And so the day has finally come. I was due back at work today. My maternity leave is officially OVER. As the days wound down and I got closer to returning to my 3+ hour commute to/from a job at a company that’s going through a lot of uncertainty right now – I found myself getting more and more anxious. The thought of being in a different state from my baby and needing to depend on the very unreliable Metro North commuter train back to my baby in case of an emergency made my stomach turn. I pictured dark mornings where I’d be out the door at 6:45 AM and getting home at the usual 6:45 PM or later and not seeing her during the work week.
I couldn’t do it.
I’m not a risk taker. Getting a regular paycheck is a big deal for me. And a 401K because I’d like to retire one day. And health benefits because Lord knows I use them. And this baby seems to be at the doctor every other week with something. But because I’m not a risk taker, I’ve always been a big saver. And because I was working at Lehman Brothers before, during and after the bankruptcy, I’ve learned that even the safest companies can blow up and leave you jobless in the blink of an eye. So I’ve been squirreling away money, when possible, for a rainy day.
Last week, I finally gave my notice. I will not be returning to my legal job. After 12+ years as a lawyer with a steady paycheck, I will be venturing into the unknown. Headfirst into motherhood, freelance writing and whatever comes next. I’ve gone on some interviews for traditional legal jobs and we’ll see if they pan out. I’ve also been so excited about writing for ThoughtCatalog. I’m not ruling anything out – but am just trying to find something sustainable and enjoyable that Ellie can be proud of me for doing one day. And I’d like to be home and PRESENT with her as much as possible. That’s the challenge. Because now that maternity leave is over and there’s no more regular paycheck coming in, I find myself nervously searching LinkedIn for job opportunities and frantically looking for part time childcare to give myself the time to pursue these freelance opportunities. Then Ellie cries like babies do and I find myself getting frustrated with her. It’s not her fault. She needs and deserves attention.
There is no way I could have made this decision without the support of The Husband. You know you’ve married the right guy when he tells you that 1) You deserve to take some time off and figure out something enjoyable to do professionally. It’s worth the financial risk 2) Being stressed every day at an intense legal job is not healthy and he’d rather us have less money and see me be less stressed and 3) He’s got health insurance that Ellie and I can be a part of.
I know how lucky we are to be in a position to choose whether to go back to work or not temporarily. But I also know that I’ve been thinking about this decision about whether to return to work or not since before we had Ellie. It’s an impossible choice as once you’re a mother, you’ve always got a new boss that competes with every single thing you do from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep. I’ve already been battling these competing demands. Do I eat breakfast or do I stop Ellie from crying? Do I shower or should I just get Ellie out for a walk so she can nap? Do I change my pants or do I wear them for the fifth day in row because she’s going to spit up on them anyway? How on earth am I going to find time to write a cover letter for a job when I’m competing with a baby that naps and screams in 10 minute increments? Then the end of the day comes and I’m so tired that writing or looking for jobs seems like a far off ambitious, unattainable goal.
So here goes nothing. I’m officially a Freelance Writer & Mother. Or Mother Writer. I’m no longer disguised as a lawyer – it’s all out there for the world to see. If you find me walking a screaming baby down the street and I’ve got a sports bra on under a tank top and the same running shorts I’ve worn all week because being parenthood seems to be an athletic event these days, worthy of workout clothes – please don’t be grossed out. If you see me on my iPhone as I’m sitting in Starbucks while my baby naps in her stroller, it’s a good day. It’s a work in progress, this new motherhood thing. I’m taking each day as it comes and hope that this decision, this BIG decision which has taken me weeks, no Months…actually YEARS to make – will be the right one for our family down the road.
There’s no job in the world worth doing that keeps me from seeing my Ellie every day. And if I don’t pursue my writing now, when exactly is that going to happen?
Ok, my new project (Ellie) is screaming down the hall, which means it’s just about bath time for the boss. She’ll be 4 months on Thursday and we’re going for more shots and a check up. No idea where this time went, but am so grateful for the chance to put things on hold a bit longer while I search for an agreeable work / life balance. It’s a scary new mommy world out there, but I’m ready to see where it takes me.