It’s not going to happen

February 2, 2016

29.1.15 x3

I was supposed to go back to work today.

When planning how long I would break from the clinic, five months seemed like a good amount of time. I thought our baby would be old enough to hang out with her grandmothers for a few hours each week with no issues. She’d probably take a bottle of expressed breastmilk and have a nap, and I’d get to go to work, earn money and keep the clinic running at an easy, gentle pace to begin with, seeing a few friendly clients on a Friday afternoon. Totally manageable.

January arrived and our babe was suddenly four months old. I hadn’t really thought about my impending return to work until another potential client registered interest in seeing me once my maternity leave finished at the end of the month, so we started getting ready. Having Joan feel ok with being away from me seemed like a good place to start. From fairly early on in her life, Joan hasn’t been great with crowds, and even with her grandmothers whom she knows and loves, she’d often FREAK OUT if I wasn’t in sight. She’s a sensitive babe (a velcro baby, as Pinky McKay puts it) who is very observant and curious, taking in all her surroundings, and sometimes she gets overwhelmed and needs help chilling out with the reassurance that I am there. So mum started coming over to look after the baby while I did housework. Joan was happy, she adores her Nana KK and they have a lot of fun together…but I was in the room, I hadn’t really left her. I knew we needed a few attempts of me leaving her with my mum and actually leaving. The first time we did this I went for a swim at the beach, which was down the road from our house. After a minute or so in the water, something in my gut told me I needed to get home, so I dried off, left Ben and my brother and ran all the way back. I heard the screams from the start of the driveway.

The most recent time I left Joan for more than half an hour was when Ben and bubs went for a walk around our neighbourhood. She’s always been completely happy with her Dad, he’s been fully present since birth and besides the fact that I have the milk goodies, Joan seems to find comfort in both of us fairly equally. Seemed to, I should say. Suddenly, while lying in the bathtub with a face mask on, a fancy wine glass filled with coconut water in my hand and an episode of Girls playing on the iPad (with the volume turned on! And no subtitles!), I heard SCREAMS. As my two loves get closer to the front door, the screaming grew louder and more heartbreaking. I hopped out of the bath (why am I always in water when this happens?!) and grabbed my baby. We stripped her naked and I held her, rocking and shushing until she finally took the boob and settled. This last happened precisely one week before I was supposed to start seeing clients. Later that evening I text my mum… “I can’t do this. It’s not going to happen.”

And so I started making other arrangements for my clients. I called and apologised, explaining the issue and the fact that I made a decision to choose my daughter and not return to work in the near future. I did not sleep well the night before I made those calls, I was feeling a lot of guilt for letting a bunch of new clients down. But thankfully they were incredibly sweet and understanding and happy to see the other dietitians I had referred them to, or change to see me via skype. It’s now January 29th, the day I was supposed to go back to work, and Joan could not have let me know any clearer that she didn’t want it to happen. She has been incredibly clingy and needing comfort all day, waking up from naps out of sorts and wanting to be rocked and nursed and sung to non-stop. While holding and rocking her by the window this morning, I looked down at her dear little head, the swirls of hair with that sweet baby smell, and was floored by how right it felt that I was home, comforting my baby. This was my job.

