TGIFNovember 14, 2010 at 7:48 pm | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM, Starbucks, the firm | 4 Comments
Tags: return from maternity leave
Trapped in the playpen
I’m currently on a reduced-time schedule at work. (They call it “part-time”, which makes me cringe, since I work more than 40 hours a week.) My firm, in addition to its very generous maternity leave policy, has a return-from-leave policy by which, for your first six months back from leave, you can work almost any schedule you want, down to 50% time. As many families know, ramping back up from maternity leave is difficult: if your baby is anything like mine, you’re still not sleeping very well; perhaps you’re trying to pump; perhaps you’re still sorting out daycare. I think that, prior to this policy, many women came back to the firm and immediately quit under the pressure, or perhaps they didn’t return at all. (And, yes, I do realize how great this policy is. Sounds almost socialist, no?)
I’m currently working 75% time, meaning I work Monday-Thursday, 9-5. Of course, as any attorney will tell you, reduced time is not really reduced time unless you are quite strict about saying “no” to work. I am still so junior that I find this almost impossible to do. Therefore, probably three nights a week, after I get home at 6 p.m. and put the children to bed, I work until 10 p.m. or later on my laptop. But what this policy does let me do is walk out the door at 5 p.m. without any guilt (kind of). And it give me Fridays. Though I have ended up billing two or three or sometimes four hours almost every Friday since I have been back, I do so while O is napping, sitting in my home office or at the kitchen table, clad in yoga pants and drinking coffee.
And then the rest of the day is mine. The entire day, in fact, has the air of a surprise holiday, like a snow day. We don’t rush in the morning. I let Little Bug sleep as late as she likes. I make her breakfast, NPR on the radio in the kitchen. Little O and I drop her off at school, usually at least a half-hour later than her normal drop-off time. Then Little O and I hit Starbucks and maybe the grocery store. We play before his nap (these days, playing consists of him trying to crawl up the stairs and me pulling him down). During his nap I work, or clean up the house. When he wakes up we do errands or just play before picking up Buggy at 1. While he takes his afternoon nap, she and I read books or maybe even watch a show for “quiet time.” Once he’s awake, we walk to the library or have a playdate. Then it’s dinner, bath, bed.
Of course, I’m checking my work email (on my laptop, on my iPhone) all day long, and dashing off a response here and there. Most people at work now remember that I’m not in the office on Fridays. I have to be available, but I don’t have to actually work.
But I love these days. I feel as if the weight of the world is off my shoulders. I am on the floor with the children, we sing and dance. I catch up on my favorite blogs. My People and US Weekly arrive in the mailbox. I have the whole weekend head of me.
And I ask myself: would I feel this anxiety-free, this happy, were every day like this? Meaning, of course, were I not working and home with the children. And, of course, every day wouldn’t be like this. Or would it? If I let it? I’m dreading March 1, when my six-month post-parental leave period is over and, more likely than not, I will be expected to work full-time again. (One argument in favor of going back full time is that I’m pretty much working full-time hours anyway, so why not get paid for it — but I cherish these Fridays so much that I wonder if it’s not worth the pay cut.)
Sigh. I’m a grass-is-greener kind of person — if I could change one thing about the way I am wired, it might be this restless tendency to wonder “what if?”.