Torn Between Career and Child… Already

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There’s something about feeling secure in your job and responsibilities that makes you feel confidant, and good about yourself. Knowing I’m going to be stepping away from that for 12 weeks sometimes scares the living daylights out of me. I’ve been working a lot, and posting a little less, this should explain some.

I shared that today on my Project Pregnancy blog on

It was after midnight. My last coworker left the building over an hour before, I was alone and tired. Exhausted from finishing my regular shift, and on to other tasks… Tasks that go beyond my normal daily duties. Tasks I hope will secure my job when I return from maternity leave.

I’m not worried about having A job. I have a contract, and there are these things called “laws” which protect women who have children from loosing their jobs for that reason alone, but those laws don’t necessarily guarantee you the same duties and responsibilities.

My late nights aren’t a rarity right now. It’s the only thing I know to do to better my odds at keeping the same assignments I adore.

I’ve been in my career for about six years. I loved my job as a journalist and have been enriched by the people I’ve encountered in the process of sharing their stories over the years. It wasn’t until recently that I fell into what feels like a perfect combination of roles. No day feels monotonous because nearly every day I’m wearing a different hat and working on an important project. Whether it be covering an important education meeting, helping a foster child to get adopted, or delivering the news, I’m responsible for specific areas of interest and I LOVE it. I can honestly say I love my job. But the more you love something, the harder it is to loose.

Before a woman goes on maternity leave you hear whispering and questions: “How long is she going to be gone?” “Do you think she’ll come back?” It seems as though it’s no secret some women can’t bear the thought of returning to work after setting eyes on this new beautiful being they’ve created. I’ve seen it, and I’ve heard about it countless times. “I just knew I couldn’t leave her,” women have told me, recounting their experiences before they decided to trade in their brief case for diaper bags.

I’ve always known my situation would be different. I’m not in the position, not now, to retire early from my career to raise my child from home. And I’m ok with that. Luckily my husband and I won’t need to use daycare facilities and we have our childcare situation figured out already… Him. But stay at home dads is a whole nother topic which I’ll delve into later.

In the weeks leading up to my temporary departure from work I find myself in a constant panic. What is she comes early and I’m not ready? Oh I’m ready when it comes to things at home. The crib is up, diapers are on standby. We have the necessities we need and the excitement, confidence, courage and faith to raise a new baby. The fear lies with securing the job I love.

There’s a special segment I produce weekly, and I’ll continue to work on until I leave. When the question arose if I’d still be doing it when I got back I didn’t know how to answer. Of course I want to, it’s quite possibly the best part of my job. I know I’m doing a good job, but would they remember the good job I’ve done after 12 weeks of my absence? I couldn’t take a chance.

So I’ve been putting in overtime to produce 12 extra segments before my momentary migration. Twelve segments to fill the 12 weeks I’m gone.

I thought that would be where my work-obsessed antics ceased but unfortunately it’s not.

Months ago I proposed an in-depth report on a topic I’ve been very passionate about. I was recently informed I could pursue it myself… Pending maternity leave. Those three words crushed me. It was like a giant asterisk beside my name screaming “MAYBE.” Yea, well, maybe isn’t good enough. I want to do it, I can’t pass it on to someone else.

I counted backwards from the day they want it to air to my due date then forward 12 weeks. It’s cutting it close. And now I’m finding myself considering something I never saw my self deliberating… Cutting my FMLA time short. All so I can have my cake and eat it too… Or so I think.

Would 10 weeks instead of 12 really make a big difference? It doesn’t seem like it now but I have a feeling I’ll think quite differently in about a month. Is this already happening to me? Already I’m being faced with difficult work-family decisions yanking me between career accomplishments and family. The answer may seem much more simple than it is. I know this now, but I also know I’ve only gotten a taste for what’s to come. Soon, I’ll be feasting in this unobtainable balance.

So will the dangling carrot get me back to work sooner than I had hoped? I don’t know. Luckily that’s not a decision I have to make today. I’m going to wait until I’ve met my daughter and get to know her a little better.

Until then, I’ll be working on racing the clock to secure other elements of my job I want to keep, even if that means working past midnight a couple days a week.

This post was originally written for my blog, you can read more of my stories and motherhood debates here.

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  1. I know how you feel & I’m not even pregnant yet! At my job we get 6 weeks unpaid leave (Love working in a mans world…) – we can take up to 6 months with a promise of our job back but if you want to be paid? Well…you’re SOL!

    I plan on taking the 6 weeks and coming back ASAP – I cannot afford to take more time off and I carry our insurance so there is no way I can become a SAHM. And like you, I LOVE my job and have worked to get where I am. I have no plans on just handing it over.

    So until then…I worry over being a good mom and a good employee. Will one give or will I find a balance everyone is happy with?

