Life Decisions

Back when our baby was a hope and a dream, I described my perfect arrangement. I would work part-time, with a flexible arrangement. This would look something like me working from the office and/or home Monday through Wednesday and not working (although certainly available should something arise) Thursday and Friday. I would adjust my workload to the week ahead of me, willing to work more as needed and hoping to work less when warranted.

Now that little dumpling here (at least in the terms of getting shit figured out), I floated this idea to my manager. I tried to be as open and as committed to the team as I could be. I promised I could be flexible. I promised to be open to re-evaluating things if the arrangement wasn’t working out. I was optimistic and tried to hold hope in the fact that I am respected and valued in my workplace. Irreplaceable, one might say. (Although, of course, all office workers are replaceable, right?)

This afternoon my manager called me into his office to discuss maternity leave things. The company is offering me a fairly generous (for the US, of course) maternity leave, contingent on me coming back to work. Full time. From the office. Period.

I was dismayed, but kept the conversation rolling.

I brought up my suggestion of part-time again and found that my manager firmly believed that my position should be “available” during typical business hours. He doesn’t want any of our partners or associates having to stop and think if I’m working at that time.

One item that I got him to budge on a bit was the working from the office. It turns out, his concern was that I was hoping to be both babysitter and worker. (To be honest, I had sort of hoped to do this under the part-time, flexible arrangement.) I could tell this was a sticking point so I told him that I fully understood his concern and acknowledged the fact that a full time worker could not also care for her child. Those are both full time jobs and focusing on one would neglect the other. So I offered an alternative, what if I worked from home but also had childcare? He seemed to like this idea much better – even more so if the childcare were a daycare center or other out-of-home care (as opposed to a nanny).

I left his office feeling optimistic, but that feeling didn’t last too long. Nothing like a decision to let you know where your true feelings lie. I hadn’t realized how much I was hoping for the part-time arrangement until it was officially not up for discussion (or dreaming) anymore.

So basically, my two options (to remain with my current employer) are:

  1. Work full time, from the office, and our child goes to daycare full time
  2. Work full time, mostly from home but coming into the office at least once a week, and our child goes to daycare full time

I enjoy my job and I really do love where I work. The people are great, the pay is good. The commute sucks, but my company is one I support. We’re a small company so it almost feels like family in a way. My job is one I take pride in and a sense of accomplishment from (most days at least). It’s rarely stressful and the hours aren’t terrible. I know I’d miss the interaction with coworkers, even in the scenario of working from home.

And yet. I look back up at those two options and neither makes me very happy. The first option is an absolute non-starter for me. When I add up my commute plus my working hours, I realize that I’d never see our baby, especially when he or she is out of the newborn phase and actually sleeping through the night. Even now, it takes a conscious effort to not get thoroughly fed up with my commute. I envy the fact that Luffy works close enough to eat lunch at home and gets to relax in the mornings/evenings all while I’m stuck in traffic. I consciously push that envy to the side and try not to think about it – it’s not productive you know? But would I still be able to push that envy and my annoyance with my commute to the side when our child is involved? When I’m missing out on snuggle time or hugs or kisses or even tantrums just so I can go sit in traffic for an hour?

The second option at least solves the commute issue, but I have reservations about this one as well. Working from home, being available and yet not available. At least I would be closer to our child…. hmmmmm.

When big decisions pop up like this I usually sit down to write without a clear ending in mind because writing helps me suss out my real feelings. To be honest, I fully expected to sit down and bash both options. Now though, option two doesn’t seem so bad.

I should also mention that I know I am extremely lucky to be in a position to make this kind of decision at all. Many mothers – too many mothers – are basically forced back to work simply due to necessity. I am thankful to have options. To be able to decide if I want to stay at home with little dumpling or to continue working, in whatever arrangement.

TL;DR: I have a lot of thinking to do this weekend.