The future is uncertain for all of us, but since Baby M entered our lives, my future in particular has become uncertain.
Will I go back to work full-time, permanently?
Since Peanut and I have been together, we have been careful to live a one-income lifestyle while bringing in two. This allowed him to try his hand at freelancing for six months, let us save up to move across the country and buy a house and two cars in eight months, and made my being on maternity leave with only five weeks' notice no big deal. But we didn't plan that so that I could quit my job to stay home with babies - I have a master's degree in my field and I like my job and my career, and I planned to go back to work after Baby M's full term arrival.
And then she came three and a half months early. I didn't even have enough leave to be off work through her due date, and I have a fairly standard US maternity leave.
Luckily, my company has been very understanding*. I took all my paid leave when she was first in the NICU, and I will take an additional six months unpaid, starting next month. Whether I go back at the end of that depends on how her health is at the end of that six months.
Due to her chronic lung disease, we have to be extremely vigilant about protecting her from colds and other respiratory illness. Her doctors have recommended that we keep her out of daycare for two years. My leave will get her through the first cold and flu season, but what do we do after that? Where do we find caregivers who are experienced with preemies, don't mind babies on oxygen and maybe with feeding tubes, who are certified in infant CPR, who can take her to some of her many, many follow up appointments - and who are affordable? It seems an awfully tall order.
I have a lot of reasons for wanting to go back to work: I like feeling smart and capable at my job, I like working with books and book people, I think it's a great thing for me to demonstrate for my daughter. I never planned on being a stay at home mom, and I'm afraid I will go stir-crazy staying at home with an infant, especially because we can't leave the house and go to the park, museum or even grocery store during cold and flu season. I worry about leaving the workforce and trying to get back in down the road.
But ultimately Baby M's health trumps everything. If she needs me to be at home, take full-time care of her and be her advocate with medical staff and early intervention professionals, that will be my job. We just have to wait and see what she tells us.
*Which, frankly, they had to be. I was prepared to quit outright. THIS is the reason to go after financial security: so that you are in control of your own destiny. I don't think that my ability to quit has made them be more generous - my bosses are good people - but it certainly didn't hurt. I generally don't recommend anyone discuss their overall financial picture with their employer, but I have noticed that I am treated a little differently now that the higher-ups know that I don't NEED this job. They have more of an incentive to make me want to stay there!