Monday, February 2, 2009

Working girl

I'm feeling a lot of angst about working lately. Specifically about how much time I'm missing with Sam in order to work. I have such inappropriate timing, musing about my conflicted feelings when so many people are losing their jobs all around us. But the angst remains, not helped by a recent logistical nightmare of Sam's first ear infection paired with my nasty chest cold, followed by Sam's stomach virus which has since felled me and Adam. We're both here in bed, feeling too disgusting to comfort each other. Adam is about 10 hours ahead of me, which means I can expect a violent bout of diahrrea any moment now. Sam is all recovered and spending the day at the nanny share, where the other family is hosting.

In the middle of the night, while Sam was refusing to sleep and Adam was retching and I was starting to feel those first twinges of nausea, I thought, "Oh my God, wait...who takes care of the baby when the grownups are passed out around the toilet? What the fu--oh, I'll call Mom! Wait. I can't bring Mom into this cesspool. She'll get sick. Ok, we'll hire a babysi-- no one's going to work for us in this condition. Oh my God. No one can help us. We're all alone and we'll pass out from dehydration and Sam will fall out of his crib!"

I have missed a lot of work lately and it's stressful. We have this great little setup with our jobs, me working a 4-day week, Adam working mostly from home, the nanny share (more on that soon).

And even then, it's tough. As soon as someone gets sick, the whole thing falls apart. But it's not just that, of course. I feel like I'm finally relaxing into motherhood. Sam is so incredibly interesting now. [EDITED TO ADD: That makes it sounds like he was boring before. He wasn't. It's just that the back-and-forth of our play now is incredible). He's like that moment in spring when so many flowers and plants start bursting open that you can't even keep track. He can express his pleasure in my company, and his anxiety when I leave. I savor my time with him, instead of fearing it like I did in the early days. It's funny -- in some ways, having to go back to work at 13 weeks seemed inhumane, but I think it also helped stabilize me. Helped me make this transition more gradually. And, hot-house flower that I am, I do much better with gradual transitions.

But now, I feel like I want to give it up. There's a rightness to being physically near Sam all the time. Most of the time. Sometimes, I'll be laughing with my friends at work, and I'll think, "Oh, no, this is perfect. This is the balance I need. This makes me a better mother." Or I'll be working on a project and think, "I need to use my brain like this. I need my career." But then, I'll be nursing Sam and looking down at his little cheeks and eyes and I can't believe I'm so stupid as to go away from him for the major chunk of the waking hours.

You know, I should stop here before I go further to offer my personal feeling about the to-work-or-not-to-work mommy wars: We have no more business commenting on another woman's decision to keep a job or not than we do commenting on her field of interest, or college major, or favorite flavor of ice cream. There's no way to do that math for someone else.

Now back to my own personal calculus. I should also say that I muse here, setting aside the practical concerns. Like money. Actually, we have an affordable mortgage. We could get by if I quit. But it would put a lot of pressure on Adam. And what if he lost his work?

I see other downsides:

1) I like being an equal parent with Adam. I'm a little dominant because I have those Fridays at home, and I'm nursing and Sam is going through more of a Mommy phase. But I like that we're generally on even footing. When I was on maternity leave, it felt at times like I was the parent and Adam was flitting in and out, and that wasn't great for our relationship.
2) The work I do is very freelance-friendly, but that's when there's an actual demand. Which there isn't right now. A lot of recently laid-off people are trying to freelance at a time when there are fewer and fewer jobs. This is not a good time to try to transition to self-employment.
3) I have a tendency to lose myself too easily. If I wasn't forced to get out of the house every day and keep that non-mom part of myself alive, I might not do as well.
4) I despise the idea of being financially dependent on Adam. As it stands, he makes more money than me, but it matters to me that I'm contributing to the common fund, that I'm saving for my retirement, that I can earn my own money to treat myself now and then.
5) I really trust and love our nanny, Claire. She expresses an affection and concern for Sam that would be nearly impossible to fake. I like the way he lights up when he sees her, and in my optimistic moments I think that Sam is learning the wonderful lesson that he can get love and protection from many people in his life. I fear losing Claire if we slashed her hours. I also feel a responsibility for providing her with the employment we promised (she asked for a year's commitment).
6) I have a job that can be seriously fun. One of those, "You really get paid to XYZ?" jobs. It has its downsides, but I'd be an ungrateful bozo to not acknowledge that a lot of people would kill for this position and it's not one that's easily replaced. It might not be replaceable, in fact. It's not to be given up lightly. It's basically the dream job I set out to have.

But then I think about something my friend said last week. "The thing is, you have a new dream job. You have Sam. Dream jobs change."

I'm not ready to make a decision. But then, you can take your time, waiting for "the truth to emerge" or "the answer to be revealed" and suddenly your baby is a year old and you've made a call without really making it.

1 comment:

Fertilized said...

I understand more than you will/can know. I just walked away from what i thought was my dream job this morning.