Today was my last day at the office--maternity leave officially begins on Monday. I hadn't committed to a particular day with my boss, I had told him I'd probably work up until the end, but I am just so miserable sitting in a chair in a cube for hours that I decided to end the fun today. So I've changed my voicemail, handed over all my files, set up the out-of-office reply on my email account and tried to move as much of my stuff into drawers as possible to give my cube-mate the extra room (since I only work part-time, I actually share a tiny cube with another Mommy part-timer).
The plan is for me to be off completely until late January, then start working a few hours from home for a couple of months, with me gradually working more and more hours from the house. Since all I really need to do my job is a phone line and a computer, I plan to work from home, during Aubrey's nap times, for as long as possible. As she gets more mobile and demanding, then the plan is to line up some in-home care for blocks of time several days a week so I can work while she plays with someone else. As things get busier with my practice, I'll start spending time in the office each week, and eventually I'll end up back to the 15-20 hour work week I have now. My employer is completely flexible about my hours and my boss is fine with me working from home as long as I am productive, so I am very lucky in that regard.
Aiden's going to stay in his current Monday-Wednesday-Friday preschool program throughout my maternity leave and after--he's adjusted so well to this schedule and is thriving in school, so we don't want to disrupt that. (Things will just be a little tighter without my paycheck covering his tuition). I think it will be good for him to have the consistency and good for my sanity to have him in school so I can focus on just Aubrey and our household needs a few days a week. (I have a feeling if he stayed home all week, he'd end up spending far too many hours in front of a TV each week as I tried to juggle both kids and the household responsibilities.) Aiden will still have his Tuesdays and Thursdays with Mommy and the weekends with the family, so he'll still be getting the "home time" he needs, too.
I think part of me is going to miss my time in the office. I loved being a full-time parent when Aiden was little and was so glad I had that time with him, but it was also a pretty isolating at times. I remember the seemingly endless hours of childcare and chores and feeling like, at the end of the day, I had nothing to talk to my husband about other than laundry and the baby. I hated it when I went back to work full-time, since I felt so disconnected from my son and felt as if I was always borrowing from Peter to pay Paul--I either was shirking work responsibilities to take care fo my family, or vice versa. But since I've started working this part-time schedule, I've really enjoyed having a taste of both worlds--regular contact with adults, the sense of accomplishment when I closed a deal or earned a commision, but also feeling like I was able to be a good mom in the process and that I still had plenty of time with my family.
Like so many other moms, I am constantly torn between my need for the validation and independence of a career and my desire to be a parent that is present in the lives of her children and gets to be there for both the big moments and the small ones. Part of me feels like I should be home with Aubrey full-time like I was for Aiden--that if I work part-time when she's a baby, I'm somehow short-changing her. Part of me, though, recognizes that I need some sort of measurable sense of accomplishment at the end of the day that being a stay-at-home mom just doesn't offer. Don't get me wrong--I truly understand and value the importance of a SAHM's work, but it doesn't have the day-to-day, measurable feedback that working outside of the home offers my ego. And then there is the guilt I feel about needing that kind of feedback and "ego stroking" at the "expense" of my kids.
But I'm slowly learning to let go of that guilt. I'm learning to recognize that it is OK to have the need for a taste of "grown up" life at the office. It's just part of who I am. I can either pretend the need doesn't exist, throw myself into being a full-time parent even though I'm denying an important need within myself, and hope fervently that my kids don't see how miserable I am. Or I can accept that I have this need, find a way to meet it without completely sacrificing my family's needs, and instead offer my children life with a mom that actually feels fulfilled and content.