This week I've been talking with my employer about returning to work after 14 months of maternity leave. I really don't want to go back but it seems like everyone expects that I will, feels that I should. There seems to be an expectation that being in proper paid employment will be good for me. That being at home with Grace is not enough. Not enough of what, I'm not sure. It's definitely enough work, not that caring for someone little (or big) & running a household really seems to count as real or worthwhile work these days. As far as job satisfaction goes, looking after Grace is definitely up there with the best I've ever had. And so much more besides.
In some ways I feel like I've only just got a handle on what it means to be someone's mother. A very slippery handle at that, but enough that I can branch out a bit & take some time for myself. To write, to read, to make. I guess in that first year there were some pretty difficult times, what with a stressful pregnancy and then when Grace was very little, my brush with insanity (post-natal psychosis). We've moved past all that & mostly things seem to be going OK. Our weeks have settled into a rhythm that's mostly pleasurable. It's not as if we spend great chunks of time doing wildly interesting mother daughter activities, but more the little conversations & interactions we have along the way. The raspberry competitions while I change her nappy, Grace following me to the laundry - pulling herself on up on the step anxious to see what I'm doing. Her shuffles about the house on Gracie missions pulling & banging pans & tuppaware, strewing toys & scraps of material everywhere and bringing me objects to inspect. Then there's the meals & excursions we share, and the fun times in the garden or visiting/hanging with friends & family . Then it all slides into a relaxed weekend when all three of us can spend time together without having to do lots of housework.
Part of me wishes that I could say to G, "you're the man, therefore your job is to earn the income & mine is to look after Grace & the house." And I know that that's the way it works in some families. But not ours. I have a permanent position with conditions that are about as family friendly as you'll get working for anyone but yourself. The pay's OK too. G does contract work, with gaps between jobs & he wants to spend time at home looking after Grace. My mum also wants to spend time looking after Grace. If I say no, that's my job & I'm not sharing, that'd be wrong on so many levels. Grace will probably be delighted to spend more time with her nanna & her daddy.
I'm feeling that returning to work 2 days a week will be OK. Everything will get done, it'll be a bit harder to find time for myself but not impossible. When it goes to 3 or more days, then I think I'll be really stretched. I think I've been really lucky to be able to have this time at home with Grace. Lucky that our situation is such that we can live on a lowish income for a while if we want, without stress. Lucky that I have a job that allows me to take unpaid leave for up to 2 years & return part time. And most of all lucky that G & my family have been supportive of me having this long off work. So many women have to return so much sooner.
Back in the days before I had Grace, when I was planning my maternity leave, 14 months seemed such a long & luxurious amount of time. Now that time seems to have disappeared, just like those newborn days, into a kind of time travelling vortex. Oh well, I'd better make darned sure that me & Impfey enjoy our last few full time weeks at home together.