Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Seemingly Simple Why

A friend of mine from Houston posted a personal, yet valid question on a Facebook status that I realized I haven't really addressed or shared when I talked about going back to work here and here. He asked me why. Why I decided to go back to work. Not accusatory, but curious. And it has me reflecting how to answer such a seemingly simple question that I fear has a complex answer, if I can even answer it at all. 

Obviously I have spent some time pondering this question throughout my pregnancy and maternity leave. And if I'm honest I thought about it prior to that as well. When I went to school for engineering I never dreamed that I would ever stay at home with kids. Besides, if that was my ultimate plan then why did I pick such a difficult university (Colorado School of Mines) and major (Petroleum Engineering) in the first place?

As we grew in our community in Houston the Lord began to soften my heart towards the idea of staying home. I remember very vividly sitting in the lunchroom at work one day and hearing one of the young professionals share that her daughter crawled for the first time the previous day and she didn't get to see it and was sad. 

Sad? I was devastated and heartbroken at the idea, despite being no where near ready got kids of my own. Is that something I'm willing to sacrifice? I began to wonder. Do I really want to end up in a similar conundrum someday? Fortunately at that time, I didn't have to mull over it too much since we weren't in that position yet. But it was the first time the idea was planted that maybe I would want to stay home one day.

Fast forward to 2012/2013 when I was pregnant with Madi. The possibility of staying home still lingering in the back of my mind and Jason and I began to have discussions about it, openly and honestly, and increasing in frequency during my leave of absence when I was home with Madi.

I shared with Jason that I'm selfish and I like having an income and external feedback on my performance and seeing the fruits if my labor that result from ratings and bonuses and job promotions. I shared with him that it feels like a waste for me to have put so much time and energy into my studies and career to stop now. 

I also shared with him that I'm scared to stay home and be with my child all day without an escape. That I'm not sure if I am strong enough to be a stay-at-home mother. I confess that the idea of my job including doing laundry and cleaning all day and planning our meals and grocery shopping fills me with dread. 

Yet through tears I share with him that I don't want to miss all of Madi's milestones. I love her more than my job and doesn't that mean I should stay home? Is returning to work purely selfish and mean that I care about my job more than her? All these questions and more continually running through my mind as I tried to navigate my way towards what I was feeling and what I thought was right for our family.

I'll acknowledge that there have been good times and bad throughout my time at home with Madi. Since I'm being perfectly honest here, I'll confess that I was ready to go back to work when she was six weeks old and in full-swing with her reflux. I couldn't take being home with her any longer if something didn't change. (Of course, Jason already knew this since I screamed it at him one evening when I was tired and stressed and fed-up...) Fortunately, once she got on heartburn medicine, Madi and my's world turned around and I began to actually enjoy my time at home with her. 

Jason listened to me endlessly go back and forth bouncing ideas/thoughts/feelings about returning to work versus staying home. He gently told me that ultimately I need to do what is right for me and that he would support me whatever I decided. I told him I appreciated his support and lack of pressure towards one way or the other, but that I needed him to have an opinion. That my responsibilities to our household would change once I returned to work and he knew that we'd have to find a new balance. He said he understood and would continue to be honest with me whatever way we ended up going.

Daycare was another obstacle. Since Norwegian women get a year off paid, we aren't able to enroll Madi in barnehage (daycare) until she's a year old and the new enrollment is in August. We would have to find a private nanny to look after Madi until and that might not be easy to find in Norway. Obviously we didn't want just anyone watching her and our options seemed limited in where we could find one. 

Throughout this time Jason and I prayed, together and independently, for wisdom and guidance on what to do. Jason's prayers always more patient and reverent. My prayers turned a different direction when I felt like I couldn't weigh pros and cons any longer and needed help. I prayed, "Lord, if I am meant to return to work, then You need to make it happen. Open the door for us to find childcare that we trust and I'll know that this is what I'm supposed to do."

God always answers prayers. He may not answer in the way we want or expect, but He always answers. And in this case, He answered me clearly and unquestionably. I sent one email to a coworker's nanny who had just recently ended her contract with my coworker because they'd gotten a spot in barnehage. I explained that I was taking six months off to spend with my daughter and was targeting mid-January for a start date. She had recently returned to Australia (where she's from) for a visit and to renew her visa. The process was taking longer than expected and she had been forced to turn down a job starting in August as a result. She hoped to return to Norway in October and said she'd be in touch. I knew if she returned in October we probably couldn't ask her to wait four months without working to start for us. My heart sank, but I trusted that if things were meant to work out, then they would. 

Come October, I received an email from the nanny. Her visa was still delayed, it looked like she wouldn't be able to return to Norway until mid-December and she would love to come work for us mid-January! I was thrilled and devastated simultaneously. This is it. I asked for Him to make it happen and He did. I am supposed to return to work. I was anxious and nervous as those final days with Madison began counting down. I was anxious and nervous for my first day, heck my first week, back in the office.

Now I am on my third week back in the office. I've had lots of people ask how I'm doing and how the transition has been. And the only word I can come up with to describe my state-of-being is this: peaceful. Not peaceful in that I don't have to be running around chasing a newly crawling and standing baby. Not peaceful in that I don't have things to be working on already for my job. Not peaceful in our new routine where I feel like I am hurried in the mornings to get out the door. 

But peaceful. Peaceful in a way that only God can grant you when you know you are in the right place and doing the right thing for your family, for you, and for your current situation. I may not always feel this sense of peace. And when and if that time comes, then we will begin praying again and re-evaluate our situation. But until then, I'm confident in the knowledge that God opened the doors for me to return to work for a reason and I trust Him.

I'm still not sure I have answered the original question - why did I return to work. I guess I don't really have a better answer than what I've tried to explain above. But I am reassured and peaceful knowing it's the right decision.

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