I wish that every person who wanted to stay home with their kids in the first year could. I feel incredibly lucky to be in the situation that I can, as Ben and I haven’t over-extended ourselves financially so there isn’t pressure for me to earn money. We had to be smart about it, as my husband and I are both self-employed and did not receive maternity/paternity leave pay beyond what the government gave us in the initial weeks of parenthood (which was a surprisingly generous amount), but we’re making it work. To save for a house will just take a little longer than we originally planned, and we certainly won’t be jetting off overseas anytime soon. We’ve adjusted our budget and will live a little lighter because me being home with Joan is important to us. And today, as I was holding my baby instead of prepping for clients, I couldn’t have been more certain that we’d made the right decision. I knew it would always be hard, leaving bubs the first times, and that eventually she would get used to it. But the truth is we weren’t ready to force the issue, and frankly we didn’t need to. “They grow up so fast”, loved ones assured me. “Take this time. If you don’t want to go back to work and truly don’t need to, then stay home with Joan.” And so I am. Writing and recipe assignments aside (which are hobbies that bring in a small amount of income), I am solely focussed on child-rearing and housekeeping. It’s been an adjustment, seeing what I do as contributing, despite a lack of income. They say that being a mum is the hardest job, and indeed I do believe that it is hard work – it never ends, you never get a break and while it’s often the same thing day in, day out, it’s also constantly changing as your child grows and develops. But it’s a job that doesn’t pay, and because of that, the whole situation feels a bit retro and odd. I’ve wrestled with insecurity about the fact that I will not be contributing to our family in any significant financial sense, but you know what? I love being home with Joan. I love housekeeping and looking after my loved ones in the sense that a traditional housewife does. I freakin love it! Washing, cooking, organising, cleaning, raising a little human and nourishing my family, I’m blissed out right now. So I don’t know…. I think I’m just adjusting to this new role and how I see myself now, having actively decided to not return to work. When Joan was still in my belly, I believed that five months would be a decent age to be back at work – not too early, not too late. But I now realise that you really can’t plan these things. You don’t know how you’ll feel, for one. I thought I would have been ready to get back to my work, which I love…but that’s not the case for me. And you don’t know how your baby will feel, they may be totally cool exploring the world with a loved one or in day care, socialising with other bubs. But that’s not the case for Joan. I am certain that some day I will get back into the workforce and Joan will want a break from her mumma, but right now we want each other and that’s ok. That’s beautiful.

I guess I feel a little silly that I didn’t see this coming. From the beginning, Ben and I have followed Joan’s cues regarding her care. We do not subscribe to the belief that we are spoiling her by “letting her win”, and so if she wants to be picked up, we pick her up. We follow her lead and respect her wishes and do not let her cry it out or force any issues if she is upset. I mean, there are exceptions to the rule, we are not completely driven by her mood…we still put her in the car if she doesn’t want to but we have to make an appointment, she still has to be burped if she’d rather not sit still, and she still has to have her nappy changed if she’d prefer to roll around on the change mat. What I’m trying to say is that for the most part, we are led by Joan and do not make her follow our schedule. Our needs and our expectations take a back seat. This is not to say that we don’t take care of ourselves, we do, and I suppose that’s worth a post in itself. But it is (now) pretty obvious that the way Ben and I choose to parent, in addition to Joan’s personality, is in conflict with me returning to work at the present moment, at least not in the capacity I was working previously. And I suppose I just feel thankful that I am in the position to give in, to get over my hangups about earning less and to start being proud of the fact that I am a stay at home mum. In this day and age, I am darn lucky I can be.

So here I am, Joan’s mumma, a full-time slow-cooking, floor mopping, errand running, poo-stain removing homemaker who is learning to embrace my decision and this title, and to not devalue my work because I don’t get a paycheck. I get kisses instead. And right now, that’s all I want.

Heidi xo

 

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34 Comments

  • Reply Jodie February 2, 2016 at 9:59 am

    It is wonderful being a stay at home Mum. I have two girls (3 yrs & 5 months) and have struggled on and off with the earning no income. I don’t have a lot of friends ( major introvert ) or any family around for good advice so it helps a lot to read other people’s stories of similar situations. Just have to keep reminding myself of how magical and precious this time is and not get hung up on the guilt. Thank you for your posts, I always find a lot of joy in them. Xx

    • Reply Heidi February 3, 2016 at 8:16 am

      Oh thank you so much, Jodie, that’s lovely. It is a magical and precious time, thank you for your encouragement x

  • Reply Heidi February 2, 2016 at 10:09 am

    This makes me so happy to read. I get so sad hearing of women going back to work when they really don’t want to. Such is the ways of most people’s financial and work situations these days. Hubby and I are self employed too and it has allowed us so much freedom to be fully present for our little ones. I go back to work 1 day a week next month and although I’m looking forward to the adult time, I’ll miss my youngest. Enjoy your time with Joan!

