Friday, April 19, 2013

What is a professional mom to do?

After five years and six miscarriages, I am the mother of a very beautiful and very alive little girl. A little girl who is nearly six months old. I love it. I love her. And in some difficult to articulate way, motherhood completes me, fills me unlike anything I've ever experienced. After all of this time of wanting, it has become part of who I am. I never thought I would be able to say it, but I am a mom.

I am also a professional. I went to school for a long time - eight additional years after my four-year college degree - and earned a PhD in clinical psychology. I completed a two year post-doctoral fellowship. And ultimately I was awarded a faculty position at a medical school as a research scientist. When faced with what career path to take during our long journey with infertility, I have always chosen the more ambitious route. Partially because I love what I do and want to do it well. And partially to distract myself from my profound sadness over our seemingly terminal infertility and multiple losses. My work is full. It is fulfilling. I spend my days seeing patients, conducting clinical research, writing grants and research articles, giving talks, and supervising trainees.

Or rather I used to, before I went out on maternity leave.

Since my beloved daughter arrived, I've been showering her with kisses and eking out as much time away from work as is humanly possible. In fact, I somehow managed to get permission to take off up until this very week. Much of it unpaid leave, but still. In America, 5.5 months off is an almost unheard of length of maternity leave. (Canadians and Europeans, I know that 5.5 months off is no big shakes, but sadly many in the U.S. get only 6-8 weeks).

But now the university wants me back. And I am filled with ambivalence.

I am crazy in love with my daughter. And I want to be an integral part of her day to day life. I'm also deeply aware of - and humbled by - the fact that my husband Will and I are currently my daughter's whole world. What she knows of trust, of security, of happiness, comes from whatever amount of warmth and consistency and touch we are able to give her. To go back to work (and thereby be away from her) feels on some level instinctually and primally wrong.

On the other hand, I am also aware of the fact that she will grow up, and not need me so much, and that if I step away from my academic career now, it will not be waiting for me when I may want to return to it in five or so years. I also worked long and hard to have the role I do now (see above about 12 years of education post high school).

So being kind of a science-y sort, I decided to look to the data. What do other people think about moms working or staying home or doing something in-between?

It turns out that the Pew Research Center has just completed a survey on this very topic.

And here are a few key findings, in graphical form:

So the majority of people overall vote for part-time employment. Sounds great!!! But this is not compatible with being on the faculty of a medical school, now or ever again (one of those 'once you've stepped off of the merry-go-round you are off' types of situations...)

What about working mothers? What do they think? This should be helpful, I thought. Maybe other moms like me can help me think through what feels most right in this situation...

Part-time wins again! Although it looks like significantly more moms are voting for full-time in 2012 versus in 2007.

From a purely financial perspective, I am lucky that I am not the primary breadwinner in our family. I realize it is a luxury that I even get to grapple with the notion of how much I want to work. My husband Will is on the faculty at the same medical school that I am, but is much better compensated (he is on a clinical track; I am on a research track). I make a decent salary, but if I chose my work based purely on finances, I could make more money in fewer hours if I left academics and entered private practice.

What do I think I want in an ideal world? If you asked me today, I think I agree with the majority, that part-time work really fits the bill the best. I'd like to have my cake and eat it too. To have my daughter see her mom working as a professional, and see herself by extension as capable of anything she puts her mind to. But I also want to spend as much time with her as I can and strongly desire her to feel that she and not mom's work, is most important.

The trouble is, I cannot remain on the faculty at my institution on a part-time basis, or I would do that in a heartbeat. And so, for now, I am returning to my current position. I am going to test the waters and see if I can work in the new way that I want to (home earlier in the evening, not working nights and weekends). I've negotiated one day at home to work remotely. Of course, as a new mom, I have a whole new perspective on what's important, and I'm hoping to be able to translate that into a changed approach to my work.

So right now I'm going through my own version of separation anxiety. My daughter seems completely unfazed, but I am a bit of a wreck.

For the next few months, I will take each day as it comes, taking my emotional temperature from time to time about working as a mom. I'll be posting as I feel my way through this return-to-work transition, I'll figure out exactly what kind and amount of work makes sense for me and my family now and for the future.

As always, I welcome your thoughts. I would love to hear from other working moms about how you navigated your own back-to-work transitions.


Read more about the data from the Pew Research Center report on Modern Parenthood here. 

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  1. You've worked very hard on your professional career, no doubt at all. But you've also worked just as hard to have your daughter. And they do grow up very fast.

    I am fortunate enough that I get to work from home full-time and it was great the first 22 months (I had someone come in to watch my baby while I worked). It got harder to actually work once he was 2 yrs old so we decided to put him in daycare (5 mins from our house).

    I am working because I have to work. But if we could afford it, I would much rather prefer to stay home with my toddler.

    I think we live in a world where you are defined by your career/success, but the career of a stay at home mom does not seem as elaborate as a professional career.

    In the end, you do what is best for you and your family. I think everyone can see how much you adore your baby. Good luck!

  2. I have no advice, and certainly no judgement. I had very little career (and very little income) to leave to stay at home with my DD, so for me the choice was far easier. I have never, ever, not for a single moment regretted it.

    I guess what I would say to evaluate: years from now, what will you regret more? If you stay home with Magpie and lose your career, or if you work but miss out on time with her, which will you, at the end of your life, regret the most? I didn't have a career to lose, so there wasn't a choice for me. (Although, you invested many years and many dollars in gaining Magpie - not as many as your education, but still, a significant amount!)

  3. I have never commented on your blog before, but have been a long time reader! I am a Ph.D. physicist at a University and National Lab. I also did a postdoc, and had my baby in 2011, after being at a permanent job for 1 year. I have my son in a day care close to the university. We love his day care. He has excellent lead teachers, and many of the assistant teachers are students of the university studying early childhood development. He has formed many strong bonds with both individual teachers and the other children in the room, which I think is so important. He has "best friends" in his toddler room now, who he has been with since 3 months old. I think the infant stage/room is the hardest, because like you said, the baby is unfazed by the whole thing but you are not! The first few months were very hard for me, but I'm glad I didn't give up my job. Now that he is in the toddler room, I really see the benefits to him being in a school setting from an early age. He absolutely loves being with his friends, and he is quite shy by nature, so I think this socialization is important for him. My husband and I work in the same lab, and I come in early (7:30 AM) and leave at 4 PM everyday. My husband drops our son off at day care and I pick him up. My son loves the routine, especially. He knows exactly what is happening everyday.

    Anyway, just here to tell you to hang in there because while it seems so hard now, I truly believe it will get easier. It probably doesn't get easier for women who don't enjoy their career, but if you enjoy what you do, then I believe you can have the best of both worlds and still work full time.

  4. I also went through a lot of schooling and was at the beginning of establishing my (academic) career when my daughter was born. In fact, I interviewed for my first "real" (i.e., not at the same institution and in the same project as I did my Ph.D.) post-doc 3 months pregnant, and then had to tell my new supervisor that I'd be working for 6 weeks and then going on maternity leave for 4 months.

    I'll admit, by the time Gwen was three months old (I had 4 weeks before birth, 15 weeks after), I was so desperate to get back to work, to my research, to colleagues, to discussion involving adults other than my husband and topics other than food, sleep, and diapers. I lucked out in that I was able to secure daycare for Gwen 4 afternoons a week for 5 hours; mornings and Fridays I "worked" from home, which worked better some days than others.

