The night before I returned to work, when my daughter was three months old, I woke up to find myself sobbing. It was a very rough transition. There were a few things that made me feel better. We had found a daycare that was only two blocks from my office, so I could visit Nora and breastfeed her at lunch time. Most helpfully, a friend reminded me that this didn’t have to be a permanent decision. Going back to work now didn’t mean I couldn’t change my mind later. Another comforting thought was that Nora may have an easier adjustment as an infant, rather than if I waited a year and she was used to having me home.
I was lucky to have an understanding employer and some flexibility in my schedule. If we had a grueling, sleepless night, I went in late. If Nora was sick, I stayed home. I went back part-time for the first few months, then worked thirty-six hours a week instead of forty; allowing me to have every Friday off.
It’s hard to say how things would have turned out if we’d made the decision for me to stay home. I know I’ve missed many special moments, and that is the worst of it. But Nora has had some advantages being in daycare since infancy; she is very social, has a strong immune system, and thrives in a routine driven environment. My bond with her is the strongest I have ever known, I don’t feel it’s been weakened by working.
If I had my druthers, I would work part-time. But, we don’t live in perfect world. No one is going to pay me my current wage and benefits for working three days a week. And there’s security to consider. If something happens and my husband can’t work, I won’t be scrambling to find a job with a stale skill set. With two incomes, we can save for education, retirement and emergencies. Reasonable people can disagree on this issue, but every family has to decide for itself.
Right now, we are in the midst of another big decision, and one I thought would be easy. We are in the admissions process for Nora to attend a Waldorf preschool, with the intent of continuing with Waldorf at least through grade eight. Given our own experiences with public education, and the current state of public schools in our area, we’ve ruled out public school as an option. We’ve researched different educational approaches, visited three schools and are leaning toward one. We’ve visited our chosen school four times. A private tour, a winter festival, an open house and a group interview. After the open house, I was up all night, questioning our choice from every angle. It’s a beautiful environment; to all appearances, it produces smart, emotionally balanced kids. Still, questions remain, doubts linger. Do we want to send her someplace where there seems to be a homogeneity of thought and lack of racial diversity? Will the academics be rigorous enough? What if we don’t like her teacher, but are stuck with him/her for eight years? What’s the deal with the unicycles? Overall, we believe this is the right choice for us, but it’s not a perfect choice. We will continue re-evaluate our decision as Nora continues her education.
It seems counter-intuitive, but if a big decision leaves me feeling completely, perfectly comfortable in our choice, I probably need to look deeper. Big decisions are complicated, and if one seems simple, I need to make sure I don’t have blinders on. I foresee many sleepless nights ahead.