This complicated love story begins like most love stories. It starts out with a young professional woman, quirky but confident, fresh out of school and looking for that something special. She spends a few years trying this and trying that until she decides it’s time for a change.
After a move to a new city, it happens! Everything falls into place. She finds that someone special and that something special, a fulfilling job that is interesting, pays well and in the perfect location.
All is good for a while and then in an instant, everything became so complicated—she found out she was going to be a mom.
That “she” is me, and once upon a time, I was in a good place. I was living in a city I liked with the man I loved, happy to get up every morning and go to a job I enjoyed. It was only natural for me to take the next step and start a family. I was happy to do so, and I did.
The news was greeted with many hugs and much excitement. I was ready. I attended the information session on taking extended leave offered by my job and I did as much internet research as I could. I read articles on preparing early for maternity leave and even created a checklist to make sure I had my things in order.
In the meantime, I continued to work my same job, completing my same tasks, and working with the same team until two weeks before the big day.
I thought I knew love until I met that new little human being. Not until then did I begin to even understand how much I could love.
I was loving being a new mom. I was loving the support from friends and family and coworkers.
All the phone calls from all the people who loved me. All the phone calls from everyone included one question: When are you going back to work? I never doubted or stumbled on the idea or question of whether I would be returning to work. What gave me pause was WHEN to do it.
The love triangle
During my maternity leave, I experienced 12 weeks of:
- Being at home, learning and loving a new person
- Learning how to be myself and a mom at the same time
- Limited adult interactions
- Projects assigned to someone else
- Uncounted hours for which I did not earn a salary—hours that did not count toward retirement
Twelve weeks was not enough time to be with my new baby, but it was an incredibly long time to be away from work. I was sort of ready to get back into my old routine back at work, but I was definitely not ready to hand my 10-week old infant over to a stranger.
It’s complicated. I was conflicted. I loved my job and was starting to miss it, but I loved my baby and was definitely going to miss her. No matter—FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) time was over—the choice was made. I needed to go back to work since our family/household was not prepared to live on one income any longer.
Lucky for me, I work in an office that wanted me back—but they wanted me back focused and not distracted. We were able to work out a flexible schedule that let me ease back into work with a combination of teleworking and flex scheduling.
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Happily ever after?
Fast forward seven years: I have added a new little human to the mix and I am still working a flexible schedule. It has not gotten any less complicated. I love my work and I will not feel guilty for that. I love that my daughters get the benefits of having a mother who works outside the home.
Nonetheless, I still hate that there will be moments I won’t be there in my girls’ lives because I’m working. I have learned to accept both sides of this coin. As for happily ever after… let’s just say we deal with short-term goals and right now, flexibility is the star in this complicated love story. While there’s always a conflict here and there, love keeps everything in perspective.
And right now I can say I am once again in a good place. My current blend of love, career, and family makes me happy.