Finding out I was pregnant was nothing like I had imagined it would be. I have wanted to be a mother since as far back as I can remember. I never once imagined a future where I didn't have children, and in my dreamiest moments I saw 5 or 6 little sets of shoes and coats hanging by the front door. (Now I’m thinking more like 2 or 3 but if I ever won the lottery…)
The way I pictured it happening varied day to day, but never did I consider that I would cry out of fear and worry and a heavy sense of doom. My daughter is the most wonderful addition to my life, and being a mother is exactly what I had always hoped it would be, but when I first saw those little blue lines I was 2 months away from finishing a part-time contract position and I had no job prospect on the horizon. I managed to get another contract position while I was pregnant (with fewer hours, lower hourly wage, and for a shorter length) but my entire career was uncertain. I spent so many of my hormone-filled pregnant nights crying because I didn't know how I would handle it all. Planning for a baby on an uncertain take home pay, and knowing I’d have no job to go back to after maternity leave, left me absolutely winded. I spent so much time, and money, and effort getting a Master’s degree but library jobs are few and far between. I was okay with spending some time taking smaller contract and part-time positions to gain experience and bolster my resume, but a baby curtailed that plan.
Luckily, I was able to forget my fears and concerns and enjoy the time spent with my baby. Being a mother is a job, but it is the best job, and I have loved every single minute I have spent with Eloise. She has decided to keep growing, however, and now at 10 months in I am forced to face the reality: how do I deal with going back when there’s nothing to go back to?
The stress of going back to work is heightened tenfold when you don’t actually have a job waiting for you:
*I cannot choose a day care when I don’t know in what area of the city (or even which city) I’ll find a job or what my schedule will look like. Yet, some day cares have wait lists.
*My maternity leave benefits will end in two months, but expenses will grow. We have no idea where the money will come from.
*My time with my baby is dwindling and I have this dark cloud hanging over every minute. Instead of taking a break or tidying the kitchen during naps, I have to scour job boards and write cover letters and work out logistics for interviews. Oh, and get my crying out so she doesn't see me upset.
*How do I explain the last year of leave in an interview? A job you return to already knows you had a baby.
*Family planning is complicated. We don’t have the luxury of choosing when we want to have another baby, because it will depend on how long I've been at a job (IF I can find a permanent position…).
These stressors are in addition to what every mother feels: the worry of how she’ll develop and grow in a new environment without me, the feeling of loss after a year of one-on-one time, the pressure of daycare costs and added sick days.
Life doesn't always happen according to your schedule, so you really have no choice but to roll with the punches. I just hope that by the time my daughter becomes more aware of her surroundings; she’ll have a confident mother she can be proud of.