When I found out I would soon become a mother, I had every
intention of returning to work. I didn’t even plan on using my full FMLA
time. After all, I had not been expecting this miracle. With only a week to
prepare for her adoption, there were no savings set aside to offset the weeks
or months I would be without a paycheck. I couldn’t afford to take much time
off, and since I wouldn’t be recovering from labor, myself, I didn’t believe I
would need to.
Then my daughter was born and immediately placed into my arms, tilting my world off its axis.
Within just a few days, I informed the office I would be
taking my full leave after all. Yes, I understood it was unpaid. No, I did not
want to take some work home with me. All I wanted to do—all I felt capable of
doing—was spending this time with my daughter.
I greedily wanted all the time I could get.
Those first three months passed by in a blur. I yearned to slow
them down, knowing that sooner or later I would have to leave her. By way of
denial, I avoided even thinking about child care plans. I visited exactly zero
day cares, and only halfheartedly spoke to my stay-at-home mom friends about their
ability to watch her.
Of course, there were still bills that needed to be paid. A
roof above our heads I needed to maintain. And as my return date drew nearer, I
still had no plan.
Every day I looked at my daughter and tried to imagine not
having these hours with her. Waves of panic washed over me as I pictured
someone else getting those smiles. Suddenly, the job I had always enjoyed sounded miserable. I was sure I would hate it, because being there would mean
being away from her.
It wasn’t long before I had to admit this wasn’t a sustainable plan.
So I did the only thing I could think to do. At the last
possible moment, I took a leap and decided to pursue a career in writing. I had
been laying the groundwork to do this for years, making now as good a time as
any to turn my dream into a reality. It would mean more time
with her—the new love of my life.
Ironically, as any stay-at-home mother will tell you, I soon
learned that caring for my child was a full-time job. Between the laughs and
smiles and special moments, there was little time during the daylight hours for
much else. I found myself working until 3 and 4 in the morning some nights, and rising with her at 7 a.m. to start our day. It wasn’t long before I had to admit this
wasn’t a sustainable plan. And at four-and-a-half months, my daughter entered
part-time day care while I continued working from home.
It was still more time than I would have received had I
returned to my desk job. I still felt blessed to have those extra hours, and
more control over our schedule. I knew I was lucky to be able to pursue my
dream while also getting those extra moments with my daughter.