    This arrangement worked because I was on a research-only position, no teaching involved, so as long as I was producing sufficient research output, my supervisor didn't care. I also didn't have to pick Gwen up until a little after 6:00pm, which meant I had to duck out of the afternoon research seminars only a little early.

    This worked excellently for 10 months, and then I took a new position and we moved again; due to daycare snafu, Gwen was home with us (my husband works from home) full-time for the first month, and we realized that this just wasn't an arrangement that worked -- for *any* of us. Gwen wanted more interaction than we could give her, and not just because we were both trying to deal with having just moved to a new country, getting our work done, etc., but because she wanted interaction from *kids her age*. She's now (2.5 months later, 17 months old) going ~7 hours a day 5 days a week, and it's definitely the right arrangement for us. I also have the flexibility to decide sometimes "It's a really nice day out, I've gotten enough work done, I'm going to leave early, get her and go to the park", or "I'll bring her along with me to the conference in Lisbon and get my mom to come too so she can get some grandma/granddaughter time".

    Now that she's getting older, I do sometimes wish that I could spend more time with her, but I make up for this by being as ungrudging as I can when she wakes me up at 6:30 am (I am not a morning person), and making those two hours before we head to daycare count, and ditto for the 1.5 hours after we get home. It's working pretty well so far.

  5. Another comment which occurred to me after reading Jill's -- does your university have a daycare? Both of Gwen's daycares have been university one, and the first one was on the way to my office (15 min. bike to daycare, then a further 5 to the office), which was incredibly convenient. It also means that the selection of kids is somewhat more diverse than an ordinary daycare would be, due to visiting researchers, foreign scientists, etc.

  6. In the same boat. Extensive schooling including switching careers from science to law in my 30s. Except in my case I would give it all up to stay home if we could afford it. Which we can't. Not b/c we live an extravagant lifestyle filled with exotic travel. Rather, we have a mortgage in Calif which s where we grew up but not cheap, we spent a lot of our down payment savings on ivf, I'm a public employee with great health insurance we can't get elsewhere (but no ivf coverage) etc. So in my case it's not a matter of choice.

    Lawyer jobs are very hard to come by these days so if I took time off it really would be hard to come back (especially in my mid-late 40s). And my department will not allow part time or working from home.

  7. Oh boy. This is a delicate subject. In my experience, people are generally convinced their way is best and that any other way will scar your child (or you) for life. So be prepared for the comments--not just here but in real life.

    I have 3 kids-- 2 bio and 1 adopted. Thanks to secondary infertility they are spaced far apart in age. In a sense it was like raising three "only" children.

    With the first I was employed and we were poor. I could not afford to stay at home. I took off 6 (unpaid) months and then went back full time. For the second I was a free lancer but still unable to quit altogether because of economic reasons. I took off 5 (unpaid, obviously) months and then went back mostly full time but with heaps more flexibility. By the time we adopted the last I had sort of burned out at my career and was up for a break and by this time we could afford for me to stay mostly at home. I took off almost a year and then took in part time work. That was 7 years ago and I'm still working part time. Staying at home full time is not an option for me mentally. I have gotten a second wind as far as my career goes and I actually love what I do, it was pretty much the clients that I was burned out on.

    The thing I want to tell you is that all of my kids are FINE. None of them are resentful, none of them ever expressed a desire to have me home and baking cookies or conversely out of the house and out of their hair. All three were fine with the experience they had. IMHO,all kids want is a happy Mom and a routine, whatever form that might take.

    If I were in your position I would go back to my job and see how it works. Nothing is written in stone. You can always leave if it *feels* wrong. But once you make up your mind, be strong. It might be the right choice for you --whichever way you go with it-- but no one suggests that either option is perfect or easy. Welcome to parenthood, land of the continually struggling!

  8. I go back in two weeks and feel just about th same way. I kind if want to work (I'm a HS English teacher and occasional college professor), but I also really don't want to.

    Part time would solve all of my problems. As a HS teacher, I'd still have to work every day, but I could do 3 periods and keep my benefits if I find my own job share. Teaching two university classes would be even better.

    I'm going to see how it goes and then reevaluate...

  9. I walked away from my job almost a year ago at the end of my maternity leave. If I were to stay our family would be split between two states (something we did in the past and I didn't want to do again). I have a phd as well but not nearly as many years of training invested. I think that part time would be ideal but if I did something I loved I wouldn't mind working full time so much. In my cast I did not like the direction my "career" was going and I didn't want to travel for work so I had to leave. It did cut our family income in half which definitely cramped our style a bit but I am more sane. People try to give me trouble over "wasting" my education but I have begun to wonder why we should want and expect people raising children to be ignorant and not worth educating unless they work full time outside of the home. That is craziness. My schooling has taught me how to juggle things, learn quickly/adapt and exist on very little sleep.

    I think you need to take some time and ease back into work more. There is no shame in loving your family AND your job. I am jealous of people who love their jobs. The hardest part for me was childcare. We were not happy with our first situation but when we found a better situation things were so much better for me. Take care.

  10. I've been absent from your blog lately but had to comment here--
    I worked really hard to get where I am as a lipidologist. I love the practice where I work and love treating patients. I am extremely lucky that they 1) were perfectly fine with me being gone for three months when we first brought our babies homes though it was very hard for them to get coverage for me 2) have allowed me to come back part time. I currently see patients 29 hours per week.

    All that being said our kids are now at the age where being at home with the nanny is not optimal for them and they are enrolling in five day a week Montessori which will allow me a few more hours at work a week and I am super happy about that. I was not cut out to stay home full time and though I will remain officially "parttime" it is very close to full time. I refuse to suffer guilt over it. I love my job and it makes me happy. I love my children and they make me happy. I am a better Mom because I work, plain and simple. I want to be a good example for my children about finding a passion in a career and contributing back in that way (and other ways as well--I also want them to see us volunteering, etc).I also do feel like I rarely have a chance to breathe much of the time (but I feel like that is somewhat temporary) and I have to work out at 4:00 am just to fit that in, but hey--it's all about making it work, right?

    I hope that you are able to find a nice balance and not feel too guilty. I can't stop talking about the book Perfect Madness but it really has helped me understand a lot of issues surrounding motherhood in today's society.

  11. I had Mabel during the final year of my post-doc. I only took 3 months of leave. When I went back, she went into a family run day care. Was it ideal? No. Was is fine? Yes.

    She was only in it for a few months before I finished up the post-doc, accepted a new position, and we moved.

    Since then she's be home with my husband who is a stay at home dad/free lance video editor.

    I'm totally spoiled that she (and now her little brother) have their dad with them.

    I'm totally jealous that it's not me. However, as you said, with a research career (I'm in biotech), there just isn't an easy, career-sustaining way to take significant time off.

    When I was growing up, a neighbor watched us. She was like a second mom. To this day I am close to her.

    Wonderful caregivers don't have to be related to you to love you. And how wonderful to expand the circle of people to provide what she knows of trust, of security, of happiness!

    It is hard to be away. I've blogged about it in the past. However, it has not hurt the bond I have with my kids. They are both overjoyed when I get home. They still come to me for comfort and love. And they rarely fuss when I leave for work- it's part of the daily routine.

