The Too-Many-th Child and the Untaken Maternity Leave
Art: A Domestic Scene, 1582-84 by Annibale Carracci, (from the Met's Open Access collection)
As was the case with each of my maternity leaves so far, I've spent time musing on the meaning of motherhood and work and how I spend my time. This baby, my fourth (!), came as a jarring pandemic surprise just as work was starting to pick back up for me and I had believed that the pandemic was ending. But thanks to the pregnancy, I was able to get my vaccine early last year, enabling me to take my other children on a plane to visit my mother fairly safely. He was my first ever birth that was not an induction. Since his birth, he has been a delight to my family and has taught me lessons and challenged me as a mother when I thought I had everything figured out.
When I was about 8 or 9 months pregnant, I made the questionable decision to promise Electric Playhouse a full suite of birthday party animations in exchange for having my oldest son's birthday party there. The amount of time it actually took me to complete this full space-themed wonderland was much longer than I had anticipated, which was particularly tricky because this party was scheduled for about two weeks after I had given birth. It's not easy to think about trigonometry when you're working on no more than two hours of consecutive sleep. My mother was there to help me during this time, gently pointing out that I had, perhaps, bitten off more than I could chew. I powered through and completed a set of 10 matching, customizable, space-themed animations in time to have the party.
My pandemic baby turned out to be my easiest baby yet, sleeping through the night at only 2 months old! Having reached that milestone, I figured that my excuse to not work had evaporated, so I was ready to complete a project for The Rosenbach, set up the back end registration for NMAEYC's annual conference, and finish another game for Electric Playhouse. It was in trying to achieve these unrealistic goals that I discovered what maternity leave is supposed to be about. I would want to get things done, but my baby would just want to be held and was too young to have any sort of a reasonable napping schedule. After my older children went to bed, I'd want to work but the baby wouldn't want to sleep in his crib. I would wind up getting frustrated about this arrangement and want my husband to take over. He politely pointed out that he thought I was going to take time off for maternity leave. It forced me to spend time just holding my baby, watching TV, and relaxing while not trying to accomplish anything else.
I suppose it's pretty obvious if you've read this so far that I'm a work-a-holic. I really enjoy what I do and generally don't want to stop, but setting limits is important and something that I don't do enough of. As a freelancer, I don't have "work time" and "off time." Many freelancers have gotten that down, but not me. Thanks to my mandatory relaxation time, I'm just now finishing the game for Electric Playhouse that I had intended to finish before Christmas. Now with Omicron raging through the country, childcare is becoming a major issue and one that I'm not sure how to solve. My baby is finally taking consistent naps in his crib without me needing to hold him, so I'd love to become productive again. This has all been a strange journey that so many people right now are struggling with. Not as many of us are doing the work-from-home school-from-home work-with-toddlers dance, but things are far from normal. I want to be able to work because it is a creative outlet, I should keep my website updated with what I'm doing and working on, and I absolutely need to keep my family happy and healthy. I wish I could wrap this up in a neat bow with the lessons I've learned and how I've grown as a business owner/developer/mother, but it's still all just a work in progress.