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The Day Care Dilemma

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.

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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.

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But what I wouldn’t have given for more hours to do it all, to be everything to her and still provide for us both.

Which is why next time around, I might just have to marry rich first.

Because it turns out that returning to work after the birth of a child isn’t nearly as simple as I had always believed it would be.

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