I’ve been struggling with a lot of guilt about being home and not trying to work up until my due date.
Even though it would have been a huge struggle.
Even though there were days, even in the third trimester, (many days) I didn’t want to leave the couch because I felt like I had the flu.
Even though I have my family’s support and we are lucky to be able to generally afford this time off.
Except the decision has ripple effects. It means Gabe gets home later, and is gone from the house way more (like 11 hours on the bad days) because of traffic, because Kamel is busy at work and sometimes can’t leave when he should, because you need 3 people in the car to use the carpool lanes and I’m not there. It means during the months we would normally be strapped financially because of payroll timing and bill timing, we are EXTRA STRAPPED because there is none of my income to assist. It means putting off things like haircuts and having long budget talks into the night to figure out how we can pay for all the things we need to pay for and get to the next pay period without incurring more debt. It means no saving for a house.
And I struggle with this because I feel like it is my fault. It’s my fault my kid is gone too much, and it’s my fault that we are having to have the big talks about the things we cannot actually do even when we said we would because we can’t afford them, and the talks about the things we need to put off buying for the baby – the things we would like but don’t need. My fault. If only I were working.
Except my situation sucked. It was not supportive. I would have had to take major pay cuts to go to all of these doctor appointments.
Except I am doing something – I’m pregnant and it is really hard. Not for everyone, but for me. I hurt and I feel awful, even right now, even right this second I feel so gross. And when I talked to friends of mine who also have kids (Hi Jo!) they reminded me: if women had a better support system, if men had babies, if women’s health was actually valued in this insane patriarchy bullshit society then I probably wouldn’t feel so guilty. I probably wouldn’t have reason to, first of all, but it also wouldn’t be so ingrained in me that I should be “pulling my weight” and “doing it all” and setting aside my health to “contribute to society.”
As Jo said last week to me: You are not making your family’s life harder, you’re making your family.
And as much as I do want to get back to work, this is important life shit happening right now. Important! And I don’t want to feel bad about taking care of me for a short period of time in my life. The rest of my life will be working and child wrangling and partnering and all the things. Right now it’s about taking a few months and letting myself be sick at home, pushing myself to go on walks and stay active, taking the time to rest when I need it, and then eventually having time home with an infant without a looming deadline of 6 weeks hanging over my head.
And these things are luxuries currently. LUXURIES. When I type them out they seem like “well of course” things. “Well of course a largely pregnant woman would want to stay home,” “Well of course parents need time home with their new babies, and women need time to recover and heal and breast feed and and and and…” But I feel guilty and like a massive burden at times because … this small amount of time in a person’s whole productive life is seen as too much. And that’s wrong.
So, I’m working on not feeling guilty, on not feeling like I’m making life harder on everyone else. I’m working on saying, “This is how it should be.” Because it should be. Regardless of economic status, regardless of familial support. We should be taking care of each other better especially in regards to some of the most basic life experiences, the most basic life challenges. I don’t want to see more rhetoric putting mothers on some ridiculous pedestal, I want to see legislature that supports women’s health holistically without guilt or shame.