In December of 2018, my husband and I decided to stop preventing pregnancy. By June of 2019, we were trying in earnest. By September, I was tearfully asking him to get his semen tested. By February of 2020, we knew IVF was our only hope for children. Luckily for us, despite the pandemic, we were pregnant by the end of 2020 and I gave birth to two healthy girls in June.
A librarian, I always planned to work full time when I had children, following in the footsteps of my mother and her mother and my dad's mother. My husband knew this from the beginning and we planned our life around this model. We thrived with two incomes and bought a home just 10 minutes from both of our workplaces. We took out credit cards and cashed in some investments to pay for our $30,000 worth of babies, knowing that, together, we'd make six figures and could afford to pay it off. Throughout my pregnancy, this was our plan. Even after I nearly died giving birth, we never discussed an alternative. I would stay home during my recovery and then I would go back, putting our girls in a nearby church daycare. I'd get to be the career woman and the mom. It's perfect, exactly as I've always hoped... and it sucks.
For six weeks now, my husband and I have been waking at 6:00 a.m. to feed our girls, before getting them ready for daycare and ourselves ready for work. We leave the house by 7:30 and drop them off at 7:45, together. We each go home for lunch, where we do chores that we don't want to do later, then finish the day at 5:00, when we head to the daycare. We get home at about 5:30 and try to balance daily tasks with enjoying our girls while they're awake. By 6:00, they're asleep and we can make dinner and eat before they have their final bottle at 8:00 and we put them down. We'd like to feed them earlier, but they'd go to bed that much earlier and we'd miss more of the cumulative hour or so we get with them. After we put them down, we do household chores and watch a show before bed. This is every night, until the weekend, when we have to run any and all errands, because we don't want to miss out on time with our babies during the week. Instead of enjoying them at home, we drag them around while we shop for groceries and get the oil changed and return packages and store purchases. Then we share them with family or friends, if there's some get together, before returning home to put them to bed.
All my life, I pictured having a career I cared about, where I worked full time, and then coming home to my family. I went to college and then grad school. I worked two jobs while carving my professional path. I got a job I loved with understanding managers and made good money. I had as close to zero commute as possible and a clean, safe, nearby daycare minutes away. It was the American dream and it was a lie. I have never considered myself a feminist, but I still thought I could do this. This is the model most people follow. Of course we would, too.
Six weeks. I made it six weeks before handing in my notice to leave my "dream job," the job I can't seem to build any enthusiasm for anymore. Everyone keeps telling me that it gets better, but when I ask how much time they get with their children at night, they almost always answer less than an hour. After two back-to-back rounds of Pandemic IVF, an emergency C-section due to extensive pneumonia and pregnancy-induced heart complications that impact .00001% of women, three blood transfusions, four days in the ICU and three more in labor and delivery... I get an hour with my girls each night. I have a cardiologist now and $9,000 in hospital bills, but I have an hour with my babies.
Leaving my job has been one of the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make. I worked so hard for this. I dreamt of this. I loved what I do. I remember loving it... but I can't do it anymore. I keep thinking I'm weak, that other women do this all the time... but then I talk to them and realize that it doesn't get better. They just get used to it and those aren't the same thing. While I'd love to do the same job half time or part time, when the right opportunity comes along, full time employment is just an impossibility for me and will be for a very long while. I'm fortunate that my husband and I are in a situation where I can leave, but I'm so disappointed in myself and I feel so disillusioned. I'm a pretty traditional woman. I thought I knew that we couldn't have it all. I never considered this average suburban setup to be having it all, but here I am. It was all a lie.
So, to all the young women out there, forging your path, keep in mind that, no matter how much money you can make, you can't make more time. I may return to my library system half time, so I can still get the chores done and the errands run. I may homeschool and pursue a new dream in twenty years. I can always have a career, but I can only be with my girls while they're small once. I thought it was a cliché, but it's true.