  2. Awww…I’m sure that you will find the right balance after Spawnie is born. I just hope that you aren’t wearing yourself thin too soon. Your passion for journalism really shows here on your blog. Sometimes, God throws wrenches in our situations to get us to see the bigger picture or a better opportunity. Just do your best and see how things go after your delivery. If you want to go back to work early then go. If not, don’t.

    You can always find another media to cover the special project you are so torn between.

  3. I recently discovered your blog, and I’ve enjoyed following your journey to Spawnie’s arrival.

    I’m an attorney, which equals mega Type A personality, driven, etc. I took an extended maternity leave…18 weeks paid, 12 weeks unpaid. I, too, wondered if I’d be forgotten while away. After 6 months away, I wasn’t forgotten at all. I suspect that your situation will be the same, even with 12 weeks away. I know it seems like a lot of time now, but trust me, it will FLY by! Although you are chomping at the bit for the new assignment, you are about to begin the greatest “assignment” of your life and nothing will compare. Nothing. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t still strive for the “sexy work” and seek career satisfaction and upward mobility, but those things will come time and time again, although it may not seem like it now. Ultimately, you’ll know what’s right for your family and you. Don’t make any big decisions for a couple weeks after having Spawnie. You’ll know, in your heart, what you should do then.

    One of my colleagues did something unique with her maternity leave. You might consider it, too, if your employer will allow it. She took the last 4 weeks (or so) of her maternity leave and came back early but on a part-time basis (i.e., she spread 160 hours(ish) of “leave” over about a 2 month period) She said it was the best of both worlds for her.

    Good luck with your decision!

  4. I am SO glad to have read this post today… since I teach school and we are off for the summer, I am not planning on taking maternity leave. Unfortunately, our baby is due exactly one month from the day school will be starting, so depending on when he comes, I will most likely only have 4 weeks before I go back into work and Drew plays stay at home dad during the day, then when I come home at 3, he can continue to work for BYU athletics (since most events occur at night). I guess what I am trying to say is that I have gotten a lot of the whispered “is she REALLY coming back next year?” and am completely torn between a job I love to death and a child I have yet to meet but am sure I will love even more. So thanks for this post… I really needed to hear someone else who was experiencing such a sticky situation that not many people talk openly about because it is so controversial.

  5. Oh, I know what you mean! As a nurse, the anxiety of whether or not my exact position will still be there waiting has weighed heavily on me as well. I have seen other nurses leave – for other reasons covered by FMLA – and come back to a position, but not necessarily the one they left. Most often, they end up back on night shift in a staff position, even though they may have been the day shift charge nurse for the last 8-10 years. The anxiety of the very real possibility that I may be forced back to night shift after maternity leave is a huge stressor for me, and one I am trying my best not to think about right now. If it means leaving the ICU – where I flourished best over the last 12 years – and picking a totally different career path in the nursing world to avoid night shift I will do it. But it scares the living daylights out of me, and I am NOT happy about it. At least, you have a way to ensure your current position is still open and available when you return! Good luck!

  6. A former colleague of mine at one of my old stations was told halfway into her maternity leave that she could have a promotion… if she came back early. Crappy, eh? She did, of course, and is still resentful. Do your best to make it work. I say shoot some look lives just in case so you can come in with the baby and write if you have to, but I say enjoy the time you have with your new little one. You won’t get it back, and before you know it you’ll be back to the grind.


  7. I am a SAHM but when I was working I had a coworker leave on Maternity. She said she was coming back early so on and so on. Long story short – she never came back to work. She even came in after only 4weeks being off to show off her daughter, check her email, and talk to some people. Its like some of the other comments made here – you hafta wait and see. There really is no way to describe how different your life will be. Almost immediately you are gonna change. Physically, emotionally, socially – all that jazz will be completely different. Someone said this to me before I gave birth and I never believed it until I saw my monkey man.

    And this will all change because you are gonna lay eyes on your beautiful little life changer. Wait and see…and by the way wait at least like 6 weeks before you make a decision. They say thats how long it takes for your emotions to get back to normal – but I think they stay permanently wacky :o).

  8. I wish I could of been a SAHM. It was a toss up when to have this baby. Between my age and my husbands lack of career, we made the choice to start our family now before I could be a SAHM. My hubby being young and without having a career to fall back on still worries about the idea of me being a SAHM for baby #2. I would not plan to be one forever but at least until both kids are in school then work part time so I can still drop them off and pick them up from school. I would also like to go back to school myself. But since hubby will be going soon I have to wait. I was never career driven so the choice is not a hard one. However my budget reminds me that I have no choice I have to work.
    Hubby was supposed to be the stay at home dad since I had the full time job. However with a pick up in hours from work and choice to go back to school, we have needed to make other arrangements. Which now has my mother moving in with us because we cannot afford daycare. Which might be good for daddy cause not sure he was ready for being a SAHD. lol.

    Either way I think all will work out.