  12. I love my work too, and I know I do not have what it takes to be a full-time SAHM, especially since dropping out of nursing would mean having to go back to the floor to get back in- something I cannot physically do- or lose the off-the-floor telecommuting position I have right now. It is not perfect, and my kids still have to be in day care. I wish part time was an option in what I did, but it just doesn't exist. Because my husband is a government contractor, he makes a great living, but that living is in jeopardy every year, and especially now with forced cuts. If I stayed at home we could be in dire straits.

    So, I am in a position of always feeling torn. I feel happy when I am working, but torn when my kids are sick or have medical appts. I feel happy with my kids when I am with them, but town because I have a deadline to meet or a special project on the burner that needs attending to.

    When I stayed home, I felt torn because we worried about money, my husband's job security, and I always felt suffocated and wanting a break.

    I'm not sure there is a "sweet spot" when you have children and have worked a career beforehand. Sometimes I have wished that I never aspired to learn or create more than than bare minimum.

  13. Mo,
    There was an interesting article recently on the Pew research, and the thrust was that Pew messed up because they only asked what the ideal working situation is for mom's, not parents generally. If asked another way, the result is that most people think a stay at home parent, at least part-time, is ideal for kids - but the parent doesn't have to be a mom. I mention this only because I'm hoping external perceptions of what a mom "should" do don't seep into your thought processes to, too much.

    Where is Will in all of this? Could both of you finagle more stay at home time so both of your careers could stay relatively unharmed while spending more time with Magpie? Is there an income differential that makes your career the more vulnerable one?

    One consideration is whether another baby is in the cards (putting aside the IF issue and whether you are able to have a second child). If you downshift your career for Magpie for a short period, you may be able to recover professionally. But if there are two kids and a long gap, it will be very very difficult. Which may be perfectly fine and the right choice - it's just the unfortunate reality.

    Another thing to think about is how much time with Magpie you will really gain? In New York City, most kids I know are in some type of schooling for at least a few hours a day by the time they are in their 2's. 9-12 is "school," nap till 3. So the reality is that you won't be missing all that much time with Magpie if you do decide to stay FT. Can you tell that I'm a working mom who has counted all the hours? :)

    The truth is, I work full time and love it; staying home would not have worked for me, mentally and emotionally. One thing though - my DD is now 3 and a real little person. I don't regret working during the baby/early toddler phase, but now that she is such fun to be around and is able to communicate - that's another story. I really feel like maternity leave is wasted on babies!

    Good luck with your decision - it's not an easy one. One day at a time...

  14. As a working mom in NYC all I can say is that you will find ways to make it work. I found the most important thing for me was an amazing nanny who could take care of the baby and organize all the household activities so I could focus on the baby and work. ( she was in charge of everything from arranging housekeepers, ordering fresh direct, arranging dinner on seamless web, making sure laundry and dry cleaning was picked up and delivered-- I did not expect my nanny to cook or clear but I expected her to help manage our lives!) . She use to bring the baby for lunch or an early dinner when my schedule allowed and I'd sometime manage to pop into a quick class for music or art when I scheduled them by my office. I through the years have now started the day a bit later and end a little earlier - this took time to plan and schedule. I feel like it has been a balance and having a supportive husband and a husband who " helps" is amazing and make it all work even better.

    Expect the first week to be hard and good luck!

  15. I'm a post-doc in life sciences with a 21 month old son. Both my husband and I work full-time, because there is no other way of staying in my field. The beginning was hard, but I also really like my work. Fortunately we found a great daycare where our son loves it and has a great bond with the teacher. I still breastfeed and co-sleep with him and that way, even though we are apart for the 8 hours that I work, we are still together for the other 16 hours in the day. However, we plan to move back to Europe next year and then I do plan to work 4 instead of 5 days a week.

    Good luck, I still remember vividly how sad and torn I felt the first day my son went to daycare....

  16. Full time physician with a 4yo and 2yo and just wanted to send you hugs during your first week back. I still practically run to my car every night to get home. Not sure if you have flexibility in your research schedule but I start my day earlier than average (before the kids are out of bed), schedule a lunch time so I can go home and eat with them 3 days a week and bolt out the door as soon as my last patient is done and finish charts evenings nad weekends. I don't mind coming in on weekends for a few hours in order to have those evening hours with the kids. You'll find something that works--sending you lots of support. Erin

  17. I went back to work when my twins were 5.5 months old. It was tough and I didn't want to do it. I had wanted to be a stay at home mom for as long as I could remember. I figured that I would teach school for a few years and then be able to stay at home. After all the fertility bills came in, we realized staying home would not be an option. I was sad to go back to work and there are hard days but overall I am glad I did. I do have some flexibility (I can leave around 2pm if I need to). I was planning to only work one year but have decided that I am going to keep working for another year. I have sort of scrapped my long term plans and am taking it day by day. If I feel like working isn't working for us anymore, I'll quit. But right now, I do enjoy some of the "me" time that comes with working outside of the home. My advice is to take it day by day. Good Luck!

  18. Oh, yeah.

    So I'm not a social scientist. BUT back when I was doing gender studies research on these issues it seemed part time work for women was the WORST possible scenario from a stress standpoint (generally because part time work came with full time stress, and lower paying jobs, and no benefits, etc)... clearly not the kind of situation you're talking about. If I can dig up something concrete, I'll send it your way.

    My own experience? I went back to work full time when LG was 7 mo. And that was just about perfect. Some hard times--like when she was 3 and I was up for third year review--but mostly it was good being fulltime and having her in daycare fulltime. She thrived that way. Not sure if you're in the tenre system (I'm assuming your a clinical asst prof or something like that?) and that might have a bearing on how your re-entry goes. Just wishing you well.

  19. Don't have anything insightful to add to the many wonderful comments. But I know I was not cut out to stay home (admire those who are) -- in fact, I am back at work despite being still on maternity leave and I will start a new, more demanding job just after DD turns 3 months. And we've learned on those days when our DS is home with us all day, he's bored. The crafts and activities and playmates at school are wonderful for him. But mama and dada are still his entire world, there's no doubt. They key has really been finding childcare we love. He adores his teachers, but he and we know they are no replacement for us. I guess my point is don't worry about what you should do, do what you want to do. And it will work out.

  20. I have been back at work full time since B was 6 months old. Like you, I had really generous (for US) maternity leave, and also like you I have a lot of post grad schooling (although not as much as you -- that's a LOT!). And I love my job and the hours and stress level of the work itself are minimal -- my hours are a very regular 9.30-5.30 which means I get to spend up to two hours in the morning and then another 1.5-2 hours at night with B. My husband runs his own business which gives him more flexibility but no health insurance, so that's pretty important and one of the reasons I continue to work! But it does mean that he can be home if I have early meetings or want to go out to dinner during the week.
    Because I value the time with B, I don't go out much -- I'd rather see him. And honestly, by next year, Anonymous is right -- he will be in school from 9-11.30, then nap from 12.30-2 or so. So I really won't be missing much.
    There are some wonderful wonderful nannies out there -- I found someone who I know is helping raise B to be a nice person and is teaching him so much. Does she do as much "running my household" as other nannies? No, but she cooks great food for him and we often benefit from the leftovers, which is really nice a couple of days a week!
    It's tiring and by Fridays I want to lie down and sleep, but it is worth it to me to have the professional stimulation and balance. But the first few weeks? Hard. I cried on the subway every morning. And then it just became normal.
    I wish you all the best with this transition. It all does work out.

