Tuesday, October 22, 2013 -
Despite my ongoing vacillation between feeling that staying at home with my son is more than enough to keep me happy, fulfilled and mentally occupied yet still feeling that it would be prudent to keep my foot in the door of the work world by at least working part time, I did two things that may set me up for an opportunity to test out the latter after nearly a year of the former.
I applied for a part time job assisting children’s librarians with programming for libraries in the county we’ll soon be moving to (and the library system I far prefer over the single library in the county we live in now). I’m a bookworm at heart, and libraries have always felt like a second home to me – the very first thing I do when moving to a new place is apply for a library card. We save all the keys to each new places we move to as family keepsakes, but I really wish I’d saved all my library cards over the years, too! I had fun working for elective credit in my high school library as a freshman and sophomore. It made sense to move on from that to work for pay through the work-study program in college as a librarian assistant. I had that job for four years including summers and I’ve been in touch with my former boss from that job ever since. She even helped me get my first ‘real’ job out of college at a pharmaceutical company by connecting with a woman who used to do the job that I did at the library when she was a student. I even referred my sister for my old job when she came in as a freshman a couple years after I left, so she has four years of history there, too. TH keeps telling me that now that we live near the university and it undergraduate library again, I should contact my old boss for a job there if I’m thinking about part time work. But I’ve preferred to keep that connection in my back pocket for later, when I think I’ll wan to return to work once our kids are older. I definitely don’t want to lose that bridge by making a move too soon, and since I talk to my former boss pretty regularly via Facebook, I’m not worried that she’ll forget about me anytime soon. Anyway, this particular job for the county library system sounds interesting, and specifically was noted as part time. If I needed to go back to work, it’s a job I wouldn’t mind going back for – especially since I now know and like so many of the children’s librarians in the system.
I was also contacted by one of my old bosses from my days in clinical research about a potential part time job she is thinking about developing in her new department. I heard back from her today, and we had a really good, if slightly awkward conversation, about this possible part time job. Good because I’m sure I could be successful, I really enjoyed working with her a few years back and would love to again, and I can tell she was sincere in feeling confident that I’d be a good fit and wanting to work with me again. Awkward because the elephant in the room is that I have a ten month old, will likely try have more children, and have proven that given the opportunity, staying at home with my son is preferable to working full time. Talking about family and family plans and commitments with an employer is always a little weird since both entities – children/family and job/employer — are warring for one’s full time attention and engagement, and of course the employer has to hope that you’ll choose the latter over the former .
I left the conversation open to the opportunity while making no promises. She was awesome though and seemed to understand my conflict. She asked that I send my updated resume, as well as a brief outline of what I’d be seeking in a part time job – how soon would I want to start, if and how soon I’d be open to moving up to full time hours, the number of hours I envisioned for part time work as well as a salary or hourly wage. But she also made it clear that if I wasn’t quite ready yet, the potential for going back and working with her at her new organization is something I could keep in my back pocket. If I think it’ll be at least another year before I return, that’s fine and she would forward my résumé though the chain to be kept on file until an appropriate opportunity arose. She could keep me in the loop about positions that opened up in the meantime.
So now I have a couple things to do for that and a lot to mull over.
I’m still not sure in ready to go back to work, and I definitely know I’m not interested in anything full time right. How much of this is a true desire for something “more” – more intellectually stimulating, or most likely, more in keeping with my prospects for future employment once our children are school aged? How much of this is daydreaming, speculating that the grass may be greener in those moments when I’m in a tough patch of grass on my own side? How much of it is me being prudent, being practical, playing it safe – doing something because I feel that I’d that I’m supposed to do, what others expect me to, rather than truly living for myself, doing that feels right to me in this moment, speculation about how I may or may not be setting myself up for something undesirable later?
But let’s put that aside for now.
If I assume that I will go for this opportunity, that I will go back to work soon, say after Tee turns one year, what would that really look like?
Soon I expect Tee to drop from two naps to one long nap in the afternoon. If I worked from say noon to 4pm five days a week, or noon to five, four days or whatever combination of days/hours that would give me a max of about 20 hours per week, I would still have time to do our usual morning activities with Tee and could then leave him with a caregiver so that I could work in the space of time that he’d been mostly asleep anyway.
