So, here goes.
I'm glad Jackson is in daycare. Er, school.
Side note (aka, just the facts, ma'am): His daycare is actually accredited as a school, since it is a certified Montessori program. They have an infant classroom that takes babies from 3 months to around 18 months, after which they transition to a toddler classroom that holds kids up to 3 years, and then there is a pre-K and a Kindergarten program. Parents who have put their older kids through public school Kindergarten have all told me they intend to put their younger kids in the Montessori Kindergarten because they believe it is better. And since Jackson has a fall birthday that would make him one of the youngest kids in a public school Kindergarten class, this might be a good option for us in a zillion years when the time is right because my baby will never be that big (denial, it's not just a river in Egypt!). The teachers have childhood education degrees, the kids all know each other, and the parents are really involved. It's everything I could hope for as a learning and social environment for Jackson and a place to meet other parents for KB and me.
So, anyway, when I returned to my full-time job back in January, when Jackson was 14 weeks old, I was worked to the bone right away and I got sick with repeated mastitis and sinus infections and crippling anxiety and I quit THE END. KB and I were in a financial situation where we could live without my salary and that suited me just fine. I had a vague notion I might return to work, but I desperately wanted to find a way to make it more flexible, part-time, and overall less stressful. I didn't object to sending Jackson to school full-time in general, but it added to my then-horrific level of post-partum anxiety about Making It All Work and Being Everything to Everybody. That shit will kill you. I actually kept him in school while I stayed home, starting seeing my therapist again, and just relaxed my schedule with him so that I dropped him off whenever I felt like it, after we'd spent time together in the morning playing and having breakfast and maybe going for a walk, and then I picked him up as soon as I felt like I had gotten some chores done around the quiet house and felt ready to give him my undivided attention for the afternoon before KB came home. Lucky for me, he warmed up to the teachers and his classmates/friends right away, and they are as thick as thieves to this day. They've learned to crawl together, walk together, and play hide-and-seek together every weekday. He gets visibly excited when we pull into the parking lot. It's about 6 hours a day of pure playtime joy. And they have a Spanish and a music teacher. Jackson plays a mean tambourine. Educational. And Jackson has never suffered a single serious episode of separation anxiety (he whines for me sometimes, but never throws a fit). He's learned to play with other children, to respect other adults, and is by everyone-who-meets-him's account an extremely happy and easy-going kid. Huzza. Oh, and to squash one favorite counterpoint, he's had just one ear infection (which occurred while I was home with him), only a couple of minor colds, and one bout of pinkeye. Kid is healthy as a horse.
When I decided I was ready to begin picking up freelance work, and the contracts came in, and then more contracts came in, I was careful not to overdo it. I had some wicked anxiety and do not desire to fight that demon again. I successfully avoided Better Living Through Chemistry (and no judgement passed on anyone who is on that path), and have had a successful transition back into working on a part-time, flexible basis. It doesn't hurt that I make as much doing this part-time as I did on full-time salary (no corporate overhead, higher consulting rates). This sounds like a humblebrag, and I guess it totally is, but I am now in a position to make more doing less and I have never been happier about it. I get to interpret cool clinical data, write cool regulatory documents outlining the key results, and help send it off to the FDA. I get to run meetings with other scientists and statisticians who listen to what I have to say and then do what I say. I get to learn new things and use what I've learned and it pays bills. To me, that rules. And I need this to be the best "me" I can be. Otherwise I just see myself sitting alone in a room peeling yellow wallpaper until I die. (Where are my literary nerds?) And our family is better off financially for it. We live more comfortably; we know Jackson will be able to go to college. And it's the only way we afforded IVF (times three) in the first place, and are able to consider it again, to even HAVE children to think about putting in school or not. It makes our life as we know it possible.
But none of that is really the point. The whole situation boils down to this: I like having time to myself. I like being able to engage in something I find intellectually challenging (work) and also having time to finish the laundry or prepare Jackson's meals in advance or sip a cup of coffee in silence. I like the break. And it has taken me a while to accept that this does not make me a bad, or in any way worse, mama. It makes me human. It's just how my brain is hardwired and my chemistry balances. And I can tell you, when I send Jackson off to school, and then pick him up, it ensures my time with him feels special and that I'm not too worn down from a long day of chasing him around and the random toddler-ish standoffs and struggles (see also: tantrums) to enjoy playing with him or to do the necessary wrangling to get him into a highchair or in his sleepsack for bedtime.
And there's no way this doesn't sound judgy to the stay-at-home mamas, but I like to think that I am sending an important message to Jackson as he grows and learns that both mama and daddy earn a living for our family. My job clearly is different from KB's, and is sort of a hybrid of stay-at-home and work, but I like that Jackson will know that ladies bring home the bacon, too. I will be proud to tell my son that his mama is a doctor. A lady doctor, y'all.
Second side note: I detest getting mail addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. B___" almost as much as I loathe seeing something addressed to "Mrs. K. B_____." ZOMG I did not surrender my identity for realz use my goddamned name and by the way I am a doctor. Full stop.
So, to my bloggy friends who stay home with your bebes, I salute you. You do what I cannot, and I am okay with that. And to my bloggy friends who work and send your bebes to school, I salute you, too. We all do what we must to make ends meet for our families, and to enrich ourselves. And THAT makes us the best mamas we can be.