Thursday, November 15, 2007

I've had a gag order until now

I'm not going back to work.

I guess many of you already figured this out, since I haven't mentioned work in quite some time, and I have mentioned activities Gabe and I have been doing. But there it is, out in the open. I've been dying to write about it, but I am paranoid, and fearful, and I wanted to give my notice first, get all my boxes shipped to me, and complete any final paperwork that might need to be done.

Deciding not to go back to work has been a long and painful process over the last 10 months. It started with taking 6 months of maternity leave, or 5 months and 3 weeks worth of leave, to be exact. I was supposed to go back at the end of May, and my mom had agreed to come to Boston for the summer to watch Gabe while I transitioned back to work. Then in September, I'd find a nanny or a daycare, or I'd use our in-building daycare until the end of 2007, at which time my mom was thinking about retiring to come and take care of Gabe for me, in lieu of a nanny.

I thought I'd be okay with that plan. I was convinced I'd be okay with that plan. I figured that I'd work part-time, even if part-time at a law firm was practically full-time everywhere else, but we need the money. We really need the money. Plus, I went to school for a long time to get here. I worked hard, and on most days, I liked my job. I kept telling myself that I'd be ready to leave my baby by 6 months, and I'd be grateful for the grown-up time and stimulation.

What really happened? I had panic attacks at the thought of leaving Gabe, even with my mom. I would burst into tears whenever the subject came up. My stomach would tie up in knots when I thought about being away from Gabe for more than a couple of hours. It was rather pitiful, to tell you the truth.

So I asked for a leave of absence, until Labor Day. Now I had another 3 months to psych myself up for leaving him. Plus, I kept telling myself, he'd be 9 months old! Totally old enough to be with someone else! He'd probably treasure it! He'd be sick of me by then.

And then something remarkable happened. Gabe became even more fun than he'd been up until then, and I realized that although I'd previously thought Gabe needed me the most from months 0-6, he still needed me and there wasn't going to be a magic date where he'd need me less. Well, maybe when he leaves for college, or maybe high school, but probably not at 9 months. I just didn't want to go back to work, at least, not a work that required me to be there for 50 hours a week, and on call all the time.

It's funny, though, you think that deciding to go back to work is the hardest decision to make, but sometimes deciding not to go back to work is just as hard. Especially when you've lived your whole life following a certain life plan, with certain expectations and ambitions for yourself. Deciding to stay home felt like a sort of failure, as crazy as that sounds.

In some ways, it felt unbelievable and amazing, and like such a relief. In other ways, it feels so strange to think that this is my life, and that I'm not having reviews and deadlines and all-nighters. It has also been surprisingly hard to sit back and watch Josh wrestle with the work stuff, and feel powerless to help. I have to keep reminding myself that he'd have to deal with the difficulties of a new job and new coworkers, whether or not I was sitting in an office. But it is hard.

My not working is a huge financial hit for us. Seriously, huge. Our lifestyle has to change 100%. No more ordering in, going out to dinner, no more new clothes, no big vacations, no new toys for Gabe. No house renovations, no closet remodels, no new windows and doors, even if they are leaking our heat out and you feel wind when you walk by the front door. It is totally, utterly, absolutely worth it, but it still takes some getting used to, I'm not going to lie.

So that is the deal. I'm not working, at least for now. I keep thinking about getting something part-time for 10-15 hours a week, but when I think about my reasons for wanting to find a job, they are all tied up in guilt and worrying that Josh wants me to work, rather than actually wanting to work. And the truth is, I love love love being home with Gabe. Love it. Even when he throws his pacifier out of his crib for the 7th time, or when he eats the dog's bone for the 12th time, or when he whines endlessly from 6-7pm, or when he refuses to eat any form of pureed fruit, even when it is mixed with other things. I love it.

I think this is the best job for me, with the best little tyrant, bi-polar, crazy little boss in the world.

Now if only I can convert kisses into mortgage credit. Maybe I'll call the bank in the morning.


Angie said...

Sometimes the hardest decisions end up being the easiest choices to make. They grow up so fast. Enjoy your time with him.

Knitting Mama said...

Best wishes with your decision. I've pretty much made my decision to be a stay at home mom, but helping my hubby out at work as well as a home based online busines for myself to do from home. But staying at home watching them grow up is the most satisfying job ever.

Chatty said...

We've talked about this before, and I promise it will get easier to be home with Gabe and not be pulling in a salary. The guilt and stress just sort of transitions out and you get very used to your new lifestyle. Which isn't to say financial stresses don't pop up for cameo appearances, but don't they always pop up? Even when we had two salaries coming in, they popped up.

Angie's right, they do grow up so fast, and you'll love having this time with him, and he'll love the time he has with you. I think about that a LOT when I' stressed to the max with Lady and Mister...that I'd rather be stressed to the max with them by my side than be stressed to the max while sitting in my cube while someone else is sitting with them. You can always start working again when he's in school, if you want, your degree will always be there and all of your experiences along the way have helped shape who you are. But for now you get to enjoy the ultimate treat.

And also, WTF, but it is SNOWING here.

Not so little sister said...

I feel your pain. Ugh. Decisions.

I'm happy you get to stay home though, it's great. I hope I get to too...

KLee said...

Staying home is hard, both financially and guilt-wise, but it is SO worth it.

I stayed home with Offspring when we were just minimum-wage earners, so I know from the not-having-money angle. It does mean that you need many radical changes as far as your lifestyle goes, but they're changes you're more than willing to make for the sake of your baby.

I went back to work when Offspring started school. I started off slow, and in about a year, I began working full time. This might be a solution for you to consider. Five years off sounds like a whole lot, but it's not when you're raising your precious one.

Just like I said before, you can do this, girl. I have total faith in you. And in your decision.

Girl said...

I figured that's what happened. Congrats, I know the decision couldn't have been easy, and I am glad you are happy.

Fancypants said...

Even though it's stressful, it sounds like you've made your peace with it. In fact, you sound downright ecstatic about it. And I guess that's how you know you made the right choice. Right now I'm planning on going back to work, because like you, we would take a huge hit if I didn't. That's not to say we couldn't make it work, but the idea of trying to make it work, of changing our life so much, is terrifying.

mamatulip said...

I love being at home, too. Even on the worst days, at the end of it all, I am glad I'm here, at home. I get the sense from this post that you're happy, really happy, with your decision. Good for you. :)

Butterflyfish said...

You sound really at peace with this, and Gabe will love having Mommy home.

bigslowgirl said...

it's fantastic to hear how happy and at peace you are with your decision. it is truly inspiring as i struggle with my own decision after returning part time. it is one of the most difficult things to leave jack every morning. and even more difficult because i miss you tons in the office. . . .

chris said...

Funny how that happens, huh?

It will all work out for you :-)

liz said...

Good for you for making a decision that makes you happy!