Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Counting down to life as a working mom

It's after midnight.  My husband and 5 week old baby boy are sound asleep.  In defiance of the basic law stating that all new parents teeter precariously on the edge of narcolepsy, I can't seem to follow their example and switch off.  Instead, I am watching the clock as I edge ever closer to something that absolutely terrifies me: the end of maternity leave.  

I actually love my job.  Drug/vaccine safety research on large administrative databases may not have been what my child self said she wanted to do when she grew up, but I think it makes me a hell of a lot happier than being a cruise boat dancer...and it's hard to find work as a magic cat. I have great co-workers, a fantastic boss, and work that is challenging and engaging. I probably would have had a slightly less stressful pregnancy if I wasn't working on a research study of birth defects the whole time, but its the kind of work that gives you a great sense of purpose.

Unfortunately, a great job does not equal great maternity leave, and I will be back at work on the day that my son turns 6 weeks old.  [Insert canned tirade about how America talks a big game about family values, but legislation that actually supports families is way behind...out of 178 nations, only Swaziland and Papua New Guinea join us in offering zero paid maternity leave...just read this instead: http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2012/05/23/3-reasons-why-card-carrying-capitalists-should-support-paid-family-leave/...grumble grumble].

I count my blessings that I get a partial paycheck for these 6 weeks via short term disability, and these have been some of the happiest weeks of my life.  I wouldn't have guessed that some of the happiest weeks of my life would have involved so much feces and crying...but they have, and I'm okay with that. Nothing can compare to smelling the top of my baby's head, watching him slowly gain control of said head, and holding this little creature that spent the better part of a year inside my abdomen. I thought I would be drained and exhausted, but I'm not - I don't mind the middle of the night wakings, and I actually still seem to have time for things that I love to do, like elaborate cooking shenanigans with the Mr.

I know that returning to work doesn't mean that I am never going to get these moments again. I know that he's going to be fine, but it still hurts to look at my beautiful, vulnerable child and know that I will in all likelihood miss his first steps, first laugh...possibly even his first words.  I'm joining millions of moms in this position, and while I accept that it's a choice that I've made in favor of financial security, I don't have to like it, and I don't have to pretend that it doesn't keep me up at night.  

Fortunately, I don't have too much time to waste worrying...after all, the baby is now awake and hungry.

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