I have two sons aged 5 and 2. I read something recently about short or long term income losses to moms surrounding the birth of their children and that was certainly the case with me. Everyone has to make many choices regarding babies and careers (timing, how long to stay home, child care, etc.) and the internet can’t tell you what’s the best path for you – though I tried hard to find the definitive answer for me when I was pregnant with Hugo. My career arc made some serious loop de loops in the past 5 years, but I am happy to report that I am finally in a good place again.
My maternity leave
It’s been a while since I wrote, partly because I was adjusting to working full time with a family that includes two small children for the first time. Talking with some friends with kids the same ages as mine, I said that I found ways to bootleg my maternity leave, in spite of there not being any federal programs in place. New Jersey’s laws are better than some, including temporary disability (after any paid leave from your job), followed by six weeks of paid “baby bonding time” if you’ve been working (and contributing payroll taxes) in New Jersey before the child’s birth.
I had no idea about that before Hugo was born. I didn’t know how long I was going to be able to stay home with him and the thought filled me with panic. I was very fortunate to have a job that was relocating just as my maternity leave came to an end and got laid off as a result. I was then extremely fortunate to have regular freelance writing work I could do from home off and on for the next four years or so.
I was able to stay home with part time child care until Hugo was almost two, when I got a temporary full time contract job. I loved that job. It was in a great location for a great company, but not permanent no matter how much I wished. And I was excitedly planning baby number two as it came to a close..
Holy financial impact
I was soon happily, thrillingly expecting baby Jack. Freelancing for me ended up bringing in about 1/3 to 1/2 of a full time salary, with no benefits, of course. No matter how busy my days were, the hours never worked out one-for-one. I am not complaining, it just wasn’t a long term income solution for my family. And I got another contract gig when I was newly pregnant.
I was run down and sick with first trimester things going on, and the commute was the worst of my professional life. It probably contributed to the beginnings of a contentious relationship between me and Hugo, who was two at the time. The job wrapped up about a month before I was due, and I made some sketchy decisions about my medical insurance. And, my husband left his job to open his own law office at the same time! Making a huge withdrawal from my IRA to pay off my hospital bill was unfortunately just the beginning of sorting out our finances that year. But, Jack has been more than worth it.
I freelanced my little heart out in 2015, and it was clear I needed a full time, permanent position. Jack had joined Hugo at school full time, and they were both happy and well adjusted. I knew what I wanted at this point. And once again, at the eleventh hour, I got a job that fit my requirements.
- Full time
- Tech company based in my county
Check! I love my job and I’m excited about and interested in the work I do. I’m learning and writing about RFID technology, new software, and learning about stuff I hadn’t thought about since taking high school physics and calculus.
Timing is everything for working moms. For example, I got a call from a dream company who was interested in hiring me when Jack was four months old. My head was full of baby, damn the consequences. I just couldn’t drum up the enthusiasm during an ill-timed phone interview while I was nursing the little guy.
I could probably put a dollar amount on the work I missed and didn’t take while my kids were small, but I won’t. This definitely influenced our decision of how many children we would have, though. And I start to wonder how people do it.