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Working Part Time: The Best of Both Worlds

Before I got pregnant, I assumed I would continue working full time. A friend of mine said, “I’m a better mom when I work,” and it made a lot of sense. I figured spending all day, every day with my child(ren) would result in insanity. I didn’t think I had the patience.

Joke’s on me because I hate being away from my daughter. 

As timing worked out, I got pregnant right before we got orders to Germany. We were in Stuttgart, which is a relatively small base (OK, technically it’s four small bases, but my point is that there are few jobs to be had). Initially, I looked into employment possibilities within my field (I’m a mental health counselor). But the pickings were slim and as my pregnancy progressed, I found myself wanting to stay home with our baby.

I will be the first to admit I have a borderline unhealthy attachment to my daughter.

I think it took six or eight months before I left her with a friend for an afternoon “date” with my husband (He wanted to test-drive a two-seater Porsche, as they are made in Stuttgart. How romantic!). I was a nervous wreck the whole time, but, spoiler alert: she survived (So did I.). I left her with the same girlfriend once more for a levy briefing before moving back to the U.S. So that makes twice by the time she was 18 months old when we moved.

We ended up back at the same duty station we had been stationed at before going overseas. We decided to settle in a different community than before, and in the time since we had left, the agency I previously worked for had opened an office in that town. I was lining up a schedule for my daughter to get weekly physical, occupational, and speech therapy, so I knew working full time wasn’t ideal. It seemed one day a week was the most I could manage, and luckily the owner of the agency is lovely, accommodating, and happy to have me back. So we signed a contract for me to come back to work for her. 

We still rarely get babysitters except for maybe once every four to six months, and my family lives far away, so I never really get a “break” aside from the one day a week I go to work. It’s not exactly a real break, but it’s good for me. I still go home for lunch, so I’m never really gone longer than four and a half hours at a time.

Yet, as much as I sometimes yearn for carefree “me time,” I still find myself rushing back home to my daughter (See above comment about attachment.). I miss her and truly feel that no one can care for her as well as I can. That is not meant to imply I’m the best mother in the world. But she is nonverbal and has developmental delays and I feel confident that I am the best at reading her cues. After all, I’m with her all the time.

If I’m totally honest, Tuesdays aren’t my favorite day of the week. I prefer spending the day with my child, even when I’m worn thin. But on the other hand, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute financially and keep current in my profession. After all, I’m still paying off my graduate student loans. I might as well be putting this expensive brain to good use! I’m lucky to have a job with a schedule that completely works for me. I know not everyone has this luxury.

My daughter started preschool this fall. Now would be the perfect time for me to add another day or two to get my schedule closer to full time. However, I am due with our second child in November. While I plan to utilize some sort of childcare sooner than I did with our first, I don’t want to do so right away. It doesn’t make sense to work more when I would have to transfer clients so soon.

I see pros and cons to working. I wish I could bring in more income. It was nice financially when we were DINKs (dual-income, no kids.). However, I am grateful and feel lucky that we are in a situation where it is not absolutely necessary for me to work. I am so glad I got to spend the first four years of my daughter’s life being a mostly stay-at-home-mom. I hope our second child doesn’t look back and say, “thanks, Mom, you went back to work a lot sooner with me.”

But my schedule now is largely due to my daughter’s needs. If she hadn’t refused cups and bottles, had a feeding tube for awhile, and around 200 appointments a year, then I likely would have put her in childcare sooner. I didn’t feel she was ready for it until this year for a number of reasons. 

This job is really perfect. I have flexibility and freedom with a relatively steady income (When clients cancel or I take a day off, I don’t make money. That’s the one downside to self-employment.). As my girls grow, I can rearrange my schedule so that I can easily work only during the hours they are in school. I can’t really think of anything more awesome than that if you are going to have a job. While I sometimes miss the consistent paychecks that come with a salaried 9-5, you can’t beat the ability to take time off whenever you need or want, without asking anyone’s permission.

Today was my daughter’s first day of preschool. I realized it was the longest I have ever been away from her: seven hours straight (Look at me, I’m making such progress!). Baby  No. 2 is already on the waitlist at my daughter’s preschool/daycare center, and they expect a slot will open up next summer. Let’s hope Mama’s ready by then. 

Do you work? Stay home? Both? What works best for your family?

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