I get to work, I stare at my computer screen, and I think about my baby. I can’t bring myself to care about my projects at work. I do the bare minimum to get by. I exhausted my maternity leave months ago and my husband is taking care of our daughter, because I’m the breadwinner. This is all good and great — I support non-traditional gender roles, really! But I just don’t care about work anymore. I want to be with my baby, but I can’t afford to not work. What do I do? How do I get back into work — or, alternatively, get out of work?
Babies, babies, babies! They’re everywhere, aren’t they? In our eyes, in our thoughts, in our arms, in our dreams. Sometimes, in our dreams, they are riding alpacas or juggling tacos — but that doesn’t mean those dreams are necessarily about babies. Look, I’m not Freud.
Here’s the thing: if you want to be at home with your baby, and you feel like your kiddo is all you can think about, you don’t have to hear it from me that a career transition is probably on deck, at least for the time being. If your current gig is a full-time one, and your schedule is preventing you from doing what you need in order to feel like you have a life, and not just a job, it sounds like you need a more flexible gig, or to work toward taking a break until your partner finds work.
But here’s what I have to say that you do need to hear: There is nothing wrong with what you are asking for! If I may temporarily don my bio-deterministic hat, I think an inherent part of being female has to do with the desire for a kind of fluidity in our lives. Which is a fancy/fruity way of saying that there are all kinds of phases of a woman’s career, and it’s okay to want to work full time in a breadwinner role at one point, and stay home with your baby at another time.
You don’t have to apologize to anyone for supporting or not supporting non-traditional gender roles. What you do have to do is make sure your family is fed and provided for, and, at the same time, make sure you’re not putting yourself in the position where you’ll look back and regret not spending more time with your apple-cheeked little baby girl, who (I’m guessing?) has chubby little fingers and toes and the world’s most squeezeable tuchus. BABIES, BABIES, BABIES!
I advise you to transition out of your predicament in a way that splits the difference between pulling a full Steve Slater, and acting out, from your cubicle, a reverse-gender version of “The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon.” Frankly, in a perfect world, you should have more maternity leave or be able to work from home. And if you haven’t already, discuss those possibilities with your supervisor before going any further.
But if those options are not available, I’d advise you to start sniffing around for some consultant gigs that may utilize your skills more efficiently than your current job. Visit a career counselor on your lunch break and get notes on your resume. Do whatever networking you can with your daughter in tow, and online. And have a talk with your husband about the possibility of shifting the responsibilities around so that you can spend your time doing what you want to do. Like taking your daughter’s cheeks in your hands and being like “There you are! There are your cheeks! Look at you! I’ve got your cheeks!” and so on. Good luck, and keep me posted on that little one.
On a personal note, this will be the last installation of Lady Business, which was meant to be a summer series. I want to thank my readers and Salon for giving me the chance to run Broadsheet’s first ever advice column! It’s been a pleasure and a privilege hanging out this summer with all of you. For those who’ve responded in the comments section with constructive feedback and kind words: thank you so much. If you want more of me, you can follow me on Twitter, read my blog or my book, or, if you hate reading, stay tuned for its television version on HBO. Oh, and if you don’t want more of me? Well. May God have mercy on your souls.