  21. I'm in this very battle myself right now. As a physician assistant with two young kids, I cannot decide what to do. I also work as the office manager of my husband's vet clinic so it's like I'm being pulled in a million directions. Thanks for reminding me I'm not alone.

  22. In my opinion, as a teacher and having worked in all types of schools in many different countries and socio-economic groups, I would argue that very much of your question depends on the quality of parenting vs. the debate of working or stay-at-home parents.

    I would argue that the best possible scenario would be to stay with an infant for as long as possible, and then to work part-time to full-time (9-5), but strictly following the work schedule.

    The worst-case of course are the parents (let's not be sexist, mom and dad) who work ALL the time and are not present in the evenings either because they are working from home or are out of the homes. Parents who too much and are therefore, too tired, stressed and overwhelmed to be present and engaged as a parent.

    I will say that often, please note NOT always and I do not want to generalize, children whose mothers do not work and have somehow lost their identity and whose lives only revolve around their children tend to 'helicopter' parent. In my experience, children who experience this type of parenting tend to lack autonomy and many lack empathy for others due to the fact that everything is done for them and they are put on a proverbial pedestal.

    I will say that I have had many students whose parents did not work who were well adjusted, independent and kind, empathetic peers. While these parents may not work, they continue to have a 'life' of their own, they tend to be more relaxed parents, they are cultured and know how to talk to their kids and take quality time to let them experience life and expose them to new things without being overly-protective.

    I think that it is important for girls to see their mothers as intelligent, compassionate, educated and working women. If a mother does choose to stay at home that job should also be respected. Sadly, so many children whose mothers stay at home will say 'My mom doesn't work'. This infuriates me as I realize that it is a FULL-TIME job and as a society we do need to respect that.

    In conclusion, my advice is simple: be present in your child's life whether you choose to continue with your career or if you choose to stay at home. There is no substitute for quality time, not more time just quality time.

  23. I haven't read all of the above comments...

    At the time my daughter was born in 2009, I was working for a large national Bank. I received 12 weeks leave and was heartbroken when I had to go back to work. I commuted 2 hours to work each way and would be gone from 5:30am until 6:30pm. I was lucky that I had my mom who would watch Lexi. But I always felt I missed out. I wasn't there when she rolled over the first time, or laughed, or crawled or tried solid foods etc. I longed to be a part of those things. Working remotely wasn't an option at the time...and it didn't get easier for me. 23 months after she was born, I landed a job working for a large merchant aquirer, working 100% from home. I've been here for her first day of school, and to take her to school every morning, and pick her up. My mom still watches her 2 days a week here at home...and she goes to daycare one other day. But I'm here when she's sick, when there is a snow day etc.

    Long story to say...I HAVE to work. I don't have the option of working part time or not at all. But I've found a happy medium that works for me. Being gone 13 hours a day didn't work for our family. You'll find the balance that works for you.

  24. Ahhh....I am currently grappling with this myself, albeit a slightly different scenario in that I had my daughter 28 months ago. Today isn't any easier than it was when I went back to work 14 weeks postpartum. My belief is that part-time is the way to go. I don't need to work as my husband is also the sole bread winner but having said that, in "these times" he would prefer that I DO work while I can.
    I am getting ready to make the decision...either leave corporate America and due something part time or leave work altogether until my daughter goes to school. I just miss her so much while we are apart during the day. I also feel like I went through a lot to get pregnant and to stay pregnant and that I don't want to spend every day away from her.
    Good luck with your decision!

  25. I work full time with 3 kids. Fortunately, my current situation is extremely flexible, and I can work from home whenever I need to, and my kids are all in school now. If either my husband or I was to not work, it would probably be him, because I'm much happier with my work situation than he is.

    I also feel that I really need to work, to keep the part of my brain used at work happy.

    When I had my first daughter, I worked part time (30 hours) for a while, which was good on one hand, but very hard to adjust to. I'd spent a great deal of my life until then, working 40 or more hours a week, and it was very hard to adjust to working less, because I couldn't estimate how long it would take me to do things.

    After that introduction, I just wanted to say that no matter how you feel about going back to work, you will at least feel very ambivalent when you do. It takes time to adjust to being a Mom AND working. Try it for a while, and see how it works. You situation is unique to you, so the charts of other people think, ultimately don't have that much relevance.

  26. 2children, now 2 grandchildren. I stayed home and ran a home day care to make it possible when they were very young and then went back to full time (75-80 hrs a week) because I had to do so. Options were different from yours. My children both work fulltime; one has more flexible time schedule which is lovely.
    The real answer is to feel happy with your choices and to remember your job as a parent is to give your child wings. Also to remember every loving person who is part of her life will teach her wondrous things.
    No matter which choice about your job and career, your beautiful wonderful daughter will do well. She knows she is adored by two parents.
    Being able to work one day a week from home is marvelous! You will find your best answer.

  27. While part-time might seem like a really great compromise, being an at will employee in the academic world (especially as your family's sole income) is scary. When I was pregnant I had no benefits and in essence no maternity leave (it's kind of complicated and I think I was treated unfairly at one college). I still have no rehire rights at either college where I work and could, in an instant, be incomeless.

    I am staying home with my 7 month twins during the day (except for the one night I teach on campus) and teaching online; working at night. But I am finding that to be less and less ideal as they get up earlier and earlier and my sleep is getting less and less. On the other hand, I am incredibly grateful that I am the one that is home with them. But I do really enjoy my night at work and getting to immerse myself in my work, rather than trying to balance taking care of my babies and my students.

    In essence, if you (still) love your job (which sounds amazing)and you can find a child care arrangement that works for you, I think you do have the best of both worlds. If you are miserable once you are back at work, then only you can decide which decision you will regret more. Good luck!

  28. what great comments! I scrolled through and read only a few though.

    I went back at 5 months and, as you know, I'm not much of a SAHM type of person so I honestly couldn't wait to go back.

    It was hard to balance it all and Mo, now that I'm finally doing the baby books, I can see how terrible we both looked. How we did it I have no idea.

    I worked about 6 hours in the office and then home and the last 1.5 in the evenings after the babies' bedtime, and it worked fine until they were about 10 months and we carried on like that for awhile but by a year I was full-time in the office because nothing would get done at home. Crawling babies were banging at the study door :)

    I would work part-time if I were you but only you'll know what feels right.

    Still, isn't this an awesome problem to have? I still can't believe WE HAVE BABIES!

  29. Maybe the answer could be working part-time with couples that are dealing with infertility.

  30. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  31. I didn't read all of the comments, so maybe someone already said it, but do you know that colleague of yours who just does his/her job without putting in a ton of extra effort? Doesn't stay late, leaves early whenever he/she can, does enough to get by, but nothing above and beyond? Probably hasn't been promoted recently, but hasn't attracted the ire of his/her colleagues... It may sound lame, and maybe it is lame, but that is my plan. I worked long and hard to get a Ph.D. in mathematics and a tenured faculty position, I am not giving that up. But, I realize that my kiddos will not be young for long and treading a bit of water in my career for 5 years or so will probably not be something I totally regret. So yeah, that's my plan. I hope it works.

