Back when I was a single gal, dating my future husband, I worked my fanny off. I am talking 16-18 hour days were my NORM. I was usually the first one in the office, the last one to leave and was on-call for any questions relating to the projects I was assigned to. I traveled for work and got to meet people all of the country. I had a great rapport with my co-workers (well, most of them) and my clients really liked me. So much so, that I was able to navigate job changes fearlessly just by who I knew in my network. New jobs usually came from vendors or clients or even previous co-workers.
When we got married, I was the breadwinner while my husband worked full-time and took a full-time course load to finish his degree. I was also taking classes part-time.
Then we got pregnant. I still worked crazy hours, but I dropped school. My husband was closer to his degree, so we decided that he would finish and then I would go back to school.
At 20 weeks, I was put on medication and bed-rest due to premature contractions.. The only exercise I was allowed was to get up and walk the 15 feet or so to the bathroom. If I showered, someone had to be nearby. I was on medication that made me sleepy, while my heart beat so fast, I thought I would have a heart attack!
But, we made it. Even though I got phone calls about every 3 days from work about my return date. Even though I gained 40 pounds of water weight in the last two weeks of my pregnancy. Even though my mother hid my baby shower pictures from me for two years because I was unrecognizable in them.
After six weeks, I went back to work. Because its what I thought was expected. It was what I thought I wanted. I breast fed and pumped and my Mom took care of my daughter in the hours that my husband and I had to work or go to class. I missed so many of my daughter's firsts. And it killed me.
But I did what was expected and brought home that paycheck. Even when I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, I just did what was expected. No time to enjoy my baby, no time to spend with my husband, no time to breakdown.
I got a new job when my daughter was six months old. 62 miles from our little apartment. One-way. My commute was and hour and a half to three hours each way, depending on traffic. And if you have every driven in Southern California, you know exactly what I am talking about.
At that time, my husband had Tuesday and Thursday as his days off from work. On those days, he went to school from 9am-5pm. I left the house at 5:30 in the morning and didn't get home until 9pm and was off on weekends. It didn't leave much time for our little family to spend any tome TOGETHER.
A change to my job situation came when one day, my infant daughter had a seizure and stopped breathing. Of course, we spent the rest of the day in the ER. Test after scary test were done on my 11-month old, including a spinal tap. Meanwhile, my cell phone was ringing off the hook. I had missed an important conference call and was told that I didn't have my priorities straight. The following week was my last at the company.
The next company I worked for was a children's book publisher. I was only there a short time, but I loved the process of publishing and one of the perks was free books! What could possibly go wrong?
We found out we were pregnant with our oldest son. On Monday, I met with my boss, who was full of praise and talk of giving me more responsibility and a promotion. Wednesday, I told him our news. Thursday, I was laid off. It was the first time in my working life that leaving a job was not my decision.
It didn't surprise me when our second wedding anniversary came and went without either one of us even realizing it. We were just too tired.
I didn't work for much of my pregnancy with my second child. It was common knowledge in my network that we were having a baby and no one wanted to make any offers until after my son was born. From an HR standpoint, it was understandable. But my checkbook didn't get the memo.
See, my husband was still working full-time and had dropped his schooling to part time, but he only needed about three more classes to graduate. But I still made the bulk of our income. Being laid-off was about the worst thing for our little family. We tightened up the budget as best we could, but we still had car payments, rent, utilities, gas, etc.
After about 7 months of struggling and stressing, we were invited to move in with my in-laws. The plan was to pay off our debts and save up for a house. We hoped to be back on our own in one year. Later that month, our first son was born.
Having a two year old and a newborn was tough, but I got a call just before my son was born with a job offer. I got the job and went back to work when my son was just four weeks old. I remember my husband's mother asking me repeatedly, if I really NEEDED to go back to work. I didn't want to, but I still felt obligated to bring home that paycheck.