    • Reply Heidi February 3, 2016 at 8:17 am

      Thank you so much, Heidi! It is a gift. All the best with going back one day a week! x

  • Reply Katy February 2, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Beautiful Heidi. Never feel bad for choosing your family over work. The baby years are temporary and Heidi will get better I promise. Teddy was just like that and now he’s happy to go to grandmas for a sleepover and to day care. At about 8 months I could leave him with my husband for a few hours. At about 12 months he was happy for me to leave him with frandma for about 6-7 hours so I could go to work. It does get easier. I find you need to trust yourself. You’re not doing anything wrong. Joan is attached to you and it’s simply her personality. You can’t change their personality and you certainly didn’t cause the clinginess. I feel more confident now looking back but at the time I blamed myself for teddy being so Velcro. Now I know it’s just him. And that’s ok. I need to adapt everyday to being a mum. You’re a fabulous mum. Love to you Heidi and well done on sharing so much xxxxx

    • Reply Heidi February 3, 2016 at 8:19 am

      Thank you, lovely Katy. You’re very encouraging and supportive, I appreciate your words immensely. I questioned whether it was me for a while in the beginning, but you’re right, it is SO her personality. The clingy cries comes on at unpredictable times, often taking me by surprise. Sweet, sweet, baby x

  • Reply Katy February 2, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Oh and you’ll have so many more years to rebuild your work. Think about taking 5 years of reduced working out of the next 25-30 years of work you have left to do. It’s peanuts really. You will never, ever regret delaying returning to work.

    • Reply Heidi February 3, 2016 at 8:19 am

      True words. Thank you x

  • Reply Laura February 2, 2016 at 11:04 am

    I’ve always said to any friends who are having their first how hard it is to give a date to return to work. And having a large bump is a million miles from holding a baby on the outside. It’s like jumping into the biggest unknown of your life and you are expected to know when you want to go back to ‘normal’!?! I’m still at home 6 years on (true, I do have three now) but my world has changed so very much and I can’t do everything at once.

    I’m very happy for you too that you have a choice. Enjoy this time Heidi, it’s very special.

    • Reply Heidi February 3, 2016 at 8:21 am

      I wish there was more advice during pregnancy when planning and purchasing, to “wait and see what your baby is like and how your family work best”. Thank you, lovely Laura. Hope you and your gorgeous girls are well x

  • Reply Kim February 2, 2016 at 11:51 am

    I too had a Velcro baby and decided not to return to work. It was the best decision I have ever made. She’s now 5 and incredibly confident and spunky and started school this week. I feel so grateful I was able to spend so much time with her while she grew and developed. They really do grow up so quickly.

    • Reply Heidi February 3, 2016 at 8:22 am

      Thanks for your lovely comment, Kim! It definitely makes me feel even more confident in my decision x

  • Reply Emma February 2, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    The same happened with me Heidi. I stayed home until bub was a few weeks shy of 1. No regrets. You just work it out x

    • Reply Heidi February 3, 2016 at 8:22 am

      Thanks, Emma 🙂 x

  • Reply Mel February 2, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    I just submitted my leave for work for bubba due July. I decided to take 12 months. And you know what, I feel awesome about it. I don’t think anyone should feel guilty for any decision they make regarding going back to work- or not. Well done on making the best decision for you and your family x

    • Reply Heidi February 3, 2016 at 8:23 am

      Good for you Mel! And thanks for the encouragement. All the very best to you and your little one!! So exciting x

  • Reply Hannah February 2, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    This made me tear up. It’s so right and I’m so proud of you. What could be more important that supporting a new human in this world to feel supported, loved, cared for, nourished, cherished? Joan is part of the world’s future – nothing is more important than that, and nothing is more important than you doing this in the way that feels right for you. (My two other closest/best friends with children have made the same decision as you. And I can’t imagine anything else being more right and wonderful. Thank heavens you all *can* make this choice.)

