My original plan was that a friend of mine, Jen, would watch Avita at my home when I went back to work. But right before Avita was born, Jen had an opportunity to move to Florida with her aunt. Once again I was on the hunt for a babysitter. I had another one lined up, but the Tuesday before I had to return to work, that arrangement fell through. I was in an absolute panic. I needed someone I could trust, at an affordable price, somewhere in the area, with an immediate opening.
As I was freaking out about my dilemma, my nephew Ace’s best friend, Barry, happened to be there. He said, "You know, my mom quit her job. She babysits now." No! I didn’t know that, but I’d known his mom for years, totally trusted her, and she lived two blocks away. I called her and found out that she had room for a baby. I was so relieved.
The relief lasted for about five minutes. That's when the reality that I was going to have to actually leave Avita during the day and go back to work set in. I was worried for a couple of reasons. First of all, how was I going to manage working and being a mom? I know millions of women do it every day, but how was I going to make it? Avita and I had barely started to establish a routine. No one in the house was getting much sleep. Other than dishes, cooking and laundry, no household chores were getting done. I wasn’t showering with any regularity.
Now I was going to have to leave the house for nine hours a day. And because I’m an English teacher, I knew it wasn’t just about those nine hours. It was about the hours at home I was going to spend planning lessons and grading papers. I kept thinking, If I don’t have time to wash and dry my hair now, how will I find time to regularly grade 140 essays?
On top of the fact that I was sure I would be going to school with dirty hair and ungraded papers, I was upset about leaving Avita all day long. Friends kept telling me that she would be fine. Ninety percent of me knew that she would be fine. Yes, I was a little nervous that the first few days she would be confused or upset because I wasn’t there, but I knew she would be safe and well cared for. That wasn’t really what I was upset about. I was upset because I wanted to be the one to be with Avita during the day.
When I was a little girl and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always answered, "a teacher." That never wavered. But as I got older, I just assumed that once I had children I would stay home with them. It might sound old-fashioned, but really, my heart’s greatest desire was to be a stay-at-home mom. For me, going back to work now that I had Avita meant letting go of that old dream.
My maternity leave was the shortest six weeks of my life. And as difficult as it was to care for a newborn 24 hours a day, not caring for her for nine of those hours was even harder.