  9. The work/family planning factor is an issue for us too. I work two late nights (until 10 pm) twice per week. My husband works a normal 9 – 5, but sometimes he has to work out of town for several days. The last time it happened I turned to him and said, who would pick up the baby tonight if we had one?? I’m thinking of asking for a lateral transfer to a unit that might be more conducive to being able pick up from day care. You are so blessed that your husband can stay with Miss. J.

  10. I am the total opposite of you, although I would love to “Love” my work, I detest it actually. The only reason I’m going back is because I must. It’s a means to an end. However, becoming a mother of a now 8 week old little girl has made me realize my life’s bigger purpose; being a great mother! Everything else is small potatoes.

  11. I can understand your dilemma. You love your job, and want the best of both worlds. I worked part time for awhile after having my first child, and now I am a stay at home mom.

    If it is at all financially possible, I would encourage you to stay at home with your baby. Your baby will only be a baby once, and you don’t want to miss out on it.

    Your career will be there. Another great option is to work from home as a freelance writer. Maybe you could talk with your boss about working from home at least 2 or 3 days a week.

    In the end, being a great mother is more important than being a great journalist. Instead of trying to fit your baby into your work schedule, maybe you should think about fitting your career into your baby’s schedule, at least for a year or so.

    I doubt that you would have any regrets.

  12. I don’t usually watch the local news, but about six weeks ago my husband had to take a nice, unscheduled, middle-of-the-night trip to the emergency room, and as we flipped through the channels, I saw you! And then they looped you all night long 🙂

  13. Great Post! I’m an attorney and am currently on maternity leave. I originally wanted to take 6 months only to return to work and ‘not be forgotten’ like you say. June 01 would be the end of my 6 months. I told them I’d take the full year. The time goes by VERY fast when at home with the baby. I understand wanting to go back as soon as you can, especially when you love your job so much, but if you don’t have to commit to anything right now, don’t. Just wait and see and like an above commenter said, take a few weeks with Spawnie to focus on her, you and your husband. Everything else will become clear after that and it will all work out.

    You’re going to be such a great mom!

  14. oh! Before I forget, have you decided if you are going to be breastfeeding/pumping or formula feeding? I have some friends that have offered me advice on pumps to buy, but they are all stay at home moms, so they don’t primarily rely on pumping. You always do a ton of research on all things baby, so maybe you could recommend a pump?

  15. Mrs D –

    I am planning on breastfeeding, and then when I am at work part-time, I will be pumping for my little girl. I purchased the Medela Pump-in-Style w/ backpack. Medela is probably the most recommended by healthcare professionals and mom’s alike. I researched pumps for several months, before deciding on a Medela. I actually purchased mine brand new, unopened off of eBay for $100 LESS than the price at Target! It is undamaged and under warranty… It comes with a self-contaied cooler bag with extra bottles and freezable ice pack that keeps breast milk cold for up to 12 hours. A lot of my nurse friends that also pump have used the Medela models and love them. I love it and can’t wait to use it!

  16. Jennifer, I’ve got 10 weeks to go, and I feel you, girl. Everyone in my office in the past three years who has gone on maternity leave has come back part-time (3 or 4 days) or eventually quit. I waited until I was almost 5 months pregs to tell work because I was so paranoid that everyone would expect me to come back part-time too, and that’s not something I want to do. I’m smart enough to know that I don’t know how I’ll feel once I have the baby, but I strongly dislike people using that as a reason to assume I won’t want to work full-time. I have an amazing partner, and I’ve worked hard to get to where I am today. I think it’s so important for my child to see it’s possible to have balance. I hope to cherish the time I spend with my baby and also feel proud of myself for making things work.

  17. Sounds like you have been really feathering that work nest. They are lucky to have such a passionate worker. I know you’ll throw that same passion into finding the perfect work and home balance.

    I am so excited for you!!

  18. Hi Jennifer. My name is Jennifer too and I am due the very day after you. I am having a baby girl. Pretty cool, eh?

    I like that I don’t have a choice on this matter. I am getting laid off the day before my due date!! I will get paid 22 weeks (my severance) to stay home with my baby girl. I consider it the best blessing ever.

  19. Prior to having my first child six years ago, I was a workaholic. I loved my career, I loved the company I worked for and the people I worked with. I was on the high potential track and never thought I would leave. We became pregnant sooner than we thought we would and at the time I was traveling a bunch for my job, I was the Talent Acquisition Manager for a company that had about 5,000 employees in 8 states and in several foreign countries. I planned on taking a four month maternity leave and then go back to work. Needless to say I only lasted a month at work. I missed my son too much, I never thought that would be the case. Fortunately my husband and I were in a place financially where I did have the choice to leave and I don’t regret it. Sure there are days when I miss it, especially when the only interaction I have had is with a five year old and 12 month old. But I know how lucky I am to get to see my children experience all their firsts

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