I start maternity leave in less than a week. It is much earlier than I anticipated starting but after careful consideration, I was persuaded to start earlier. The baby girl is due on July 30 and I was not planning to leave work until July 20. My midwife and a few friends and relatives convinced me to leave on July 4. Provided that the baby girl does not come early, I will now have time to rest, nest and spend time with my little boy.
Now that I am so close to D-day, I am starting to freak out a little about having two children. I am not scared about juggling my new life or learning a new routine, I am more concerned about my little boy. I know he will eventually adapt and will be the best little helper that I could ask for, however, I think my own guilt has been getting to me.
As I was laying beside my son last night waiting for him to drift to sleep, I cried. He watched me intently and even caught a few of my tears on his little fingertips. He didn’t get up and hug me as he usually does to comfort me. It was as if he knew that I needed that time to grieve. I was grieving the days that I was not able to spend with him after I returned to work last year. Grieving the days he will now have to share my attention because we are adding a new baby to the mix. I will never get back those days in his second year that he had to go to daycare or spend with Grandma. While those days with Grandma are so very important, his having to go through two daycares before finally finding one that is more our style was heartbreaking.
I fully believe everyone that tells me that when the second child arrives, my heart will expand and accommodate both children. I fully believe that my little boy will embrace his sister with as much love as he does others. However, I now know that it took having this second child to realize how important it is to me to be there with my children. Their early years only happen once and I will never get them back.
It was because of this realization that I have decided to take another year off following my maternity leave. The second year will be completely unpaid (no Employment Insurance or income top-up) so I will have to be creative as to how to contribute to our family income. My plans are to start program evaluation consulting and possibly provide childcare for a friend’s child. Their schedule will be as crazy as mine once was and it is pretty much impossible in this town to find day care for a schedule that is not Monday to Friday, 9 to 5. Our financial guru also visited last night and she was able to allay some fear. We are not in too bad of shape financially. In fact, we could even survive on Fuzz’s sole income, if needed. A miraculous feat considering the cost of living is sky high in our area. I literally could have kissed her – if she did not just live down the street and would have awkward run-ins with her from now on.
This second year of leave will be a test run because I am fortunate to be able to request this leave for up to five years. I will return to work in 2014 (provided job cuts do not affect my position) but I have the option to extend my leave. We shall see what I do then but most of my colleagues that have taken advantage of this leave tell me that I will never regret it. If we survive the first year, they say I will likely want to extend. I am very thankful to have their experience and support. As well as the opportunity to still have the option to return to work after raising pre-school age children.
A colleague of mine recently sent this article: Why Women Still Can’t Have it All. It is a long read but an interesting read. I can certainly identify with the author, Anne Marie Slaughter, as she was also torn between her career and her children. Ultimately, like myself, she chose her children. She also encourages other women to drop the belief that sacrificing family is required for a successful career. She also should be applauded because she acknowledges how hard it really is to maintain a work-life balance when trying to succeed. I am thankful that I have since learned to drop that belief as well. I can also admit that I am tired of juggling three different schedules and forcing my son to adapt to schedules that are not always best for his interest.
I am really looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that await me in the next two years. I am happy that I will get to spend the time with my children and give them the early foundation that I had. I am thankful that I have been blessed with life opportunities that allow me this option. I realize that this is not always the case with other mothers who are struggling to just to put food on the table or fighting their own demons, where it would only be just a dream just to be home to read their child a bedtime story.
So there you have it: an open diary of how I have been feeling the last few months. I have been doing a lot of inner reflection and working my way through a lot of things. As in the article written by Anne Marie Slaughter, I do not want to think, “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life that others expected of me”. I will get back to my career one day, perhaps even further my education, and I fully expect to be better at it because I took the time to teach and learn from my own children.