Usually I love the holidays. I’m not one who takes out the Christmas music after Halloween, but this week before Thanksgiving I begin to feel that warmth of knowing I’ll be surrounded by family and good food for the next month and a half. The air here in Maine has a sharper bite, the sweaters come out, and the more skeletal look of the bare trees against the early dusk scribes winter in the horizon. The scene is set for your classic New England holiday season.
Tomorrow my sister and I have a date for our annual Christmas shopping trip to a local toy store. It’s Liam’s first Christmas, which is exciting, but I am aware that he’ll be way more interested in eating wrapping paper than anything inside the box. Yet, there’s still an odd pressure for getting those presents purchased and wrapped ahead of time to alleviate the stress of doing it the night before. Or minutes before. Which will likely be my case this year as with years past, but if I didn’t have the dream of an organized existence I would just succumb to the daunting to-do list in fetal position under my pile of partially finished crafts.
Anyway, having all of this holiday hullabaloo shoved in my face has forced me to think about the fact that my maternity/extended leave from work is drawing to a close at an alarming rate. In fact, writing that sentence made my stomach drop and my esophagus heave. Okay, and now my sinuses are tightening and my eyes are filling with tears. It is absolutely paralyzing to give up raising my child. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. Some people want to be lawyers, architects…exotic dancers. Some want to be the mom that gets to make their child breakfast every morning and have activities planned. Or not planned if it’s a good day to stay in pajamas and wallow in our own filth.
I do love teaching. I even love the people I work with. I do not dread going back to my job, but leaving the job I now have at home. It actually doesn’t even worry me (too much) to leave Liam with a capable person to watch him while I’m at work. It’s that I’d rather it was me.
I’d rather that it was me continuing to have my favorite time with him in the morning when he wakes up next to me and starts his nonsensical jibberish while climbing over me and trying to kiss my mouth. Come January I will probably have left the house before he’s awake. I’d rather it was me getting to watch him stand alert during library story time, slapping his hands down against his legs in appreciation of the nursery rhymes and singing. I’m going to miss the “playdates” we have with our mommy group. Coffee and commiserating on sleep problems, eating adventures, and milestone maturing while I get to see these babies that I’ve now watched grow and learn for six months, alongside Liam.
I’d rather it was me getting frustrated with him for flipping around while I try to change his diaper; gagging when he poops up his back and into his armpits; putting him down in his crib to nap and having him wake up every single freaking time. Having one of those days where he nurses so often I feel like my nipples will fall off. I would take it all, the good and the annoying if I could.
Why am I going back to work, then, and full-time at that? Yes, because I would like to be back with my work “family.” Yes, I chose to teach because it’s something I’m
good great spectacular at. But I would take some baby time off if it weren’t for the damn health insurance. I will be the only one in my household carrying health insurance for the family. I’m pretty sure it would cost about a million dollars to have a baby and no health insurance.
I asked to go back to work part-time, but was denied. I feel it’s a much different story having to leave your child the majority of the week compared to the minority. If I was working 3/7 days I would know I was getting the majority of my time with my babe. Working 5/7 days means I’m getting paid pittance to be the minority in my child’s life.
So, that is why Christmas is ruined for me this year. That is why every twinkle light I see glares at me and every carol I hear mocks me. Those are the reminders that as soon as the wrapping paper hits the floor and the New Year’s kiss is given I have to give up my baby.