I’m very lucky to work for a university that supports working parents and encourages employees to spend as much time as they can with their families. My boss lets me come in earlier than the rest of the department to maximize my time here. She changed my PD to include two afternoons of working remotely. She is very accommodating to my modified schedule. For now, this is working for me and for my department, but I can see that it won’t last forever so I have started making small changes to adjust to a possible new schedule in the future.
I’ve worked for the same university for almost 13 years now. I started as an undergraduate student worker at the butchery shop (this is an agriculture school and they teach butchery, cheese making, beer brewing, animal science, etc). I’ve worked for four different departments and each has had a different level of crazy, but the benefits are excellent and the flexibility of the jobs I’ve had is really nice. I’ve been in my current position for two and a half years and while the actual job is a little mundane, I’ve managed to enjoy being here for the most part. My previous position would not have been conducive to having a family (long evening and weekend hours on top of a normal work schedule), so I asked for a transfer when I was about 6 months pregnant with LeLe.
I had been very career oriented up until then and always thought that I would be fine with being away from my kids to continue working as much as possible. I don’t even know when the shift in my thinking happened, but when it did, it really shook me. I wanted to be with my kids, I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible and that meant that my job and my career would have to take a back seat until the kids were older and in school full time. Honestly, I even tried to figure out ways to be a complete work from home mom. I was in a complete panic during the last few weeks of my maternity leave because I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving LeLe for even an hour every day.
That first week or two back was absolute hell for me. LeLe was happy as a clam being dropped off with my mom every morning, but I was a mess. I cried on my way to work and I rushed home as quickly as possible to get back to her. My job allowed me to stretch out my maternity leave by coming back at 10 weeks, then working half time in person in the mornings and half time remotely in the afternoons. This meant that I had an extra few months to ease into my new schedule. It took a little pressure off of me, but I still felt out of sorts for the first 6 months being back at work.
I had literally just become comfortable with my work schedule and being away from LeLe for much of the day when I found out I was pregnant again. I knew going into the second pregnancy that working from home or staying home just wasn’t going to be an option, so I prepared myself a lot better for having to return to work. I was allowed to do the modified re-entry again, although this time I did full days on Mondays and Fridays and half days the rest of the week. It was slightly easier this time, partly because I wanted a break from a constantly crying baby, but also because I actually found that I missed work and being productive during the day. I have some regrets now for going back earlier than originally planned, but my sanity was at a breaking point, so having some adult interaction where I felt appreciated was really nice.
Fast forward 7 months and the situation, while still working fine, is starting to wear on me. I still hate being away from the kids, but now there is an added element of my own career aspirations and future. I don’t really want to be in the job I am in for too much longer and I am taking steps to move up, but that also probably means less time with the kids. It is really hard for me to rectify this change in my mind, but I also feel like I can’t just stay in this position once the kids no longer need me as much. I chose my kids and the time I wanted with them for the last two years and while I see myself working slightly more in the future, for now I am biding my time until I can make the career moves I want to make.
Being a working mom is hard, for me at least. I so much want to spend all my time with my kids, but it just isn’t feasible or realistic for my family. I will always put the kids first, which means leaving work early if they are sick, or working remotely when the babysitter cancels last minute. It means having an elaborate child care situation to ensure that I get to see them at lunch time every day. It means putting the baby in the ergo and wearing him to a meeting so I don’t miss anything important. And it also means feeling that stabby pain in my heart when I have to leave them on mornings when I would much rather sit and cuddle them. I can see the future being easier as the kids get older and are in school, but for now, this situation will have to work.