Assuming said caregiver is one who believes in gentle methods of helping babies go to sleep.
We are moving to a house that is 15 minutes almost exactly from the place where I’d be working (I’m working under the assumption that I may not be able to work from home, at least at first). One of my mom friends, who Tee and I hang out with along with her daughter and a few other mom and baby sets two or three days per week is a law professor at a local university. She teaches and holds office hours in the afternoons Monday through Thursday. She is with her daughter in the mornings and then drops her off at a Spanish immersion in-home daycare for four hours in the afternoons. She’s talked to me about the center and the woman who runs it with me and another friend considering part time work, and I have a good impression about it in general (although I’m still skeptical of a person’s ability to help children fall asleep gently and without crying when they are simultaneously watching several other children). The daycare her daughter attends is exactly halfway between where we are moving and where I could potentially be going back to work. Eight minutes from him to daycare, seven minutes from daycare to work. Not bad if we decide to go the in home daycare route. But moot if we decide to find a nanny instead – assuming we can find someone we trust to care for our son without supervision in similar ways to how we care for him. Again, huge assumption.
On those occasions when Tee misses his morning nap, he usually will sleep for three hours in the afternoon. But even if he only slept for one or two hours, he’d only be awake for two to three hours before I came to get him again. And if I matched schedules with my friend and her daughter, there is potential that someone else he knows would be there with him.
Still, while the basic logistics sound rosy, choosing childcare (when you truly have a choice which I try to remember and be grateful that I have) isn’t about moving baby (or childcare provider) from point A to point B and then hitting pause until you return. I have three hang ups that I can’t quite get my head around yet and I’m still mulling over:
Sleep: I don’t know how daycare providers get babies to go to sleep, but I have a feeling that, in general, it’s nothing like how I get my child to go to sleep. I absolutely do not want my child to cry himself to sleep in any extent, and I worry that this is an impossible expectation for a care giver who isn’t me or my husband, and particularly if they are taking care of other children.
Breastfeeding: To a slightly lesser degree, I worry about how my being away for several hours a day, or a few days a week, will affect our nursing relationship and my supply. Tee is nearly one year old so this issue isn’t quite as critical as it would have been if he were younger. But it’s still something I wonder about, and that definitely makes me hesitate. I know it’s quite possible to maintain a breastfeeding relationship with a child in daycare. I know many women who do this, even with more than one child who is breastfeeding. But no one ever makes it seem easy. I would like to breastfeed Tee for a minimum of two years, and will then be open to his weaning whenever he likes. But I don’t want to do anything to encourage him to do so before two, nor do I want to throw a huge wrench in what currently works for us in terms of when he eats and when he nurses and our mostly laid back approach to both.
And I think about The Next Baby. Obviously, we have no idea how TTC will go. I’m hopeful that we won’t experience similar issues as last time, but I know that it could go either way. But assuming I am able to get pregnant soon after we start trying, I know that will signal the end of any brief return to work. I always said I wanted to stay home with my kids until they started school, despite my second guessing that now that the opportunity has presented itself and is working out pretty well. But even if I return to work now and am lucky enough to get pregnant soon after trying, I know I am going to want to stop again as soon as the next baby is born. At the very least, I will want to give both babies that same start of a parent at home for their first year full time. It just seems like returning to work would be a pointless – my heart wouldn’t be in it, and I’d be counting down to the days when I could stop again to be home with a second newborn, if not to be home full time with an older Tee.
Of course, if I did return part time, it could just as easily take another year for me to conceive and then this would be sort of moot. Tee would be nearing three, and we’d maybe be considering preschool before a second was born. I still haven’t entirely made up my mind about preschool. My siblings and I were homeschooled for pre-school and kindergarten, so I have no personal experience with it. But I’m open to it, especially given all the local options that I’m still exploring – Montessori, Waldorf, family, Quaker, plus all the more traditional options. And a few hours per week of preschool would be a nice opportunity to have one-on-one time with a younger baby if Tee were older.
I’m just not so sure about this work thing. It sounds like both a good opportunity and a bad idea at the same time.