  32. this is not an easy decision, especially when faced with a system that doesn't offer flexibility: it's all or nothing in terms of your faculty position. As my husband said of the faculty throughout my PhD in clinical psychology: "these are psychologists???" What we now know about attachment tells us that 5.5 month-olds need their mommies, and that moms need to be with their babes. Why can't they offer you that if you are so valuable to them (and I am entirely convinced you are).
    I like your approach though, of going back with the plan of checking in with yourself about how it feels. And I love that you negotiated to be at home one day. I wonder what else you could negotiate in the future? 2 days of working at home?

  33. This is a hard one. I think mother nature kicks in, and we know that there really is no one better to care for our own children than ourselves! However, honestly-I don't think I could be a full time SAHM. Part time, yes. But, I wouldn't even want the part time child care to be for ONLY when I was working-because I really have a hard time doing the SAHM tasks-with children underfoot.

    I work full time now, not by choice, but out of necessity. And honestly, I think it's best for my children to be with a caregiver who's sole purpose is to take care of them. My older son goes to school now, but my point is that during regular working hours, my children are taken care of by someone who's sole purpose is them. If I were to take care of them and be a SAHM, my husband has the expectation that a SAHM does the homely tasks without a babysitter! At first I thought it worked like that too, but now I realize it absolutely does not!

    The times I am at home with my kids alone (when my husband is on call-weeknights or weekends, fellow NYCer) my focus is not 100% on the kids-because I have the homely things to take care of. Even if it's not major tasks, I still have dishes and laundry to do.

    The adjustment will most likely be harder on you than your baby girl. You're baby will be loved by her caregiver-but it's so stressful to work full time and manage a house! I began working full time this year (I graduated graduate school) and almost 9 months into it I still struggle daily with fitting everything in!

    All the best of luck, and just make sure to give yourself plenty of time to adjust!!! You'll figure it all out :)

  34. I'm in a slightly different boat in that I enjoyed a progressive and rewarding career throughout my 20s and 30s. When marriage happened later in life and when it became clear that we needed help in having a family I made the VERY emotional decision to leave my career, one that I loved deeply to focus fully on ART and getting/staying pregnant. I just knew I could not continue to perform at my highest level and give everything I had to my executive role AND go through IVF at the same time. Little did I know it would take us 18 months to get pregnant.

    I never intended to be a SAHM but did want to enjoy the first year with my son and I was fortunate to be able to do so. When my former employer created a role just for me when he was 13 months old, I jumped at the chance to return. I'd been able to stay with him for that long and now it was time to feed my professional soul. Only you know what? My professional soul had changed, dimmed if you will as the brightness factor in being a mom turned up. So, even though I went back and even though I got to work with colleagues that I respected and loved, it was never ever the same. My fulfillment, my greatest satisfaction, my joy was as a mother. I remained working full time for 2 years and left again in May of 2010. Again, I never thought I'd be a SAHM and, little did I know the odyssey our path to #2 would be.

    But, here I am, a SAHM to a full-time kindergartner and a 4 months old. I still expect to return to the work force in some capacity but I now know that motherhood has changed the fiber of who I am. I am still driven and competitive and ambitious, but not as much professionally.

    I would love a part-time job that would challenge me, add to our financial house and give me the flexibility to not miss out on the infancy of the baby boy we worked so hard to have.

  35. Is your position soft-money funded? Where I work, based on what you describe, it would be, and that would have implications for flexibility (more, but not necessarily on demand, as less funding being available (hello, sequester!), would mean less work would become available. But cutting back and/or not taking on new projects would likely be plausible, within reason. My employer treats anyone whose effort is 75% covered as full-time for benefits; salary is proportional to % effort.).

    And now, I want to leave my life story ;), but it seems to involve too many characters (in a textual, not a personality, sense!). So I will comment again!

  36. Me: Ph.D., in a staff job I like (but not dream job), means I can live in my hometown (which I do love) and with my hubby (er, ditto). A son, through IVF. I went back to work very happily when DS was 2 months but split my last month of leave over 2 months and only went back 30 hours year 1, so months 3 & 4 were 15 hours/week (i.e. not much).

    (While @Augusta, above, points out that "5.5 month-olds need their mommies, and that moms need to be with their babes," clearly true, I emphatically did not want or need to be with my baby 24/7, nor even every waking hour, and even after substracting work and sleep, there were about 60 hours/week of together time: plenty for me. And available evidence suggests that human babies evolved, on average, by "attaching" to 2-3 caregivers during their first years of life -- say, mom (who typically has between 40% and 75% of the waking hours, depending on the culture and environment, as I recall), plus an aunt or grandmother, plus dad or an uncle. See Sarah Hrdy's "Mothers and Others" book for the data)

    ...At 1 year I went back full time. My DH worked until DS was 3 and then retired (pension clock clicked on). DS is now 6 and in public kindergarten, which where we live is 7 hours/day. We are blessed to have a wonderful grandma in town. Our childcare arrangements have been a blend of juggling our own full-time but flexible schedules (years 0 until 3), grandma care, a SAHP (years 3-present), and 3 different paid childcare settings over the first 5 years (8 hours/day, 2 days/week years 0-3, in-home provider -- her home; 4 hours/day, 4 days/week, year 4, in-home provider -- her home; same in-home provider as year 4, year 5, same arrangement, but just 2 days/week, plus 2 8 hour days at a different and more kindergarten-like setting/week).

    Honestly, for us it's been great, though if anything we probably should have made more use of paid care, at the margins (but of course, it's expensive). DS benefited wonderfully from having contact with other kids and creative, energetic caregivers. By his 3rd birthday we had twice had to leave him on short notice in the care of other people for multiple nights (once to travel to a funeral for an extended family member who lived far out of town, once I had an accident that required inpatient surgery while his dad was out of town), and it was a total non-issue. DS was totally comfortable, totally unphased (as were we). Getting time away from parenting him helps both of us stay energized and focused when we are with him (note that we did not end use of paid childcare when DH left the workforce). There are of course aspects of this that are lumpy; I wish I had less time with him on weekends, and more on weekdays. But so it goes. And I've step-parented teenagers, and let me tell you what, they need you around then too (the idea that one can take time off work "until they go to school," and then focus on work is a total myth, unless perhaps by school we mean ... law school).

    I preferred in-home set ups for DS's early years because we had access to good ones and they provide very high continuity of care (i.e. no staff turnover) and offered us very good adult-kid ratios. But I know many people are more comfortable with more structured institutions and of course there are advantages to those, too.

    It seems like you have good options, and my assumption is that you have the resources and are in a location where you will have access to excellent care providers (of whatever type seems right to you). Even back at work FT, you likely have somewhat more flexibility, and far better PTO, than most people. If you want to be in the workforce, it seems to me very likely you can find ways to make that work well for all involved. And of course if you decide you don't, it is good that that is likely financially feasible. I hope and trust you will navigate this path smoothly and effectively, as you have those that have come before this one.

  37. Dear Mo,

    I understand the dilemma you find yourself in.

    I am also raising a daughter who I have had after a lot of heartache, and I am working full time.

    I went to work when she turned six months old and I was able to find a decent daycare.

