So this week marks my first back at work since Isaac was born.
I know. The year isn’t yet up. My parental leave isn’t yet over. Have I lost my damn mind? Yes. And no. And yes.
I wasn’t really sure how I was going to feel about taking a year off work, and thought I might go a little crazy spending all day every day with the tiny human. And while spending time with him is far more awesome than I would have thought (go ahead I-Told-You-So-ers, it is different when it’s yours), I do feel like my brain is sortof… melting.
Neil and I talked about what to do about the melty-brain syndrome, and all signs pointed to a part-time return to my day job if that worked for my employer. Thankfully it did! And I’ll be in the office one full day a week and doing a few hours remotely as well.
A few things I learned in the return to work process:
For the Canadians, you can earn some money while receiving EI parental leave benefits. This has always applied, but with a current pilot program to increase allowable earnings, if you qualify for regular parental benefits you can earn up to $75/week or 40% of your benefit rate, whichever is greater. Any additional earnings will be deducted, dollar for dollar, from your benefit payments.
This seems like an excellent way to encourage a gradual return to paid employment, ensuring those on parental leave aren’t penalized for starting employment before their leave is over. I know a big factor in deciding what to do was what kind of financial impact it would have on us. If I’d had to end my benefits completely and pay for childcare, I may not have chosen to return to paid employment until March.
Speaking of childcare,
The Wrong Reason to Work From Home. If you have a professional job, something you take pride in and want to keep, absolutely do not be trying to watch your children at the same time,” says Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs, a job site that specializes in telecommuting arrangements. It isn’t fair to your job — or your kids.
That article really guided my return-to-work plan. No childcare; no work. Isaac’s going to be in daycare for one full-day a week while I’m in the office. I also have another few hours a week of work time allowance during the week for working remotely on admin-type things: email, research, content moderation, etc. This time is happening without childcare, but it isn’t scheduled and isn’t for things like meetings or phone calls or anything that requires more than 10 minutes of conversation with another person.
This is great while I catch up on what’s been going on the past 8 months and am in the research phase of project planning. But eventually I imagine I will move that time to another full or half-day of childcare before full-time work resumes in earnest, so I can be more productive and have a few thoughts in a row before being interrupted.
So this all sounds great. I get to flex my mind-muscles and talk about non-baby things with adults. I have a boss who realizes the values of not writing me off and putting me on the mommy-track, and being flexible as I ease into the whole “working mom” thing.
I am of course a little terrified of this first big step in the kid’s village being broadened and him having adventures and experiences independent of us. I’m not worried about him missing me in particular – he’s so easy-going and really happy to be with anyone who’ll return his big, beaming smiles. But I am worried about missing him. I am worried about missing things like first steps or first words. I am jealous of the person who’ll be cuddling him after he falls or giggling with him while playing silly games. And I am jealous of the person who wants to do that all day. Because I love doing those things, but worry that I’m a little deficient because god I hate them sometimes too. This is nothing new for any parent, I’m sure.
But! Clothes are laid out and lunches made for the two of us. And first thing tomorrow morning we both set off on a new adventure. I just suspect mine might require a little more kleenex (and wine) than his.