Wednesday, 21 March 2012

I'll Be Your Baby And I'll Take Care Of You

His shirt says heartbreaker and he is. He has big blue eyes and a plucky grin and just a hint of a dimple in each of his big round cheeks. He is growing so quickly.

Before Grady was born, I couldn't imagine wanting to stay home with a baby. My job was a huge part of my identity and I couldn't imagine giving it up. Now I'm trying to figure out how to do just that. How can I afford to give up my (stressful albeit) high-paying job? We live in a city where you can't buy a house for less than half a million dollars. We have a mortgage and bills and life is expensive.

I'm lucky. I know I am. I'm not going to complain about my job situation. I'm lucky to have my job. I'm lucky to live in Canada where 52 weeks of maternity / parental leave is the norm. I'm lucky that Canada allows either the mother or the mother's partner to take parental leave. I'm lucky to have a spouse who is as invested in raising our child as I am.

But it's hard. Two days a week I drag my tired ass out of bed (Sir is teething. There is no sleep.) and I try to nurse my sleeping baby without waking him. I kiss the top of his head and I leave him snuggled up and cozy in bed. I spend 20 minutes pumping breastmilk in the office bathroom, three times a day (breastmilk that my child refuses to drink out of a bottle or cup. Breastmilk that would be going to waste if I wasn't lucky enough to live in a city with a breastmilk bank.) Shawn drives Grady to my office (30 minutes each way) at lunch so I can give him a nice long feed. I endure snarky comments about spoiling my baby, judgments from non-parents and parents alike, and offensive remarks like the one about my son growing up with a breast fetish because I don't force him to drink from a bottle.

The other three days a week are difficult in their own way but are made much more easy because of my close proximity to sir. I sit on the floor of the nursery with my laptop on the floor beside the activity centre. I try to schedule my phone calls around Grady's nap so I don't have a giggly baby in one ear and a phone stuck to the other ear.

This two days in the office and three days at home work schedule is working. It's hard at times but Shawn and I are committed to making it work. We've almost worked out the kinks, just in time for everything to change again. We have four more weeks of this - tops - before I have to make a serious decision about being back in the office full-time or officially cutting back to part-time work (and a part-time salary.)

Shawn is currently on parental leave. Now, please believe me when I say I'm not complaining about Canada's maternity / parental leave system. I know that we're lucky. But our system doesn't allow for him to work part-time while on leave. Or rather, it does allow for him to work but whatever he earns is deducted from his benefits dollar for dollar. The way the system is set up discourages people from working part-time while on leave. I'm making a basic statement on what is a complicated situation but that's essentially what it boils down to. If I reduce my hours (and pay) to part-time, Shawn cannot work part-time while receiving benefits. Our benefits expire at the end of June. It doesn't make sense to forfeit those benefits (another quirk of our system is that all maternity / parental benefits must be claimed before the child's first birthday.)

So we're trying to come up with a plan.

On paper it seems logical for me to go back to work full-time. I have a higher salary than Shawn and my job is much more secure than his. But logic isn't dictating this decision. Logic flies out the window when I think of spending ten hours a day, five days a week away from this face:

We're trying. We're fumbling our way through, trying to decide what's best for our little family. We just want to be happy but somewhere along the way things have become very complicated.


  1. I went back to work 3 days a week when Jane was 12 weeks old (standard U.S. maternity leave) and was so tired with just that amount.

    When she was 6 mos. my boss said he wanted me back full time. I was relieved they didn't allow me to stay on 3 days/wk. because I would've felt like I had to stay there for the money.

    We are very broke now, but it is worth it. They're only little once, you can get another high paying job when he starts school.

  2. I've been working full time since Meredith was 2 months old. With my commute I'm gone 11-12 hours a day. I have a fantastic job, but somehow that doesn't matter anymore. I wish more than anything that I could work part time, but we can't afford it. Sucks bigtime.

  3. The balancing act is so difficult. No matter how good the maternity/parental leave is, it's still hard! In Australia, the government provides 18 weeks at minimal wage, but more than often a workplace will top that up to your normal way for at least some of the time. Sadly for me, you need to have been in a job for at least a year to get the extra money, which I hadn't been when I went on leave to have Asher. I had 10 weeks at home with my love, and I'm not complaining at all, because essentially going back was my decision as I wanted to keep this job. But boy is it hard, even with Tom at home for the first 6 weeks I was back at work. Since then we've both been working full time, but I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where I have 18 weeks holiday a year. In between, Ash is in daycare 2 days (trying to get a 3rd) and with our respective parents one day each. We juggle the 5th day.... somehow.