    I have never pictured myself as a stay at home mom. And I would have returned to work eventually any ways. Also, I had been on leave without pay for several months before I gave birth, so all I had was only the bankaccount and no running money. DH is doing well, but he was in the midst of a change, and it was a difficult period for us financially. I did not have the option of working from home. I had the option to work for reduced hours, but that would convert my take-home to peanuts as compared to what I was going to make with full-time.

    I chose full time work, and a good daycare, and that's how I cope with work and baby.

    Make your choice. May it serve you well.

  38. I think you are facing one of the hardest decisions right now. I have two MAs and work PT online for pennies while hanging with my boy. Although I never thought I would stay home with my kids, I love it. Love it. For me, I just know I would regret it if I didn't stay home with him. It's such a personal decision though... xxx

  39. It is a tough thing to balance. I have an MBA and quit my job to stay at home. I wouldn't have it any other way. Although I did have some pangs when I got an email last week from an old employer offering me a job. But this is what works best for me and my family. My mother also had a masters degree AND stayed home with us as kids. I never once thought of her as not setting a good example for us by forgoing her career to raise her family. As a matter of fact, I look back on that and am thankful she made the sacrifice for us. I grew up knowing I could do anything I set my mind to regardless of the fact that my mother didn't work outside the home when I was a small child. So I guess it's about perspective. You have to do what works best for YOU and YOUR family. Wishing you and M a smooth transition.

  40. I can´t imagine going to work that early, I´m dreading going to work when my girl is 10 months old. I would like to stay at home for 12 months as with my older girl (then her Dad was at home for 2 months , dad´s get 3 months paternity leave here). Then she was with her grandparents, so I was amazingly lucky with me older girl. This time around I find it difficult to think about going back to work, and dreading it. I have a good education (not a PhD though) and a job that I like, but I really understand where you are coming from. I don´t have the opertunity to work part time and I´m struggling with the idea to go back to work.

  41. You've already received tons of amazing feedback so I feel silly even bothering at this point. Whatever you decide, give it time to see how you truly feel about it. When I went back to work after almost 4 months I was miserable. I hated my job and felt resentment towards everything about it. Then after I settled in to my new routine, I realized I was actually much happier. Being at home made me totally obsessive and anxious over whether my son was eating enough, and that craziness faded away when I had other things to focus on. For me I needed that balance. However, now that I'm trying (and failing) at having another baby, there is no doubt in my mind that I will make whatever sacrifices it takes to go part time should I ever succeed. Good luck with your decision and may you feel at peace with it. There is no one right answer, but you'll know when you have yours.

  42. I totally get how you feel. I am a tenured professor at a top R1 university -- fast track or no track. I, similarly, had the luxury of a long maternity leave. I gradually found that when my daughter hit 5 months, that we both needed more than just each other. I am not trained in early child development, but her teachers are. And they rock. I am really happy with my decision to go back to work full time. I am super fortunate in having a day care situation where I think my daughter truly flourishes, and gets things that I wouldn't know how to do for her as well. The combination of a satisfied, happy mom, and day care teachers she has known for almost all her life and loves, she knows that more than one person can care for her. I also travel a lot for work, and for long periods of time (like 4 weeks). And her daddy takes care of her. And the cool thing is that, despite my fear of bringing all these other people into her life, our mama-baby relationship still trumps them all. We adore each other & are very close. I think this is not in small part because of the balance, and that I find so muh satisfaction with my career that I can be at my absolute best for her when we are together.

    The thinking of being apart, from my experiences, has always been harder than the reality of it.

    Hope this gives you some hope that the full time career can be ideal. I think that it really matters what the career is. Ours are awesome, and nohing like the usual full time work I think are generally considered in polls like the ones you cite.

  43. I am a new reader, first time commenter. I got married right of college, had my first son nine months before completing grad school. I wanted to work - I was beginning a career path. Three years later we had another baby and I completely changed focus if I could have stayed home I would have. I am blessed as I have not undergone infertility I was born with a condition similar to MD. I am confined to a motorized wheelchair.

    I was told (nonetheless by an internship supervisor who read it online) that pregnancy could affect my condition. I didn't feel that the first time, but definately with my second born. So I very much believe that I literally gave him part of me. Not in a bad way, but a good and also sad way. But its made me yearn to spend my days with him, after giving up "so much" that I cannot have again. He is now almost three. He is a total cheese ball and I believe God gave him to me to keep me laughing esp. because some things are harder for me.

    I cannot afford to stay home. Or, if I could, we would forego extras that make us smile. I told my hubby today that I don't want a career path anymore, I've been working for almost five years - so that is not much of career but I'm not interested in advancing, leadership etc. If I could work PT in my profession - social work - I would, or maybe even a diff field using the experiences and professional perspective I have been blessed to have.

    So I know it can't be easy to leave a faculty position. But I think when a kid is your dream, and now you have it, if you want to change your focus you should. Our goals change, our priorities change. It's ok to work FT after having kids, even if you do not do it out of financial necessity, and also ok to not...

    Being a parent is about giving part of your heart to raise another, you need to follow where it takes you.

  44. Thanks for talking about this. This is something I think about ALL THE TIME. And I don't pretend to have the answers, but I will share with you my experience.
    I work in advertising and have freelanced most of my career (5 years in a very, very good agency, 10 years freelancing). I make good money and while we could get by on my husband's salary, what I make really helps...and allows us to do things we wouldn't otherwise be able to do. It's not about more stuff, it's about travel for us and the kids, college accounts for the kids, etc. Also, I promised my husband I would work part-tme after we had kids, and that's been a big factor in how things have worked out...
    My twins are 13 months and I took a 3-month maternity leave and then went back to work. I work from home. And my husband was taking care of the babies when I worked while he was job hunting. And now that he's working, my mother-in-law provides childcare when I'm working.
    So, I really have the absolutely ideal situation...part-time, from home, a caregiver I love and trust, work I like and am good at and am well compensated for.
    I am still hugely conflicted about working at all. Hope that I'm doing the right thing. I worry about it every day.
    And also, I am pulled in so many different directions...trying to be available for work projects, yet trying to be there for my kids. And honestly I probably step away from work too often to spend a little time with the kids so work doesn't get done so I am working nights or weekends to make up for it which drives my husband crazy.
    So even with the best case scenario, it's hard, it's a juggling act.
    Also I'm feeling a little sad about what working part time and not being available to travel any longer means for my career. Essentially it means I will never progress beyond this level. I have an open-ended opportunity/invitation to take a very prestigious job at an agency run by guys I adore and respect, but that means 60 hour weeks and travel and I just can't fathom that.
    So I'm here. And I think it's working, for the most part. But it's still hard and confusing and some days I wish I could stay home and be a full-time mom and some days I feel sad about letting my career aspirations go. But this is the best I can figure it out today.
    Will be interested to read about your experiences. Good luck figuring all this out!

