A difficult choice to make


QB commented the other night that he was surprised I hadn’t blogged about the main issue of discussion in our house at the moment. He’s right, frankly I’m surprised I haven’t wanted to share my deliberations too. Instead I’ve written and re-written – and thanks to a publishing glitch, will attempt to re-write yet again – this post. (that is, if I don’t start banging my head against the wall in frustration or Lil Z wakes up or her physio arrives or I have to leave to take Vegemite to the dentist…).

The big reveal, which has now been spoiled, is this:

I am contemplating leaving my job to stay at home and look after Lil Z – and Vegemite when she’s not at school.

Just writing it makes me feel a bit panicky.

This is not a decision I ever expected to need or want to make. I’ve never just had a “job”, its always been a career. And I’ve never thought seriously about abandoning it, even when Vegemite and then Lil Z came along. In fact, I was determined to keep working because I wanted to set a good example to my girls – that you can have children and a career. And not only any career, but a career in a specialised and male-dominated field. I was making it work and setting an example.

And, if I’m truly honest, I looked down my nose a bit at those women who chose to be stay at home mothers instead of career women. What did they do all day? Didn’t they feel dependent on their husband? Didn’t they get bored? Of course after I actually had Vegemite and Lil Z, I understood the impetus to stay home much better, but still, I had a certain misplaced pride that I was managing to work (albeit part time) after having two girls. And even more so that I was managing to work despite having a medically complex, disabled child.

This is a real mind-shift for me. And I’m not quite there yet. I’m not sure if I ever will be.

So, why am I considering it? The main reason is Lil Z’s development. Her core and back muscles are getting stronger, she’s able to do more, and she’s better able to control her emotions. In short, she is finally in a place where she is benefitting from therapy.

A year ago, a visit to a therapist would go something like this. I would arrive with a grumpy baby. The therapist would try to get Lil Z to do something. She might comply – but only for a minute or two – before screaming and scratching frantically at her ears. The rest of the therapy session would involve me rocking Lil Z while the therapist recommended activities I could try later with her at home.

Fast-forward to yesterday and our visit to the physio. Lil Z arrived grumpy (she’d had a rotten night’s sleep). Grumbling turned to fussing and crying during the leg stretching and sitting exercises. Then the physio put Lil Z on the scooter board (a sort of padded skateboard). Suddenly there was silence. She loved being pushed around the room on her tummy. She looked up regularly to find me. She kicked at toys as she scooted past. She let the physio help her to stretch her arms out and pull herself along the floor. Success! And more importantly, we are going to build on the success by using the scooter board as a reward for doing less popular activities.

Perhaps even more momentous was this morning when we were playing. Lil Z crossed one hand over the other and pushed a button on a toy, causing an animal to pop up. Then she did it again. And again. She did it about 10 times in total, leaving me in little doubt that it was just a lucky coincidence. She had made a connection. And if she can push a button on a toy, she can push a button on a switch, or a shape on an iPad, and that opens up all sorts of possibilities – particularly for assisted communication. How’s that for playtime on a Friday morning?

If I wasn’t working, I would have the opportunity to focus better on her physio and OT exercises. We could work more on pushing those buttons. And signing. And swimming. And music (she secretly loves the music therapist at her playgroup, although she’d never admit it). Now is the time to help her develop. And what job could ever reach that level of achievement?

It would also give me more time to spend with Vegemite. I could get involved with her school activities, get to know the other mums better and give her more attention. I could make sure that she becomes more independent because she wants to, rather than because she has to.

Would I miss work? At the moment, half of my job consists of a role that I wouldn’t miss at all. The other half, however, challenges me and makes me use my brain in ways that I wouldn’t otherwise. It also gives my confidence and self esteem a boost because I’m good at it and it means that I’m considered something of a specialist. Those are good feelings that I would definitely miss.

I also worry that if I leave my career, I’ll never get back into my chosen field again. Particularly not in a part time role. I hope and expect that some day Lil Z won’t need me quite as much. And it’s a scary thought that at that point in my life, I won’t be able to return to a career and I’ll end up stocking shelves despite the fact I’ve got a doctorate.

As for the financial side of things, well, its fairly neutral. The vast majority of my take-home pay currently goes towards childcare for Lil Z. Anything leftover is usually consumed by the cost of prescription medication, special formula, nappies, syringes, and vomit bags. So, I may be a professional career woman, but I still need to borrow money from QB if I want to buy a pair of shoes.

So, its a lot to think about. And QB and I need to do a few more calcuations and have a few more discussions before a decision is made. Whatever it will be.


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