Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Maternity leave and beyond

I think it might be the uncertainty of it all: the fact that life has changed completely as I know it and I don't know what happens next. And the lack of sleep doesn't help.

Maternity leave has not been easy for me. Before Annie arrived, I had a job that I usually liked, a lot of structure in my life, and I knew who I was. I spent my days doing things at work, such as going to court, filling out applications, talking to clients, answering phone calls and e-mails relating to work, interacting with co-workers and other lawyers, and spending a lot of time in downtown Boston. The structure of my life was constructed externally - my days were filled with deadlines and appointments. On the weekends, I got to rest, hang out with Jim, run errands, have dinner with friends. My goal in life was to change the world, even in a small way; to make life better for other people. I felt that I really could do this in my profession, and that in a lot of ways, I already had.

All of that went away quite suddenly. One day, I was working and going to court, and the next day I had a baby. Sure, I had about 8 months to prepare, but I thought I had another month left. Maybe I never would have felt prepared, even if Annie hadn't come so suddenly.

My coworkers and bosses stepped in and covered all my hearings, deadlines, etc. that I had left at work. I had made a case status list and they were able to pick things up fairly easily, I think. But, of course, now they've assumed control of my cases and they don't need me any more. From the looks of it, I will not have a job there in September, when I had hoped to return to work. The economy has hit our firm very badly, and they already had lay-offs earlier this year. They even cut everyone's hours back by a day starting at the beginning of the year. I find it unfair that they
have chosen to bring back some of the paralegals full-time, but are likely going to lay me off. I should be allowed to have a maternity leave without fearing that I'm putting my job in jeopardy by taking one, especially since I was bringing in more than enough revenue to cover my income and other overhead. But the truth is that they don't have any money, and I'm an easy person to lay off since they've already adjusted to my absence.

I am applying for other jobs, but all of this, coupled with motherhood, have left a lot of questions open. Who am I? Where do I belong in this world? What is important in life? I'm not used to being at home, controlling my own schedule. Sure, we all fantasize about having more free time, but now that I have some free time, I'm often at a loss for what to do with it.

For many years, I have loved living in Boston. Lately, I have been so homesick for Buffalo and family. I'm sad that Annie will never really get to know them beyond rushed visits a few times a year. I'm overwhelmed that Jim and I will be completely and solely responsible for parenting Annie, with very little input from our families.

My goal in life, to make life better for other people, remains the same, except there's a second goal too: to make sure my daughter has the best life possible. Sometimes I worry that these two goals are in conflict. If I have a job (and who knows - maybe something will work out in September), I have to put her in day care. We have found a great day care, but it is going to hurt to have to leave her there. On the other hand, I don't think she will have the best life possible if I stay at home with her all the time. I suppose that eventually I would get better at creating structure to my days, but I'm really not very good at it, and I'm sad a lot of the time. I think Annie needs a mom who is happy and involved with the world. I feel that a good role model is one who fights to meet my first goal, to make life better for other people. I want to be that role model.

The question now, of course, is what the future holds for me. Will I have a job in September? Will I be getting more sleep then, enabling me to think more clearly than I am right now? Will life ever feel "normal" again? Will I ever resolve the conflict between wanting to be close to family and wanting to live in a great city, have a great career, and have a life for myself that is of my own making and not dependent on family?

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