot of time contemplating whether or not I was going to return to work.
Before she was born I kept telling people I didn't know if I would come back after she arrived. I did know that it would be impossible to really decide before I met her and got my introduction to parenting a newborn (hello, sleep deprivation!).
Her premature arrival all but sealed the deal for me. She was so, so tiny--only 4lb 1oz the day we brought her home. There was so much nervousness around her lung development, the heart murmur, the sacral dimple, and the fact that we were now parents of a newborn who seemed much more like a little baby bird than baby person. Surprising to perhaps no one, it is WAY different from being parents to a soon-to-be second grader!
Two weeks ago, when I was visiting my office for a farewell luncheon, my boss pulled me aside and asked if I was coming back to work. Still, even then, I was on the fence but I think I already knew in my heart what I was going to do (and, if I'm honest, probably before the babe was even born). This week, I gave him final notice that I will not be returning.
There were a lot of factors that went into the decision:
Money. It's nice getting extra cash in our bank account every month, but what will the true amount be after paying for another kiddo in daycare? If I went back to work full time, daycare costs just for the baby would be over half of a paycheck (a full paycheck for both kiddos). If I went back part-time, daycare would cost the same and end up being more than I actually brought home.
Time. Working full-time meant 50+ hours away from the baby every week. Our evenings were already packed last school year with homework, housework, trying to squeeze in workouts, and find a few minutes of downtime in the evening. There didn't seem to be any wiggle room for a new baby, too. Obviously, something would have to give.
Personal fulfillment. A big factor for me was, do I feel fulfilled by my job? Honestly, as my pregnancy progressed, that answer kept leaning more and more toward no. There were a number of things that contributed to this, but the summary of them all were major changes at the office and my job changing in such a way that I simply was not happy anymore. I worked crazy hours at the end of my pregnancy--which my husband is convinced contributed to pre-term labor--and I knew that I could no longer be that person with a new baby. Everyone I work with is great, but the work itself no longer made me feel good. If I'm going to miss out on time as a mama, then the trade off must be worth it.
Emotions. This was the biggest one for me in the end. When I look at my tiny girl, especially in the beginning, I couldn't imagine anyone else caring for her the way I do. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving her all day every day, then trying to divide attention between her, her sister, my husband, and life in the remaining few hours. Without family nearby, I just didn't feel there was anyone I could trust with her that wouldn't totally break my heart every day.
So, for now, I am shifting gears. After going through my "I've always worked!" existential crisis when I moved to Japan, it's much easier this time around. Priority one for now is trying to be the best mama I can be and enjoying the little moments that I would miss being at the office. The first year is so fascinating, and goes so quickly, and I really want to remember it all. My second priority will be finalizing my grad school plans. I need to study for the GRE and either make time to take it in Tokyo or take it as soon as we get to our next base. I also need to find a program that interests me, will further my career goals and give me more potential opportunities, and is flexible enough to work with our military life. It might be tough, but I know it's possible if I look hard enough.
I definitely see myself going back to work. Maybe as soon as we leave here, or maybe in a couple years after I focus on school full-time. At the end of the day, this is a season, and one I know will pass all too quickly.