It was after midnight. My last coworker left the building over an hour before, I was alone and tired. Exhausted from finishing my regular shift, and on to other tasks... Tasks that go beyond my normal daily duties. Tasks I hope will secure my job when I return from maternity leave.
I'm not worried about having A job. I have a contract, and there are these things called "laws" which protect women who have children from loosing their jobs for that reason alone, but those laws don't necessarily guarantee you the same duties and responsibilities.
My late nights aren't a rarity right now. It's the only thing I know to do to better my odds at keeping the same assignments I adore.
I've been in my career for about six years. I loved my job as a journalist and have been enriched by the people I've encountered in the process of sharing their stories over the years. It wasn't until recently that I fell into what feels like a perfect combination of roles. No day feels monotonous because nearly every day I'm wearing a different hat and working on an important project. Whether it be covering an important education meeting, helping a foster child to get adopted, or delivering the news, I'm responsible for specific areas of interest and I LOVE it. I can honestly say I love my job. But the more you love something, the harder it is to lose.
Before a woman goes on maternity leave you hear whispering and questions: "How long is she going to be gone?" "Do you think she'll come back?" It seems as though it's no secret some women can't bear the thought of returning to work after setting eyes on this new beautiful being they've created. I've seen it, and I've heard about it countless times. "I just knew I couldn't leave her," women have told me, recounting their experiences before they decided to trade in their brief case for diaper bags.
I've always known my situation would be different. I'm not in the position, not now, to retire early from my career to raise my child from home. And I'm ok with that. Luckily my husband and I won't need to use daycare facilities and we have our childcare situation figured out already... Him. But stay at home dads is a whole nother topic which I'll delve into later.
In the weeks leading up to my temporary departure from work I find myself in a constant panic. What is she comes early and I'm not ready? Oh I'm ready when it comes to things at home. The crib is up, diapers are on standby. We have the necessities we need and the excitement, confidence, courage and faith to raise a new baby. The fear lies with securing the job I love.
There's a special segment I produce weekly, and I'll continue to work on until I leave. When the question arose if I'd still be doing it when I got back I didn't know how to answer. Of course I want to, it's quite possibly the best part of my job. I know I'm doing a good job, but would they remember the good job I've done after 12 weeks of my absence? I couldn't take a chance.
So I've been putting in overtime to produce 12 extra segments before my momentary migration. Twelve segments to fill the 12 weeks I'm gone.
I thought that would be where my work-obsessed antics ceased but unfortunately it's not.
Months ago I proposed an in-depth report on a topic I've been very passionate about. I was recently informed I could pursue it myself... Pending maternity leave. Those three words crushed me. It was like a giant asterisk beside my name screaming "MAYBE." Yea, well, maybe isn't good enough. I want to do it, I can't pass it on to someone else.
I counted backwards from the day they want it to air to my due date then forward 12 weeks. It's cutting it close. And now I'm finding myself considering something I never saw my self deliberating... Cutting my FMLA time short. All so I can have my cake and eat it too... Or so I think.
Would 10 weeks instead of 12 really make a big difference? It doesn't seem like it now but I have a feeling I'll think quite differently in about a month. Is this already happening to me? Already I'm being faced with difficult work-family decisions yanking me between career accomplishments and family. The answer may seem much more simple than it is. I know this now, but I also know I've only gotten a taste for what's to come. Soon, I'll be feasting in this unobtainable balance.
So will the dangling carrot get me back to work sooner than I had hoped? I don't know. Luckily that's not a decision I have to make today. I'm going to wait until I've met my daughter and get to know her a little better.
Until then, I'll be working on racing the clock to secure other elements of my job I want to keep, even if that means working past midnight a couple days a week.
Visit Jennifer's personal blog BabyMakinMachine.com.