The expectation was that right now I’d be a full-time working mom. Back in January, when we were 6-months pregnant, we lined up full-time childcare at a center with a wonderful reputation, that happens to be just up the street. I prepared to be a working mom, knowing it would be hard but hoping that someday we could afford for one of us to work less and be home with our kids more. But I was happy with the path my career was on, comfortable with working in order to provide our family with more opportunities, and planned to continue on that road.
And then, well, in this economy I guess our story isn’t so uncommon.
I returned from maternity leave in June- the plan was that I would ease back in to the “working mom” routine with a month of part time work before resuming my full time schedule. Going back was hard, but the small company I work for had been flexible and supportive of my leave plans, and I was looking forward to reconnecting with the career part of my life and picking up where I left off.
Instead, I am still working that part-time schedule, and after months hoping that my hours would increase, I have accepted that they will not.
So, I go to work for 15 hours a week and I am home with Evelyn three days a week. This part of the situation has been an absolute gift. I treasure our days together and I am beyond grateful that I’ve been able to witness the magic of the day to day changes in her over these eight months. I had no idea being home with my baby could be so fulfilling, and make me so happy (or that it could be so challenging and exhausting!)
The flip-side is the large (and completely unplanned) cut in income, and figuring out how to maintain this life built on two full incomes. Certainly, it could be worse- there are plenty of people who have been hit harder. But still, it’s been a challenge. We’ve learned to live on less: I plan inexpensive but healthy meals, we shop thrift and consignment stores when we really need something, we’ve curbed our take-out habits, we live more simply. It’s not all bad, and we’ve learned that this lifestyle is more doable than we first thought. The tougher-to-swallow part is back-burnering plans for home upgrades that we had planned, putting travel on hold, and worries about how we’ll manage if we are faced with a large unplanned expense.
So I continue to look for ways to increase our income- picking up some editing and copywriting gigs, finding little ways to bring in money here and there. I’ve had to adjust how I define myself, with a career that had been the focus of much of my days until March suddenly playing a much smaller role. As wonderful as it is, it has taken me time to figure out how to be a work-at-home mom on those three days and to value the importance of that work. And holy moly, I have so much respect for full-time work-at-home moms. It is not an easy gig- babies are demanding bosses!
I know that this is temporary. Soon I will be working more, the financial squeeze will ease up, we’ll be in a place where we can again dream of family vacations and kitchen renovations. Knowing that makes me savor each day I am home with Evelyn. I try to memorize every moment, the way she is at each stage, the rhythms of our days. I think about how to balance the wonderfulness of this home life with a work life that provides what we need, and what she needs. I know this will be the struggle, that we will always be recalibrating, finding balance, and redefining what everyone needs as our family changes.