Tuesday, June 15, 2021

And Then We Were Four

We left for the hospital just before midnight. The on-call OB said that if Mrs. Done by Forty's contractions were five minutes apart and consistent, then it was time to go. We called our friend to come over since Toddler AF was asleep, grabbed the suitcase, and drove off. 

At the hospital though, the nurses weren't so sure Mrs. Done by Forty was in labor. Early labor, sure. Regular, intense contractions, yes. But not "labor labor". After being told "let's wait another hour and see where we're at" the entire night, they finally released Mrs. Done by Forty at 9 am, nine hours after we arrived, and told us to come back when we were really in labor.

"But I feel like I am in labor."

"But you're not. So..."

She suffered through a full day of contractions on no sleep at all, with Toddler AF demanding her attention because I'd foolishly told him he needed to leave mommy alone today. But we got through the day, shoved some food in Toddler AF, and put him to bed. We'd both finally be able to get a good night's rest.

As we were crawling into bed, she felt a sharp kick. Her water had broken. Our friend rushed over again, and we were back on our way to the same hospital for the second night in a row.

Mrs. Done by Forty, as always, was a champion. She is stronger than me, and as proof she made it to seven centimeters before the epidural. She is tough and she is my person. Mrs. Done by Forty brought our little one, our six pound, fifteen ounce Baby JC, into the world early that morning in late April.

The doctors kept us in the hospital an extra day to monitor Baby JC, which meant Toddler AF got to eat pizza and spend more time hanging out with his new buddy, our friend who was kind enough to drive in from Tucson to watch him for two whole days. We were worried that Toddler AF would freak out without us there, but it turns out he was just happy to hang out with someone new for the first time since the pandemic began.

After eating our way through the hospital's menu, seeing a never ending train of nurses, doctors, and specialists, it was time to face the outside world again. Mrs. Done by Forty's sister was able to stay with us for a week, which was a huge help, even if a bit stressful. (I've never been good at having guests at the house for any length of time, and a week is the longest stretch we've ever tried.) She was able to watch Toddler AF, cook, and allow Mrs. Done by Forty and me to get as much sleep as we could. Baby JC only complied so much: every few hours, she rose again.

The past six weeks have been a blur of takeout meals and GrubHub deliveries (thanks again to the online friends who gifted us so many free meals), books and screen time with Toddler AF, tantrums, loving moments with the family, cooing and cuddling with Baby JC, surprising and draining fights with Mrs. Done by Forty, and all on too little sleep. Never enough sleep. There is a lot good, but a lot of stress, too.

Because we can never settle on a plan for very long, we are rethinking the work plan yet again. Seven weeks into life with our newborn, Mrs. Done by Forty is not sure she wants to work while Baby JC is so little. The reality of having her in our life, how often she needs fed and burped, and how little sleep we are operating on, is causing her to reconsider why and how she would go back to work if she doesn't technically have to. There's just no room left on the plate.

We'd just settled on a new plan pretty recently. Right before Baby JC came, the idea was that she'd work from home most of the time but perhaps go into the office three or four hours a day. I'd watch the kiddos, and maybe after we can get a vaccine into Toddler AF's little arm, we could send him to preschool. Maybe we'd use the Microsoft app that came with the chip to check in on him, just to make sure he's safe.

But now that Baby JC is here in all her big eyed, cooing glory, Mrs. Done by Forty isn't quite as sure she wants to go to work after her twelve weeks of maternity leave ends. 

I, too, am not in a great position to know if this is truly what she wants long term, or if sleep deprivation and the overwhelming everything that comes with newborns and toddlers is just making work seem like one thing too many. 

The loose plan now is to approach work in a series of short-to-medium term trials. Try a month of working full time from home and see if it's a good fit. Try a month of going into the office part-time and see if she wants to continue. If she decides she'd rather just be home with the fam for a while instead of working, or if the stress is too much and she doesn't want to keep going, she'll put in her notice or ask for a leave of absence, and that'll be that.

I already wrote about all the challenges inherent with leaving work so I won't tread over all that again. But there are questions we don't know how to answer. What if this isn't the right call but we can only know that in retrospect?  What if she can't find a position in her field again after taking several years off?

We have no good answers here, only tradeoffs. I've never thought personal finance taught many great life lessons, but one that I like is that everything has opportunity costs. Whatever we choose to do with our time, that means there's something else, a lot of something elses, that we can't do at the same time. We're inevitably going to miss out on some things.

The pandemic proved to us that we cannot work and raise very young children at the same time. At least, Mrs. Done by Forty and I specifically cannot. Not really work, or not really raise the kids. The best we could manage was some sort of unsustainable compromise.

Now that I'm no longer working, a different compromise is possible. I can be the stay at home dad while she works. It's appealing.

But there's still an opportunity cost. While she'll obviously be here for Baby JC's first year of life if she works, and would still parenting and still getting to be here for precious moments and all of that, there are some things that she won't be there for. 

She might want to be here for it all while they're still young.

It's weird to frame it as such because what I'm describing is just a normal, totally situation which is "being a working parent in modern America". Still, we can also probably acknowledge that America, with its general lack of parental leave and dumb approach to childcare, makes it unusually difficult on working parents.

Now that we've stumbled our way into financial independence, we have choices on how we want to spend our time. We're in the very lucky position to do things differently. We can choose not to work, if that's what we want. We just have to figure that out.

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  1. SavvyFinancialLatinaJune 15, 2021 at 7:49 AM

    Congrats on Baby JC. Glad she is healthy! Having a toddler and a newborn baby. Don't make any decisions right now. You have time :) Enjoy it. Don't stress

    1. Thank you, SFL! I think you may be right on not making decisions right now. But with Mrs. Done by Forty supposedly heading back to work in five weeks or so, I think we'll have to make one...one way or another!

  2. Welcome to the world, Baby JC!

    I totally understand that haze and indecision. I hope for good sleep sooner than later for all of you.

    1. Thank you, Revanche, and yes, more sleep would be very, very welcome. We're trying our best to relieve each other and give naps when we can. It's slowly getting better but my surgery has made for a rough week/regression.

  3. Welcome to the world! Don't rush the decisions :) It will unfold as it should.

    1. Thanks, eemusings! I hear what you're saying, but she goes back to the office in five weeks. I feel like I'm missing something because I think we've got to make at least some decision on trying to work by that point. But maybe waiting until she tries it out for a bit is the prudent thing.