    And hey, don’t stress at all about finances. Ben and I are workin’ on making Edrolo worth a billion dollars anyway. We gotcha covered 😉

    • Reply Heidi February 3, 2016 at 8:25 am

      Hahaha oh golly, my dear, you are the best. I freakin love that. Thank you for your endless love and support. Beyond excited to catch up soon x

  • Reply Meneka premkumar February 2, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    Hi Heidi. I’ve never read your blog before but Instagram showed the picture about this post in my ‘discover’ section and it was such a gorgeous picture that I clicked to read it and clicked through to this blog post. I’m glad I did. I’m sure you have friends and family that are supporting your decision, but for the sake of two cents worth from a stranger, by gosh you are doing the right thing. And even more heartening that you and your husband are parenting with such integrity and love. Joan seems wise and learned and is leading a very good charge for her parents. There is no greater worth than that of mothering. We have lost our way in modern (predominantly) western society and the value of being present for your children and your family (whichever partner takes on the role) has been diminished.
    I decided to leave a career to be a full time parent and struggled with the identity of it and the role of earning money for my household too, and I think it’s a normal transition, but it seems you are doing a very noble thing for other new mums and dads in sharing this perspective. Money will come and go but the value in being present for those first phenomenally imperative years will bring greater reward and peace than you can imagine.
    Sending you, and your husband, many, many good wishes for this journey. Warmly, Meneka

    • Reply Heidi February 3, 2016 at 8:26 am

      Hi Meneka, thank you for taking the time to pop over and leave me such gorgeous, encouraging words. They have warmed my heart and made me feel even more confident. What a sweet soul you are x

  • Reply Rosa February 2, 2016 at 10:59 pm

    Hi Heidi, love your post today and feel happy for you and your baby. Your are very very lucky to be able to chose this option and completely agree it’s the best thing for you both and the baby.
    In Spain, maternity leave last only 16 weeks and due to political and social situation most of the times is difficult, almost imposible to quit work and stay at home with your baby. I have 2 children and still cry when I remember I left them in the kindergarten when they were almost 4 months old. Totally heart broken.
    So no regrets Heidi, that’s the best present you can give to Joan.

    Rosa @rosvegmar

    • Reply Heidi February 3, 2016 at 8:50 am

      Rosa, you are so lovely. Thank you for your support. My heart goes out to you, having to go back to work before you were ready, that must have been so hard. You’re very strong! And golly are those kids well nourished from all your stunning food! x

  • Reply Ros February 3, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Enjoy this special time Heidi. No matter how long you decide to be a homemaker, I am sure the time will go very fast. It’s an incredibly important role in life and I only wish society valued it more. But nonetheless, the benefits for your family are immeasurable xx

    • Reply Heidi February 8, 2016 at 9:13 am

      Thank you, Ros x

  • Reply Sian Therese February 4, 2016 at 7:34 am

    Heidi, how I adore this post. I’ve read it a few times now and every time it’s made me cry. Why, because right now it just feels like my baby is missing from me and this whole babymaking business is testing my patience. (And it seems to be a week where emotions run high – we’re still settling in to our new country town, finding a new friends, new jobs… it’s a week of feels) I’ve been a full time house wife whilst sorting out work and I’ve loved it but so wanted the baby to go along with it. It does feel so retro but all I’ve ever wanted to do is be a stay at home mum, why be a surgeon when you can nuture tiny little humans. I think you’ve given me the words I needed to express my thoughts about medicine, becoming a doctor (at least while they are very little) is in conflict with the way I imagine parenting. I think it’s beautiful the way you and Ben embrace Joan and her personality. Be so proud of your decision, you’ve got a lot of support around you. Kisses > pay cheques any day right?