    Like you, I'm not sobbing about our situation, but saying that I understand how HARD the juggling of work, life and love can be. Hopefully you come up with a solution that makes you happy, this is the most important thing to remember - Grady will be happy and loved so much no matter what you do.

  4. clearly i can't really relate to your situation but it sounds like you and shawn are being the best parents you can and working as hard as you can for everything to work and i applaud you for that. i mean, seriously, you two are rock stars.

    also, grady. those cheeks. that smile. i mean watch out, the ladies will be all over that cuteness, haha.

  5. I don't know if it helpful to you, but my baby (a week or so younger than Grady) stopped taking a bottle the second he started solids. My daycare provider just mixes a ton of breast milk into his solids for the day. He also wakes up a few times a night to eat, but I don't begrudge him that since he doesn't get enough during the day.
    Feeling your pain with the work situation. I work full time and cry a lot on my way to work or in the lactation room.

  6. I know that we talked about this on the weekend, but we didn't have enough time to delve into it.

    I know exactly how you feel and I'm all teary as I sit here reading your struggle.

    Big hugs. And big smooshes to that sweet baby of yours.

    (His girlfriend Emily says HI.)

  7. As a mother of 3 I can relate to these big decisions. I have 3 kids 6,4, and 20 months. These last 6 years have whizzed by. They are only small for such a short period of time. I understand that you need to do what is best for you and your family but if you can swing part time, I think that could be a good balance. Take care and good luck.

  8. While my fiance and I don't have children yet, we are already having conversations about what we're going to do about my job situation when the time comes. Since our wedding is only 6 months away, and we don't plan on waiting long after to try, this is something we need to figure out.

    I already have the desire to be able to stay at home with my baby, and I don't even have one I can only imagine that struggle that you're going through in trying to make it work.

    Whatever happens, I'm sure you and your husband will make the best decision for your family. Good luck!

    Also. Your baby? Is one of the cutest babies I've ever seen.

  9. Ugh. This struggle. I know it well and it has been ongoing for me.

    Whatever you guys decide, it will be the best decision and life will fall into place around it. Just know that.

  10. That sounds so hard and complicated and frustrating. I hope you guys can find a workable solution. Thinking of you.

  11. Ugh... facing the same dilemma ourselves, after #2 comes this fall. I *always* said I'd never want to be a SAHM, but I now hate the job I loved and ache for my baby all day. Hoping to do PT (at a different employer) after mat leave from this next bambino, but we shall see.

    Thanks, Hillary, for your honesty and transparency. You are one cool gal and a great mama!


  12. While I don't have any kids (as you know), this is something I am quite worried about if and when we do have a child. I know I'll never be able to stop working because I'm the one who has the higher paying job and the reality is Matt will never be able to catch up salary wise to me. (He's a high school teacher and you might already know they don't like paying teachers much at all in the US.)

    At the same time, I'll want to stay with my kid as much as possible, but with the way maternity leave is in this country (uh, horrid much?) and the fact that I'll be the main bread winner, I don't think I have much of an option.

    You two are such awesome parents and I know you'll be able to figure it all out.


  13. You, my friend, are not alone. I mean, sure the details are all yours. But, ALL parents are forced to make decisions that are best for their families. And most of the time, there is a lot of emotion and sometimes even hysteria involved. No matter what you decide, you will continue to be judged by parents and non-parents alike (get used to telling them to mind their own effing business). And you will continue to balance logic with the absolutely absurd when making decisions. Oh, and one other thing, you will continue to have one of the cutest little boys I have ever seen. Just remember, no matter what you decide, it's based on your current truths. And when those truths change, your family might be faced with a new set of decisions. But, don't ever regret the decisions you're making today. You're making them because you love your family more than you ever thought you could. And yes, I say this with limited experience of my own. =)

  14. "offensive remarks like the one about my son growing up with a breast fetish"
    People are stupid.
    I haven't met a straight man who didn't love boobs. Breast fed or not.

    Smack them upside the head next time.