Stepping Out with My Baby

"How can any woman predict her reaction to motherhood?"
Leslie Lehr in Mommy Wars

When Isabella was just "the Beastie" my return-to-full-time-work plan involved three days working from home and two days in the office. My grandma or my great aunt would watch Isabella while I was at work. However, from pretty much the second I saw her, that plan pretty much flew out the window. There was no way I could leave her for upwards of nine hours a day. Not for a job that for all its nice perks (including a wonderful manager, free soda, and a company-sponsored happy hour on Fridays with a breakroom fridge stocked with beer for the weekly occasion) was just that. A job. I've never had a career. A position about which I felt passionate. Like many, I work to pay the bills. It's as simple as that.

And so I volunteered to end my maternity leave five weeks early because my fill-in turned out to have a few screws loose, and I did some part-time work, from home, before returning full-time in December of last year. In doing this favor for my manager, I hoped he would agree to let me work full-time from home, instead of only three days a week. And he did.

"Nobody ever explained how I was supposed to be in two places at one time, or at least with my brain in one place and my heart in another."
Reshma Memon Yaqub in Mommy Wars

It sounds like an ideal situation. In many ways it is. Unfortunately, though, the stress of trying to find a balance between my full-time job and motherhood has sent me careening toward the edge at a speed I'm wholly uncomfortable with. I didn't like the exhausted and disengaged person I was turning into as a result. Or the impatient, distracted, and unfocused mother I was morphing into. Or the disinterested and snappish wife I had become. It had gotten to the point that I didn't even recognize myself anymore. And a few weeks ago, a work situation occurred that finally sent me over. To paraphrase one of the essayists in Mommy Wars, I came to the realization that I can't win this tug of war unless I let go of one side of the rope. No one can do it all, all at once. That's not living; it's suffering.

I finally came to the conclusion that something had to give. It was time to let go of one end of the rope. And so, I'm making a change.

"When you stop to be where you are, then your life can really begin."

Iris Krasnow in Mommy Wars

As of September of this year, I'm stepping out of the 40-hour-a-week workforce. I will not be working full-time for my company any longer. I plan on either asking my manager to share my job with an immensely qualified friend, whereby we'd each work part-time, or walking away altogether in order to pursue freelance writing.

And the reasons are simple. I need to give Isabella the mother she deserves, instead of the often manic and always impatient one she gets when I'm on a deadline, or the frentic one she gets when my manager calls with an immediate need as I'm feeding her breakfast. I need to regain the "me" I've lost in these last few months of non-stop working coupled with (due to the hubs' work schedule) single parenting. I need to enjoy her childhood, instead of living in the next moment, instead of the current one, as I so often do.

I need to be the mother I want so desperately to be for the little girl I never thought I'd have.

"I didn't understand, though other mothers had tried to tell me, how much space motherlove takes up."
Anne Marie Feld in Mommy Wars

There are those in my life who are certain I've drank the purple Koolaid. And yes, there are times when the diet root beer in my fridge certainly tastes a lot like it because honestly, if you had asked me even as recently as nine months ago whether or not I'd work full-time until retirement, I would have said, "absolutely."

But here's the thing: I've realized that there is nothing in my life right now that is more important than my daughter and her quality of life. And as much as I try to convince myself otherwise, the effect my job has on me due to the amount of time and level of commitment it requires is affecting her life. And it has to end.

For me, it is impossible to "have it all," all at once. I need to be able to arrange my work around Isabella, instead of trying to fit in Isabella around my work. Am I scared to walk away from my job? Of course. Am I worried about being financially dependant, at least for a little while, upon my husband? Damn straight I am. This is never, EVER, a position I envisioned myself in.

But do I unequivocally know it is the right thing to do for my daughter, my family, and myself? Absolutely.

13 Responses to “Stepping Out with My Baby”

  1. # Blogger Andrew

    my my my...  

  2. # Blogger Shokufeh

    Congratulations! A very brave decision. I'm currently going in the other direction, and, while scared by it, I just tell myself that no change is permanent. I think you're going to love your new job-fewer life!  