    • Reply Heidi February 8, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Oh Sian! It hear you. Such a hard position to be in – both incredibly exciting things, studying medicine and starting a family… the timing will never be perfect for either decisions, so I suppose following your gut is always the best. I’m glad if this helped you to hear what your gut may be telling you a little clearer. Much love to you as you settle into your new country life x

  • Reply L_Mcphee February 4, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Hi Heidi, thanks for sharing so openly about your decision-making here. My baby is just about the same age as beautiful Joan, and I am so lucky that I don’t have to go back to work for a while because I honestly don’t think I would cope with the separation when he’s still so little (well little in age, he’s just turned 5 months and is nearly 10 kg…) You can only do what is right for you and your family, and (I say this in my professional capacity as an early childhood education academic) you can’t spoil a baby or young child with love or time.

    Kudos to you, you’re doing a great job – and you sure learn a thing or two about poo- and vomit-stain removal don’t you?!

    As an aside, I’d be really interested to read your thoughts on weaning and introducing solids. I’ve already started my bub on solids to help with his spewing, and have gone down the route of purees so far. Depending on how you decide to do it with Joan as she gets bigger, maybe you might want to post some recipes in this area?? *crosses fingers*

    • Reply Heidi February 8, 2016 at 9:17 am

      Oooh yes definitely! I cannot wait to share what Joan will be eating. Thanks for the kudos, too, that’s super sweet of you to say 🙂 We’re very lucky, aren’t we? x

  • Reply Corryn February 4, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Your post made me smile. It is so hard to predict what life will be like once your baby comes along. It is a game changer, and one no-one can control!

    My first was a ‘velcro baby’, and here I am now, corporate life long gone, owning a little business that makes my heart sing, and allows me to work flexibly around my family. In the end, my husband and I have both moved out of paid employment and into self employment so we could look after each other and our children (and keep our sanity!). Everyone has a different path to follow, but I believe having children can give you a push to follow your heart more than anything else.

    Wishing you all the best on your journey ❤️

    • Reply Heidi February 8, 2016 at 9:18 am

      Hi Corryn, thank you for your lovely words. You’re so right, they give you that push, don’t they? Total game changers. It’s been a shift, settling into this new life, but I absolutely love it x

  • Reply Emma February 6, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    With a 13 year old and an 11 year old now I’m here to say that I never stop wanting to be the parent you describe. The circumstances have changed as they’ve got older, but the dynamic has never really weakened for me. I too had the pangs of leaving them and have crafted most of my self employed life around them. From finishing at 3pm for school pick up to orchestrating meetings around music performances, I’m so grateful to have been able to be present and constant in their lives. And luckily for me my career has actually flourished from taking time off and then crafting consulting around them. But I also have come to realise that they would have still been the incredible kids they are today, another way. And certainly don’t judge other’s for the difficult juggles and decisions they’ve made. Some would say I’ve put my kids needs first. at times. And there have been a fair share of late nights working late. But after much contemplation, I’ve come to the conclusion that I was the selfish one. There’s something deep in me that NEEDED to be with them, as much as I perceived they needed to be with me.

    • Reply Heidi February 8, 2016 at 9:19 am

      Oh so true, Em! So so true. And thanks for all your support and encouragement throughout this! Means a lot. much much love x

  • Reply Rebecca @ Wholesome Homemade April 8, 2016 at 7:11 am

    Dear Heidi, I have just come across your lovely blog and this beautiful post, and as a self-employed stay at home Mum to three boys (6.5, 4 & 9mths) I just wanted to say how encouraged I was with your thoughts, shared from your heart. Parenting is hard work and often we don’t realise how quickly time goes until it has passed us by.
    I look forward to reading more of your wonderful stories.
    Kind regards,
    ~ Rebecca

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