  45. I, too, am a professional with extra schooling, though only an attorney, so not nearly the length of school or prestige of your current position. I, too, struggle with infertility. Although we do not have children, it does weigh on my mind. While it is true that I put forth a lot of effort and finances to get where I am professionally, I am in a profession that would not allow me to pick up where I "left off" were I to quit after maternity leave to be a SAHM. However, emotionally, the road to being a mother has been a much bigger effort in the sense of time, finances, etc., than school & profession ever were or could be. I have decided that should I be blessed enough to be presented with the same difficult decision you are (although as primary bread winner that is not likely to be the case!), I will return to work. I can always quit one day, one week, one month, one year later if I don't feel like I am finding the appropriate balance for our family. Being a full time SAHM will always be waiting for me if that is the right way to go. However, were I to give up work right away and decide later that work was in fact an option, work would not be waiting for me. In other words, you lose nothing(other than time with your sweet girl) and doors are not closed by giving a return to work a test run. The same cannot be said with the converse situation.

  46. I have followed your blog for years now-- mostly because our stories are very similar! I had my daughter in November after IVF.

    My career had always been a huge priority in my life. I worked long hours for close to 10 years before getting pregnant. Up until the week I had my daughter (she came a week late), I was working full time, giving 100% to my job.

    I always assumed I would work part time after we had kids. Part time positions are available in my field because there is a huge shortage of skilled workers. I thought that would work for my benefit.

    I don't know what happened when my daughter was born but suddenly I could care less about a job I gave everything to for almost a decade. It's almost like my daughter filled a piece of me that I never knew was empty and I get so much more enjoyment and pleasure from being with her than I ever got from my job. I also have the flexibility to know that if I ever wanted to go back part time, something (not the particular position or salary, obviously) would be available.

    My heart is so much fuller knowing I am giving my daughter and our family 100% of my attention. It's better for my family too. With both my husband and me in demanding careers, we rarely had dinner together and often passed each other in the evenings exhausted after stressful days. Now I'm cooking dinner, going to the park, attending baby yoga. It's amazing how the days go by even faster than they did when I was working.

    Certainly I have given up a lot by deciding to stay home... I have most likely peaked in my career. But at the end of the day, I am totally okay with that because I have a sweet girl that I am able to spend my days with.

    Also, life changes in the blink of an eye. I never want to wish I spent more time with her or have her think she wasn't my #1 priority if something were to happen to me.

    When I was trying to decide what to do, my father in law mentioned that my daughter would vote for me to stay home if she had a vote. We all kind of laughed it off being that she was only a couple weeks old. But the more I thought about it, her vote is the most important and she would surely want her mom to be with her over another form of childcare if me being home was an option.

    There is a right answer for everyone and you will find yours... I'm not sure if infertility and other life events (losing my dad after a short battle with cancer in my mid 20s) made me want to hold on tight to the precious, simple moments in life... but I know, for right now, being home with her is the right answer and I'm confident when I'm ready to go back to work, the right job will be there waiting for me.

    All the best and thanks so much for sharing so openly on your blog. I just love your posts-- they are so heartfelt and sincere. Please keep posting!

  47. You know, I wonder why, in this day and age, there are not more options for people to be flexible about their work schedules. Maybe if everyone just went back to working 40 hours a week, the powers that be would have to hire more people, there would be less un- and under-employment, and we would all be happier.
    People talk about "leaning in," but "leaning in" to a world that is essentially patriarchal and kind of broken in the first place seems wrong-headed to me. What we need is revolutionary change, women standing up and saying, no, I'm not less of an employee just because I'm not a workaholic. There is room for us to be creative about work-life balance, for everyone, not just mothers.
    Anyway, I think you should think long and hard about what you really want and then just ask for it. Men get what they want because they know their worth and bargain for it. Women have to do the same, not only for ourselves, but for our daughters' future selves, too.

  48. So interesting to read all the comments! All I can say is that I've tried all options and full time wasn't so great for us only because at that time (in elementary school) none of my daughter's friends were also in after-care till 6:00. If that had been different I think it would have been easier, but she was just so sad and lonely at the end of the day.

    Now I work part-time and often from home (with a three year old boy in half-day preschool plus a "manny", which is awesome) and it's great for all of us.My husband isn't able to pick up any slack, so it was really hard to coordinate two kids with totally separate schedules. The commenter who brought up possible siblings has an excellent point - if you can combine trips and childcare options for more than one kid it is a million times easier than different everything!

  49. I read a couple of the comments and I will say, very interesting.

    In my experience, the grass is always greener on the other side. I didn't find a day-care I felt comfortable with when I went back to work and I was leaning towards staying home. I worked FT for 2 months then quit. I worked PT in my old job for 4 months and then got offered another PT job and have been there ever since...

    Having worked with academics in your situation, I can understand how hard your choice is and seems. Some people adjust and it works, others decide staying home is more important. Others choose to take a break and will go back at a lesser school, salary, etc. You will make the best choice for you at the time, but I will caution, at least in my case, it doesn't mean I don't second guess it all the time.


  50. It is So hard to make this decision. I found a book called Good Enough is the New Perfect to be very helpful. I am fortunate that I was able to negotiate cutting my hours down to 30 per week when my daughter started kindergarten this year. I took a 25% pay cut along with the cut in hours, but I would not trade it for the world. So, I suggest you look for creative ways to work less. Determine what parts of home life and work life are most important and find a way to get those big items and you might find that what seemed like a good enough solution is really a perfect solution. Hence the title of the book. For me it has proven to be true. I wanted to stay home full time, I couldn't afford it. I decided at least being able to be home with my daughter when she gets out of school each day would be better and really, I find it is a perfect solution.
    Good luck!
    Melissa in Durham

  51. Oh my...this is a tough one. I am one of the most fortunate American women who got a very long Maternity leave with my first baby (9 months....and pretty much paid partially for most of it). I also worked hard to earn my place in my company...I worked for a very large Tech co out in CA and they had a GREAT attitude toward working moms and time off. I was then able to go back to work at 30 hours a week. It was a really great situation, I felt like I was staying current in my field but also getting adequate time with my child (also after a fertility battle)...and then we decided to go for a 2nd child, and at that time my division was sold to another company and I was rudely awakened by their lack of flexibility and benefits to working moms. Luckily I am in CA...we have a few more options than some states....but I was forced to go full time at 7 months pregnant or lose all my medical and vacation time...and then I was only given 12 weeks (the minimum job protection in CA) after baby was born. due to my C-section and a lot of saved up vacation time...I managed to push that to about 18 weeks off...but then I HAD to go back or I was fired. It SUCKED...and it was soooo hard to be full time. I just felt like Monday thru Friday I only saw my kids for a few rushed moments in the morning and then the 2-3 hours in the evening where we had to squeeze in meals, baths and preparations for the following day. REally...I was exhausted and sad, and angry and really overall just feeling like my kids were being robbed! It did get better, but quitting was not an option for me (me and my hubby pretty much make the same money and giving up 50% of our household income was not an option). It was at that time that I made the vow to pretty much keep my career stable and we would push and make sacrifices for my husband to further his. We are now (2 1/2 year later) getting closer to me being able to either go part time somewhere else or quit all together. Our oldest starts Kinder in August and the goal is that I will be the one greeting them at the bus by the time our youngest is in Kinder. I will never get the time back from their infancy....but we did find ways to balance it out and it is working for us...but we know that once the kids want to do sports or dancing .... we will be limited if they are in daycare every day instead of home with me.

    I feel for you this coming week. Hang in takes awhile to adjust...but you do...and you find ways to make the time you are together very quality...but it takes practice and time.

  52. Hi Mo

    Thanks for raising this important issue.

