This week marks eleven years at my job, and how did I celebrate? By not going back to work after maternity leave. Yikes.
I didn’t quit—“I’m not completely jumping ship,” my email said—but I did extend my leave through the end of the year (unpaid) because when it came down to it, I simply couldn’t stomach sending my three-month-old baby to a new daycare. (My older son’s former daycare doesn’t have room for an infant until June of next year, so we’d have to send the little guy somewhere else entirely.)
I’m a little surprised at my decision, honestly. Everyone knows I love my job, and everyone knows I’m the world’s biggest fan of daycare (I cried for two weeks straight when my older son moved on from his awesome daycare to preschool), so it’s not that I’m turned off by the idea of someone else watching my kid. It’s not even the cost of childcare that’s getting to me this time around, since my husband’s new job plus the extra money I make on freelance work could more than cover a part-time slot for the baby at what I’m sure would be a perfectly nice facility. But there’s a “but.” An elusive, can’t-put-my-finger-on-it “but.”
For a person who relies so much on rational thought and practicality, in the end it came down to how I felt about the prospect of sending my newest little pal away for several hours a day. I thought of all the reasons why I should go back to work this week as planned, and all of those reasons were very reasonable reasons that made good sense, BUT…when it came time, I just couldn’t do it.
I don’t know if it’s because he’s so little, because he’s my last baby, because I’ve found fulfilling work I can eke out during his naps, or because I already feel so disconnected from the work-outside-the-home world that it’s easier to just stay away. But is it easier to just stay away? If so, why does it feel like in choosing the “traditional” route by staying home with my baby I feel like I’m taking a big giant scary risk?
I know many working women don’t have a choice about sending their babies to daycare, and I know that if I were in their shoes, I could and would put my baby in daycare and everything would be fine. This is where I get to wondering if not having a choice would be easier; I wouldn’t have to make a decision and then know that whatever consequences came of it were my own doing. Good or bad, risky or safe, ideal or not, this is me taking a leap of faith and trusting every person who has told me that you never regret time spent with your children, especially when they’re little.
It makes sense to my head and my heart, but I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for good luck.
If you didn’t go back to work after mat leave, when did you know it was the right decision? Did it ever feel like you knew for sure?