Friday, January 25, 2013

I thought I was a Hard Ass

If I should ever run into the pregnant Elizabeth on the street, I would probably give her a good smack and tell her that half of the things she planned to do on maternity leave would not happen and that she is not a hard-ass and will have a hard time going back to work. To this she will respond, "Whatever. You don't know what you are talking about" while making the judgmental face that my loved ones have come to hate and walk away.
Then I would laugh at her naivete and tell her to just wait.

Maternity leave is a bit of a Catch 22. You don't have anything to do but care for a little blob, but at the same time you have tons to do because your little blob is incredibly needy. His neediness is also ill-timed because as soon as you think he is in a deep sleep and take on the challenge of emptying the dishwasher, he decides he is no longer tired and needs you - immediately.

Toy box I painted for Austin 
My mom was witness to my ignorance regarding maternity leave. I was going to paint furniture for my friends and start a side business. I was going to chronicle my IVF process in a scrap book that would bring Martha Stewart to tears. I was going to read 100 books and, perhaps, write one of my own. None of that happened.

I spent much of my early leave on the couch tending to my girl parts, attempting to nurse Austin (something we both hated), and watching daytime TV. This was totally unexpected and hard to digest, but not even half as shocking as the emotions that came flooding in as my maternity leave came to an end.

Maybe its the thing, but I know a lot of women who spent their maternity leave looking for a new position. I was no exception and, as a fore mentioned, even though I didn't have the time I would have liked to devote to stellar cover letters and resume review, I did scour websites like Higheredjobs.com and LinkedIn regularly. My former position required extensive travel, weekend work, and nights away from home. Although it also allowed me to work remotely most days of the week, 25-30 nights an academic semester in hotels and 6-10 weekends of work a year was incredibly unappealing. On the flip side, summers responsibilities were essentially nonexistent and I was home more often than not, my commute was 12 minutes when I did have to go in, my supervisor was hands-on and wonderful, and I was the maker of my own schedule. Needless to say, I was picky. Incredibly picky.

"What? you want me to come in everyday?"
"8am to 5pm, you say?"
"The commute is what?"
"I see......"

Clearly I had high expectations for my new position. High and, more than likely, unreasonable UNTIL the Working Mom Gods shined upon me and created the position which I, ultimately, accepted.
Long story short, my old supervisor left my previous institution for a new one, had a position open under him, and I met the qualifications. Because we had a good rapport and worked well together, I was able to come in with my list of ridiculous demands, and create a work/life balance that worked for everyone. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

So why, you may ask, did you only think you are a hard-ass and not actually become one? Well, its still hard to walk out the door that first day back at work and leave your little blob, who by now has developed into an awesome little person, behind. You feel like you are leaving for war and that you will have to write him letters by candlelight in your bunker detailing your day and, similarly, you will receive letters from your loved ones informing you of all the "firsts" you missed while you were away. Yes - it is over dramatic, but you are still coming down over your hormonal roller coast and you're the mom so this what your mind does.

I came home one night at 6:00pm, sobbing that we only had 4 hours together before he went to bed. I threatened to quit after two days and work part-time in a bookstore. I cursed my breast pump for taking ten minutes away from my morning bonding time while I drained the wells. I panicked thinking he could no longer recognize me because I wasn't around enough. I kind of went insane.

But then I realized leaving for part of the week made me a better mom. Stay-at-Home-Moms might find that blasphemous but I appreciated him more. I wasn't stuck on a couch watching him sleep. I had a reason to put on nice pants, have adult conversation, and put all of my academic degrees to good use. Because I missed some of the cries, the fits, the poops, and the pukes, I was more tolerable of the ones I did see.



Austin - sideways.