January 22, 2016
My life has changed drastically in the last 7 months. I had a baby in June, and I returned to work after maternity leave last fall to more “congratulations” than I could possibly count…but not because I’d had a baby. It was because I had made the decision to “stay home” with my baby.
Prior to my temporary return, I’d made the difficult decision to quit my job after 10 years. The announcement was made that I’d “decided to stay home with [her] new son,” and with the excitement surrounding each “congratulations,” one would have thought I’d given birth all over again. But inside, I struggled. I smiled politely and said “thank you.” To some, I offered a little more explanation, but mostly, I gritted my teeth and choked back my extreme frustration, because the truth is that “staying home” was never my ultimate goal.
Our culture says that if you want—and are “able”—to make this decision as a mom, you’re fortunate. And you are! But for me, it wasn’t about whether or not we were in a financial position to enable me to “stay home.” For me, it came down to common sense: Could I effectively do my job with the same quality, without being physically present for 8.5 hours a day (or the reduction to 6.5 hours I was offered)? There are obviously some positions for which this wouldn’t be possible, but in my line of work, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
It’s true that I want to spend more time with my son, but I also want to work. I still love what I do, and I wasn’t ready to be “done.” Unfortunately, my commute had gotten to be unbearable, and the reality is that 95% of my job could have been done remotely. At the time, by the end of the day, I would have gotten to spend MAYBE an hour and a half with my son before putting him to bed and starting all over again the next day before the sun came up. I realize that millions of women work full time and raise children—infants—every day; my own mother was one of them. However, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, 95% of my job could have been done remotely.
Typing that statement again and reading it in bold letters truly boggles my mind. And it bothers me. In my mind, it would stand to reason that I should have been able to keep my job and be as present in my son’s life as I wanted…especially since my request was not to exclusively work remotely. I actually wanted to come into the office 2-3 days a week. I made it clear that I wanted to work! I simply wanted to do so with flexibility.
I want to be great at my job and be physically present as a mom during the day (most days), and asking for both is not unreasonable. Living in America in the 21st century, I believe so strongly that it can be done, that I quit my job.
And I don’t want a pat on the back for it. Our country deserves a slap in the face as wake-up call. Our maternity leave policies already leave so much to be desired, especially compared to some others (I worked way more during my leave than I care to admit). And only a handful of companies seem to really get the fact that telecommuting can work. To those leaders, I salute you.
I’m currently working as a freelancer, and I love it. It’s certainly an adjustment, and I’m still finding my groove, but I wouldn’t trade this time with my son for the world. This exact combination of computers, coffee, and cuddles may not be my “forever,” but it’s my “now” and I’m grateful. Just within a few short months, I’ve been able to work in different arenas, increase my areas of expertise, and expand my portfolio. It’s been such a blessing. And who knows? Perhaps one day, I’ll return to the workforce, and perhaps I’ll be blessed to work for an organization progressive enough to allow me to be an exemplary employee without being tied to a desk for 40 hours a week.
But for now, I’m enjoying my “now,” and I’m beyond thankful to all my clients and to those who continue to support me!