And then I realized that the theme was "Balancing Work, Life and Parenthood." That this is the theme of December is somewhat ironic.
Those of you who know me personally will know that at the end of this month I will be laid off from my place of employment. I've worked in the university (ok, it's Harvard) for more than twelve years- it was my first real job out of college. I never planned to stay that long but a marriage, a move to the burbs, two kids and two dogs later, here I am.
Right before I got pregnant with Paul I left the part of the school I was working in for a new position- one that would finally actually kind of sort of use my college degree (history). We were hoping to start a family soon and my old job involved a lot of overtime, nights and weekends several times a year. I started looking around for something that would be both a step forward for my career but a step back as far as a time commitment. About a month after I started in my new role I found out I was pregnant. Surprise! I then had the fun task of telling my boss that I would need to take maternity leave just a few short months after I started in the position. I also asked if there was any way that I could work a flexible schedule when I returned to work - three days in the office and one at home per week instead of the usual 9-5 in the office. My office is a one-person office- me, so this involved quite a bit of juggling to make it work.
Fortunately for me, my boss's wife is one of the foremost scholars on work-life balance and the role of women and mothers in the workforce. My boss agreed to give it a go and so when I returned to work after LP was born it was on a slightly reduced schedule with Wednesdays working from home.
LP was in a local home day care the three days I went to work and we really felt like we had the best of both worlds. He was getting time with other kids, I was getting time with grown-ups, and we still had some time home together during the week to go to story time at the library and things. The worst part for me was the commute and the pumping. Between driving, parking and taking commuter rail and subway it takes me an hour and a half each way to get to and from work. I was dropping LP off at day care at 7:30 to get to work by 9. Then Paul would pick him up at 5 p.m. and I'd get home shortly after 6.
And the pumping. I really wanted to breastfeed Paul as exclusively as I could but the pump and I were not friends. I couldn't keep up with the supply he needed for his bottles and although I tried fenugreek and all of the other things meant to increase your milk supply it eventually dwindled to the point where he wasn't gain weight the way he should and we switched over to formula. This broke my heart and I felt so guilty about the whole thing. It was as though my body was telling me that I couldn't have it all.
When LP was about 2 my boss cut my hours back even more- I was still in the office three days a week but now I was done at 2 p.m. which meant I was home by 3:30. This was great because although there was a pretty hefty cut in my salary, I had time before day care pickup to run errands and things or I could pick LP up early and get started with dinner. It felt as though my work/home balance was finally in a pretty good place although I was always hoping that one day I could stay home...
I don't think my boss was terribly surprised when I told him I was pregnant again early this year. Paul and I had planned for me to stay home once we had another child as the costs of two children in day care would barely be covered by my salary. But my position was grant funded and ending in June, 2013 so we were debating what to do. I wanted to stay home but at the same time I didn't want to leave my boss in a lurch for the last few months that the office would be open. That didn't seem right.
Once again, I got lucky. Shortly after I broke the news of my pregnancy to my boss he told me he'd been planning on closing our office (we are funded by a grant) over the summer of 2012 but had decided to keep it open through the end of the year so that I could have my maternity leave. This was really nice of him and wasn't something he had to do.
So I returned to work right after Thanksgiving for four weeks. Twelve days in the office. We've had my mother-in-law watching the kids on Mondays and our former daycare provider watching them here at our home on Tuesdays and Thursdays which has been great. Tomorrow is my last day. I'm technically laid off on December 31 so I even get paid through the holidays as well as receiving a pretty generous severance package.
I'm very excited to be able to be at home with our kids while they're young and I'm so thankful to my husband for working so hard so that we can do this. It's something I've always wanted. When I was little all I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a stay-at-home mom. While I've enjoyed working, I never saw what I was doing as a "career." Sure, I wanted to do well and get promotions and be a good employee but I always hoped that one day I could be home with my little ones.
It's going to be a big change though. For twelve years I've worked at Harvard. So many of the biggest moments of my life happened in those years. It will be strange not to get on the train Monday morning and head to the office. Strange to be home all day with two kids. I had a taste of it while on maternity leave after Eliza was born and I know that I need to get us on a little bit of a schedule or we'll end up sitting around in our pajamas watching Mickey Mouse all day. I need to make plans to get out of the house at least every other day or we'll all go a bit stir crazy. And I know there will be days when I wish I could go to my nice quiet office where I can go to the bathroom alone, eat my lunch without interruption, and then nap on the train ride home. I know there will be days when Paul comes home from work and I'll be a bit batty from talking to kids all day long. But I also know that now, while LP and Eliza are little, it's the most important time for me to be home with them. Important for them, important for me, and important for our family.