By: Morgan Annandale
When I was about halfway through my six-week maternity leave with my son, Luke, I debated this question with my husband, my family, my friends, and myself almost daily. I felt like I was only just learning how to take care of my baby and still had so much to learn. It truly did not seem possible to return back to work in only three short weeks.
My entire pregnancy I announced to the world, “I am definitely not staying home.” I told my friends how I “needed” to work. Not only for the money, but also for the sanity, that I just could never imagine being home alone with a baby all day (practically rolling my eyes at myself at this point). Then all of a sudden, everything changed. I found myself holding my little baby boy in my arms and thinking, I could never leave this little guy all day long.
Budget, what budget?
So, my husband and I sat down one day and had the dreaded budgeting discussion – can we live comfortably on one salary? Personally, I have never been a good budgeter; I enjoy Amazon Prime and Starbucks way too much to budget efficiently. My husband, on the other hand, is a budget master and reigns me in the majority of the time (opposites attract and all), so you can imagine this conversation made me feel pretty nervous. My husband was surprised when I brought up the discussion. He was always under the impression that I was going to go back to work and we were going to choose daycare when my maternity leave was up. Thankfully, my husband knew when he married me that I was very indecisive, so he was open to re-thinking our original plan.
Once we pulled out the good ‘ole excel budgeting sheet he had attempted to get me to use when we first moved in together, we discovered that we could live comfortably on a single income (as long as I was willing to reduce my weekly Starbucks trips, of course). There was something about the possibility becoming a reality that made this decision even scarier for me. Now that I knew we could really do this and my husband was okay with it, I was struggling more with what to do. How in the world was I going to decide on this?
This is where I turned to Google to read hundreds of blogs, HOPING they would tell me what to do. Of course, like in any big personal decision, there was a ton of advice on the Internet, but nothing that could answer this question for me personally. However, I did find some information that helped me come to my final decision.
One reassuring tip I was reminded of was that if I did not choose to go back to work, it did not have to be the end-all-be-all decision. If for some reason I couldn’t handle being at home, I could always return back to work and vice versa! I’m not saying un-doing my decision would be any less of a challenge or risk, but it would not be impossible. Once I was reminded of this, I started to feel a little more comfortable with figuring out this situation, a familiar journey for many new moms.
After about a solid week, I felt confident enough to tell my boss about my updated decision on what I was doing when my maternity leave was up. I scheduled a sit down meeting with my boss and submitted to her a written proposal for me to work part-time on specific projects and to give away other projects to other full time team members. The proposal went on to say that it could be re-evaluated and that I could return full-time when I was ready. My boss was hesitant at first, but with a tangible document and offer for her to consider, it made a huge difference. I am not sure if this would have gone over in the same manner if I had been informal on this request and not prepared for a meeting concerning my future at the company. The more formal process forced my boss to take me, and my proposal, seriously and not overlook my request. We were able to negotiate a schedule that worked for us both and I have continued to happily work part-time. It's of course it's still challenging, but for me I chose a work/baby balance that I feel is the best decision for our family.
I know that not all you moms have this opportunity in your careers, but I think its ALWAYS worth the ask. If you put a reasonable offer in front of your boss/supervisor, you never know how they could react. It could be something they will run with, and both of you could be happier in the end. I know for me, I was able to put a stronger focus on my work while I was at work. I made a big effort to have a healthy work/life balance. To keep my brain on work, and only work, while in the office, and vice versa at home. My team understood from the beginning of this endeavor that I would not answer emails or calls once I left the office, and even better (after testing me a few times) they respected it. I believe this is in part due to me providing clear boundaries and setting their expectations- then sticking to them.
At the end of the day, there is no one that can help a mom make this decision other than her, if it is a choice to be made at all. Whether you stay at home, go back to work full-time, or figure out a brand new career path where you work for yourself from home, whatever makes you and your baby happy and healthy is the right choice.