Today was the first day of the longest break I will (likely) ever take from my career. And I feel fine. I do.
Sure, being nearly 37 weeks pregnant is a good reason to take 6 months off. I’m making a human after all. But, if you know me (a-type, work-obsessed) you may wonder if I’m capable… Some days, I wonder too.
For the next 3 weeks I’m on straight-up vacation in an attempt to decompress from what’s been a crazy few years of work. I’m lying… It’s been longer than that, but that’s just because loving what I do is requisite for how I spend so much of my time. I’m granting myself 3 weeks to relax, sleep and prepare before I’m hit with the biggest challenge of my life to date.
After the baby is born at the end of July, I’ll take 5 months(ish) of maternity leave that will go by, I fear now, way too quickly. In a country where paid maternity leave is a year long — taking a mere 5 months makes me career-driven, which I believe is thought to be, the opposite of motherly. My girlfriends give me a strange blank stare when I remind them that I don’t plan to take the full year. Blink “Oh right. Yes. I forgot you were going back so soon…”. My tongue hurts from imagining people biting theirs from telling me to get my priorities straight.
When we found out that I was pregnant in November (following the simultaneous fear/happiness/shock) the first thought that went through my head was ‘will this fuck my career and the company I care so much about?’. I’ve worked my ass off for 12 years, I lean in. I wasn’t delusional enough to wonder ‘will this set me back?’, I asked myself ‘how far will this set me back, and how do I mitigate the damage?’. The answer, to maybe the most selfish (and unmotherly) question I’ve ever asked myself, was to not take the full year off that I’m entitled to, to spend with my child. A little human who, I was fully aware (though maybe only in theory until now) will promptly take priority over everything else.
I’ve been sitting with this decision, like a thorn in my side, for nearly 9 months. I love my job. I love my colleagues. I love my team. I love the challenges that come along with working at one of Canada’s most quickly growing startups. All of this is no less true today than it was 9 months ago.
But here’s the thing…
Every once in a while, I wonder to myself how I’ll feel come January, when my 5 month old is developing his/her sense of humour and starting on solid foods. I wonder how on earth I’ll integrate my baby into a daycare at such a young age. And how I’ll re-integrate into my role as a director of a dept and team who has succeeded without me for 2 quarters. Will the guilt be unbearable? Will there be enough motivation to return to work to sustain me through how hard it’ll undoubtedly be on me, my partner and baby?
I am career-driven. To friends and family, I’m unapologetically motivated by being among the best at what I do. What kind of role-model would I be if I gave up on what gives me such a sense of accomplishment? I suspect I might go stir crazy after a few months of baby-land, too. Being needed and valued for something other than feedings and diaper changes might be just what I’ll need after a few months. This baby is becoming a (yes, huge) part of my life, but not the reason for it.
Ok so remember at the start of this when I said I feel fine? I do. Because, I (let’s be real, have no choice but to) take comfort in the fact that I don’t have to decide my exact path today. My only job, for the next 6 months will be to take care of my family (omg). And, more immediately, in 3 weeks or less, to mentally prepare, for what will change everything forever.
This is me today. Fine. Because I know that clarity will come when I need it.