Before having children, the thought of being a stay-at-home-mom never even crossed my mind. I worked very hard after graduating college to build a career and I did just that. It didn't take long for me to establish myself and begin working my way up the "ladder." I had absolutely no interest in leaving my job once I had children. My career was too important to me to risk it on an extended break. I planned to take maternity leave for three months and then return to work. Then, Baby J came along.
He turned my world upside-down. Half way in to my maternity leave, I started dreading returning to work and stressed about it each and every day. I was with Baby J all the time and I couldn't imagine missing out on any hour, minute, second of his life. After hours and hours of conversation and negotiations, Husband and I agreed that I would return to work but would request a modified part-time schedule. Baby J would go to daycare three days a week. We did not plan financially for me to stay home. It was never even on the table. I was beyond the financial threshold that justified staying at home anyway. Not a bad problem to have, I know. I was very fortunate to have an employer willing to work with me.
It was a hard time for me. I really enjoyed working but I had so much guilt and I felt like I was missing out on so much. On work days, Baby J and I would leave the house at 6:45 and get home around 5 or 5:30. He was never a good napper at "school" so he had dinner as soon as he got home and went straight to bed. He was sick all the time with sinus and ear infections and had to take antibiotic after antibiotic after antibiotic. If you know me, you know how I feel about antibiotics. And he never ate well there, either. I think the worst part of it for me, though was that I missed his first steps. He took those at "school." Yeah. That hurt.
So when I became pregnant with Bean, I insisted that the home/work balance wasn't good enough for me. I wanted to be a full time stay-at-home-mom. Husband and I agreed to save up so that I could stay home for the first year of Bean's life and be there for all those "firsts."
The first couple of weeks were bliss. Bean did the newborn thing and Baby J and I hung out and did all kinds of fun things. Then, Bean's reflux started. Those early days were unbelievably hard. He cried. A lot. All. The. Time. He never napped for longer than 30 minutes and forget night sleeping. I found myself wishing my days away and couldn't wait until that first year passed and I could get back to work. Work sounded like a vacation to me. I couldn't wait to get out of the house. And then I felt guilty for wishing my sweet, but fussy, baby's first year away.
I started itching to go back to work around his first birthday and started telling my family and friends. I wavered at times when I learned more and more about his delays. I wasn't sure if he would get more out of being home with me or being around his peers. But still, I remained convinced that I should return to work since he can still get therapy at a day care center and he can probably even qualify for a special needs center. Then, when we got his Williams Syndrome diagnosis, everyone expected me to change my mind. Again.
Now, he's 19 - almost 20 - months and I'm still at home. I want to get back to work but it's for different reasons now. Don't get me wrong, our days are still challenging at times. Bean still wants me to hold him a lot and he's still a terrible sleeper. Sometimes, it seems impossible to get everything done with this sweet child hanging on my leg and crying for me to hold him while Baby J is running around the house like a madman. For the most part, I have a lot of fun with the boys but there are days that I just want to get away. But that's not the reason that I want to go back to work.
I miss the intellectual stimulation. I miss talking about things that don't involve children, school, special needs, health concerns, whatever. I miss adult interaction. I miss making money and contributing financially to our home and family. I miss being able to buy things without worrying about our bottom line. And as for the practical side, we need things. We need a bigger house and a bigger car. We need to put more money away for retirement. We want to send our kids to the best schools and give them every advantage we can. And our kids need more interaction with their peers.
We're not in a place though, with Bean, that I feel I can commit to a serious job search. He needs to sleep. And so do I. He also needs to eat much better so that he is not depending on me as his primary source of nutrition throughout the day. He is very slow to gain weight and we don't want to him to plateau on growth. Once we get him sleeping just a bit better and eating (and drinking) more, I can - and will - start looking for a job.
It's amazing to me how my perspective has changed over time and even more amazing how I have come full circle. I know that returning to work is the right thing for me and my family. Someday though, when I do go back to work - and I will, I'm going to miss this.