I'm Leah, and in a lucky twist of fate, I've landed my three dream jobs:
book editor, writer, and mother. Since having my son in December 2008, my
work-life has been in constant flux - full-time? part-time? freelance?
working at home or in the office? It depends on the day and which way the
wind is blowing - and figuring out how to keep it all going is a constant
challenge. Heck, I'm still getting used to the idea of being someone's
Check out my profile on Work It, Mom! and my personal blog, A Girl and a Boy.
Managers have already started taking projects away from me, coworkers are asking to be taught parts of my job, and although it’s been a month since I moved into my new office, I still haven’t unboxed any personal items because, before I know it, someone else (probably an intern) will be sitting at my desk all day while I’m at home with an infant, and why should anyone have to stare at pictures of my cats all day, especially when they’re not being paid? With six weeks to go before maternity leave, I’m already being phased out.
They can’t completely get rid of me, though (bwahaha), because my rock-solid, non-negotiable plan is to return to the office part-time next spring (I have to return next spring—financial crisis, mortgage payments, cost of childcare, blah blah blah), and because I don’t want to lose my mojo completely, I’ve latched on to this crazy notion that I’ll stay in regular contact with my company while I’m away, whether they like it or not. According to the legal stipulations of maternity leave in most states, an employee should still be somewhat available to her company while on leave—able to answer a reasonable number questions from home and just generally be included in the loop of the regular goings-on of the workplace. I haven’t really seen that happen at my company—when employees go on maternity leave, they disappear from the scene entirely—but whether that’s by their choice or the company’s I don’t yet know. From a new mother’s perspective, I can understand how parenthood becomes an all-consuming occupation and chances are I won’t care a fig about the newest project or the latest deadline; come December, my supervisor might find she’s lucky if I check my work email once a month let alone once a day. And although I flatter myself to think that I’m desperately wanted and needed and the office can’t function without me at its beck and call, I know that realistically that’s probably so far from the truth even a high-powered telescope won’t help. It’s much more likely that from my coworkers’ perspective it will be easier if they can just forget about me entirely while I’m away. Out of sight, out of mind. One fewer cook in the kitchen and all that.
Still, it’s a strange sort of lame-duck existence I’m easing into. Although I’m still working full-time, I also know that, at the risk of sounding apocalyptic, the End Is Nigh and I need to start letting go of things, letting go of control. I’ve never been one of those people who defines herself by her job, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a huge part of my life and identity. I spend fortyish hours a week in the office, my coworkers are friends as much as they are colleagues, and I love what I do and am proud to be an employee of my company. I know that all of this is bound to take back-burner to the role of Mother (and rightly so!), but until I have that baby in my arms, it’s still hard to imagine myself not being “Leah, Editor” for so many of my waking hours.
My reluctance to transfer tasks to other employees, my harebrained plans to respond to work emails in a timely fashion while on leave, my fear that someone will sit at my desk and adjust the height of my chair and, horrors!, touch my stuff when I’m away—all of that adds up to the fact that I’m having trouble relinquishing that part of my life completely.
One side of me thinks this is a bad thing, that I should be unequivocally happy to completely unload my work on others so I’m free to be Mommy and nothing else, a luxury I certainly won’t have when mat leave is up. And yet, another side of me thinks my resistance is natural, and maybe even a good thing, as it means I’m less in danger of “losing myself” when I become a mother (not to mention I’ll be better prepared to jump back into the workplace when the time comes). And perhaps that’s the important question—not “Is it good or bad?” but “Is it normal to feel this way?”
How hard or easy was it (or is it) for you to leave work to go on maternity leave? Did you stay in regular business contact with coworkers while you were away, and was that helpful or not, both while on leave and once you returned to the workplace? Did you feel like you lost a part of your identity, even if only temporarily? Did you find that waking up each day with a baby in your life meant that all of these silly worries just faded away into nothingness and you can’t believe you ever worried about them?
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