I assume I won’t want to be a stay-at-home-mom. A friend says to me at some point, “I LOVE my kids, but I don’t want to hang out with them all day long.” This seems totally right to me, totally reasonable. I’ve heard stories about people who go weeks without having an adult conversation, grown-ass women describing their one-year-olds as “my best friend.” I like work. I like productivity. I will love my baby, but surely I will want to keep the rest of my life the same as before, right?
Keeping life the same is, of course, a ridiculous notion in itself. It is, to quote Monty Python, “an act of the purest optimism to have posed the question in the first place.”
In the first weeks, I am a weepy mess, swearing that I will never remove him from the Moby wrap, let alone leave his side for even one second. A little later, postpartum depressed, I can’t stand to be away from him, but I can’t care for him myself. My new life will be lived watching my mother watching the baby. She’ll just have to quit HER job. After proper chemical calibration I think, sure, I can go back to work in 3 weeks. I can totally go back to work in 2 weeks. Work in a week? Um…yeah! Work tomorrow? OH HELL NO.
I extend my leave twice. I change the arrangement so that I go back half days at first. After all this generosity, I am allowed telework 2 days a week, indefinitely. I am lucky (for the U.S. anyway. I’m totally moving to Sweden before my next baby), and for a while it’s going ok. Eventually, though, he starts to get more fun. Like, WAY more fun. They should really make you go to work right after you give birth, when the baby is basically a good-looking meatloaf, and let you take maternity leave from like 8-11 months, when the party starts. I get to a point where I’m missing him all day, and I can’t believe I’m leaving those eyelashes and giggles and first words to come deal with the cloak-and-dagger drama of my workplace.
I talk to C. I ask him if there’s a way to make it work. Many discussions later, with each other and with our families, we decide. There is, in fact, a way to make it work: we will sell our condo and move into my mother-in-law’s basement apartment, so that we can afford to live on one salary. I know– but truly, she’s fantastic; this is not an arrangement I’d recommend for everyone. I feel like a deadbeat sometimes, being a full-grown adult living in a basement with my husband and a toddler. My childless friends look at me like I’m batshit insane, although how much this has to do with their mothers-in-law, I don’t know. Some of my friends with babies, though, are quick to tell me that they would do the same thing if they had the option.
I know there will be times when we all think it was a terrible idea. I know there will be times when I will long for a giant coffee, the internet, a door to close, and sweet, sweet silence. But last week, I quit my job.
Because who knew? Who knew I’d feel so strongly about being with this little person as much as I can, while he’s still adorable and not yet a douchebag teenager? Who knew that watching a baby thread dry noodles through the holes in a colander would be every bit as fascinating as a fancy job? Who knew that even on a bad day, when there’s whining and bitching and food-throwing, seeing him point to the cat and say “GA-TO!” would make it all worth it?
I sure didn’t.