  3. # Blogger Marie

    Yippee! Hooray for you, Kristi. And for Isabella and Rich. Everyone will benefit from your new work arrangement, whatever it ends up being... (IMHO)

    I'm also a believer in the "you can't have it all, all at once," philosophy. So I was doing a lot of nodding reading this...

    Life's too short to not have the time to enjoy your child.  

  4. # Blogger Editorgirl

    Good for you Kristi! That sounds like a great decision - and you might be surprised - they might let you job share the position. It happens at companies here in Mass. a lot. I wish you luck and definitely think you are doing the right thing. Even though it's a few months away it must feel good to have that lifted from your shoulders.  

  5. # Blogger Hopeful Mother

    I'm really happy that you have come to a decision that feels right for you and your family. It is probably scary, but most good things are!

    I completely and totally agree with the first quote in your post, which is why I'm not making any commitments as to exactly what I will do work-wise after my maternity leave with the twins is over. I just don't know how I'm going to feel, and it's not fair to myself or anyone else to make commitments one way or the other. I don't need additional pressure from myself or others on how I'm "supposed" to feel. We'll just plain see.

    This is an incredibly difficult struggle for many women today, and one that many of our mothers never had to face.

    I've reserved the Mommy Wars book - I'm anxious to read it now.

    Congrats on your decision! I'm anxious to hear how it goes (and I know you'll keep us posted!)  

  6. # Blogger Christine

    I'm happy you're doing something that will make your life easier and happier.

    Just remember, you can always go back when you decide. You make the decisions. ;)  

  7. # Blogger kenju

    Isabella is a very lucky little girl! Your decision will reap many family benefits over the years.  

  8. # Blogger Thalia

    KRisti I hope you don't feel you have to apologise for this decision. I'm glad you're making a choice that you are happy with, and I'm very excited for you both. I hope the part time workign will work out for you so that you can keep your workinge life going on a back burner, but if it doesn't, I know that will be fine too. I hope this doesn't sound too condescending but given how young you are, you will have plenty of time to reinvigorate your career when you're ready (if you're ever ready!)  

  9. # Blogger Ramona

    Oh Kristi...you sound like the smartest woman on the planet.  

  10. # Blogger The Princess

    I remember this feeling, just weeks after I had Camille I was to return on a very part time basis. I had worked for 13 years and was reluctant to give up my career that I had worked so hard for.

    I don't regret my decision to step out of the work force. I'll admit the change to being dependent on D was a little different, but something I got used to.

    Now, 17 months later, I don't have any regrets. Of course, I think about the future and I get a little nervous about who would hire this stay at home mom, so I just don't focus on it. I instead focus on the time I'm enjoying raising my daughter and being her primary caretaker and teacher. I get to take all the praise for her development!!!  

  11. # Blogger sher

    I'm so happy for you! You are following your heart's desire and that is a wonderful thing. I'm sending positive thoughts to your boss (hope they find their way to him) to let you do the job share. But, I think you will wind up doing just what you need to be doing!  

  12. # Blogger Kristi

    Andy-Oh yes. It's happening, my friend.

    Shokufeh-I hope so. I'll still be working, just not for "the man." ;)

    Marie-Amen, sister. I hope your situation works out for you, too.

    Liz-It would be great if they let me job share. And yes, already I'm feeling so much better about things. I can now deal with whatever work dishes me, because I know it's all coming to a screeching halt in three months.

    Hopeful Mother-I think what you're doing about your work situation is incredibly smart. You just never know how you'll feel. You may want to return to work. You may not. And the time to make that decision is after, not before, your boys are born.
    Definitely let me know what you think of the book once you're done with it.

    Christine-Thanks, I am too.

    Kenju-Aww. Thank you. And I hope so!

    Thalia-No, I don't feel I have to apologize. It's just a decision I never envisioned myself making for the reasons I'm making it, so it's still a bit weird for me to write about it. And you're right, I can definitely re-enter the workforce at any time, but I'm hoping I'm successful enough as a freelancer that I won't have to.

    Ramona-Or the craziest... ;)

    Princess-It's nice to hear from someone who has done what I'm about to. It will definitely take some getting used to, but I know it's the right decision.

    Sher-Thanks! I hope so too.  

  13. # Blogger Damselfly

    It's a really tough decision. I hope it all works out the way you want it to!  

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