    I'm a clinical psychologist and I was fortunate enough to be able to go back part-time after DD was born. This arrangement has worked well for me, even though it isn't my "dream" job. Having said that, the work keeps my knowledge and skills current and I generally enjoy it. I figure that I have about 30+years of work ahead of me, so there is plenty of time to pursue more rewarding work in the future.

    Ultimately I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. What is right for your family may be very different to what is right for another family.

    You're in a great position where you have choice. You can choose to go back to work. If it doesn't work out, you can choose to change jobs or you can possibly choose to stop work for a while.

    I guess it's a matter of taking that step into the unknown and seeing how it works out for you, Will and Magpie. Then trust in your own instincts - that you will be able to figure it out depending on how all members of your family adjust.

    Keep us updated with how you get on.


  53. I went back at 8 weeks & am working full time. My baby just turned 8 months and it's been really rough on me but he loves his daycare.

    My 2 sisters left their careers to stay at home and 20 years later, they were lost, suffering empty nest syndrome and both were completely codependent with their children.

    For now, I will get up and go get the bread until I can do otherwise.

    I am so grateful for the generations of women before us who struggled and fought so we could have this dilemma and struggle today.

    The way I make peace with myself is I would gladly work full time to be a mother than not have the chance of being a mother at all.

    Mo, I am so happy you became a mother after your long hard journey. No matter what you decide, I'm so glad you got here. :)

  54. Thanks for this thought-provoking post Mo. I'll toss my PhD out onto the pile and say that this topic really speaks to me (loudly) as well. Looking forward to hearing more insightful thoughts as you puzzle through this time. I think for me it used to be just my job that competed for my time (mainly). Now my son has become a strong competitor - and there are still the same number of hours in each day!

  55. I didn't have a choice - was a single mom by adoption (OK, the adoption was a choice!). But was fortunate to find a really good sitter who just had her child plus mine. Just seems to me that for infants, a nanny or very small setting would be best. Day care, even the good ones, mean less attention and more exposure to germs. Once Magpie is two or three (so cool picturing that!), a preschool setting can be really good - a bigger variety of experiences than you can provide at home, and learning to interact, share, etc. Just some thoughts - seeing lots of good advice in these comments - lots of caring moms!

  56. I also have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. I have only been employed as a clinician, having worked in institutions, opened my own practice, and then working part time as a consultant doing criminal forensic evaluations. I did the consulting work for about 3.5 years after my first daughter was born, and it was fine for me because it was VERY part time (only one or two evaluations per month usually), so I never had to put my children in daycare. After my third daughter was born, I just didn't want to work anymore. I hated being away from my kids even as much as I was.

    I am so happy with my decision, though I struggled with a lot of guilt at first because of my beliefs that I "should" be working. I never worried that I would not set a good example for my daughters by not being a working woman (I just don't agree with that idea), but there was plenty of other guilt there, such as feeling that I had worked so hard for my degree only to waste it, and feeling strange to not be gainfully employed (or in school) for the first time in my adult life.

    But I quickly got over it. Guilt is such a waste of energy! Staying at home full time was the choice that was best for me and my family and I don't regret it one bit. I'm sure you will find the solution that is right for you too. Good luck!

  57. Best of luck with your decision - it's so hard. Know that there is no one right decision - and nothing is irreversible. Some decisions are harder to reverse than others, but nothing has to be permanent. You'll do what's right for you. And the rest of us, we need to keep the pressure on businesses to come up with better options for women who want meaningful work, but not necessarily 40+ hours of it.

  58. I think your approach to try it for a few months and give yourself some time to adjust is a good one. Something I have come to realize in the past 10 years or so is that very few things are permanent, and that if you want to change something, go for it, because if it doesn't work out exactly the way you had hoped, then you can try something else to see if that works better for you.

    In my own situation, right now I work full time because quitting is not an option. However, I like to have options, so we are in the process of trying to downsize to a smaller house. I still won't be able to stay home right away, but hopefully within 2-3 years. Even if all of that does work out, we'll still keep Miss A in day care for a couple days a week, because I think the interaction with other kids is really good for her. But that's just what works for us - for others, a totally different approach might be what's best. (And, from the sounds of it, you enjoy your work a lot more than I enjoy mine, which I'm sure helps. :-) )

  59. I am a university professor in a physical science field at a big public university in the US, and I also have 3 kids. I had my first in grad school, went back to classes the next academic year (he was born in March), with the other two I was working and they started daycare at about 4 months each. They are all thriving, they are smart, affectionate, and very social, they love their schools and their friends. Being able to pay for quality childcare is a wonderful thing; kids love the company of other kids, and there are plenty of wonderful skills they pick up in daycare. The first year in daycare is brutal as they get sick a lot, but afterwards their immunity is great.

    I grew up in a country where all women work, and if you don't people feel sorry for your husband. My mother and aunt worked; my maternal grandmother never did, as was common in that generation and she only had elementary school, and she never stopped saying how important it is to be able to earn your own money and not depend on anyone, as she hated being dependent on my grandfather who was a nice guy without a sliver of ambition; she on the other had was a firecracker and would have gone really far had she been allowed to. So I grew up in an environment where there was absolutely no guilt associated with a mother working because they all do, and no one thinks you are ruining your children by sending them to daycare. As a result, I don't feel any guilt about working at all. It is necessary for my sanity, my income is the dominant one in the family, and, like you, this is not a job you can do part-time or get back to after you leave.

    As I realized with my first kid, 4-5 months alone at home with the baby is my absolute maximum. After that time, I go batshit crazy with isolation and lack of mental stimulation, and absolutely have to go to work. If you enjoy your work, go back. Magpie will do great in the high quality daycare that you can afford on two good incomes.

  60. I have 3 kids and whilst I've only recently started unschooling, like many moms, I struggled to work. I tried, but missed my kids too much. I also find that I love to work and keep active.

    Over the years I have been unschooling myself. Trying different things out 'work' wise and seeing what works for me.

    I currently have a business that works around my needs. I feel professionally challenged and if I do ever need to write up a CV I can easily fill in the gaps with things I have done.

  61. I trained as a teacher and had my first child shortly afterwards - I home educate them and the oldest is now 17 and youngest 11. I worked very p/t for the first few years and then doing some home tuition. I will never regret my decision to give up my career to be home with them - but i wish that as they grow up i could start up my career again but as i will be 50 by the time the last one leaves home i think it is too late.

  62. I love to see so many educated women commenting! I have my Ph.D. and my sister has her M.D. and we are both stay at home moms and we do catch heat from family and friends as to why we would throw away all that education and money. It wasn't an easy decision for either one of us, in fact gut-retching. She doesn't work outside the home and has zero opportunity to get back into the workforce. I have worked part-time with very minimal hours (about 10). My DD is 9 and my long awaited IVF DS is 3. I hope to work more hours in the future but not until he is in kindergarten.
    We have taken a hit financially and I don't know that I'll ever recover my career and I look at my colleagues with great envy as we graduated at the same time and they are doing wonderful things with their degrees while their kids are in daycare/childcare. I don't know if I made the right choice or what the outcome will be but I know my kids are happy that I'm home with them and I wouldn't change it at the moment. When the time comes we will all be ready for the transition - I hope.
    You'll do the right thing for your family and Magpie with thrive, one day at a time!


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