Category Archives: Parenting & Motherhood

And the Depression Fog Rolls In… How to Cope?

I want to be an organized, has-her-shit-together mom for my son. But let’s face it, just because I managed to squeeze a 7lb human out with relatively minimal complications doesn’t mean I suddenly am I sane, stable individual. Spoiler alert: I’m not.

I’m sitting in my one bedroom apartment living room watching my son finally in a good mood, on his back, in the little empty carpeting in the room, cooing and laughing, looking at… something? It’s nearly 7pm and I don’t know where the day went. We did a lot of me not sleeping as he snacked on my breasts and slept on me. When I tried to put him down for a nap in his pack & play he, as always, freaked out. I put a pacifier in his mouth and he spit it out, then started fussing, then started screaming. And repeat.

Exhaustion has new meaning with a newborn. I’m so grateful that I bailed on my plan to go back to work after 6 weeks and with my depression was able to get a disability extension (something I didn’t want to have to do, but I give up) and I have an extra eight weeks, plus another six that will be semi paid that is usable next year, and six weeks unpaid if I want them. The amount of stress I’ve dealt with just managing the guilt and logistics of orchestrating my maternity leave has been immense. I still don’t know how I’m going to go back to work, and then take my 6-12 weeks off throughout the next couple of months. While those weeks are “job protected,” the time in between them is not… which means my company could decide to let me go before I get to use this time off. I hope they don’t, but every single day I will be extra paranoid that I have to prove my worth and then some to maintain my employment…

That’s not good because I already feel like I don’t know what the heck I’m doing, as always. I mean, I am in a better spot in this job than others I’ve had before… but I’m by no means in the clear. I’m scared, and much more scared now that I have a kid. We have a cushion and all, but I need to work. I need to work full time for a long time to afford being a mom. And while I WANT to work, I also want to see my child grow up. I don’t have a choice either way. It’s challenging to hang out with other moms who are changing their minds about going back to work and deciding to quit their jobs and stay home. I don’t want to do that, but then again, part of me does. I can’t, and so that makes it an easy decision for me. But being that I can’t, I also can’t lose my job. And my husband get so annoyed at me when I constantly say I’m going to get fired–and I know that’s not the most productive thing to tell myself, but I just feel so lost and hopeless. I’m almost 35 and I haven’t the faintest idea how to do my job well. Fortunately my boss seems to like me, but that can change at the drop of a hat. If I make her look bad, even by accident, even if I try my best, why would she like me anymore?

Being this exhausted is not ideal for returning to a job that I don’t know how to do. I’ll just hang in as long as I can… which may be months and may be years… and try to save as much as possible. But I’m on a whole different wavelength of reality than my husband right now, which isn’t good. He earns $85k a year without benefits, and I’m making somewhere between $170k and $300k, and I carry the family benefits as well. If he lost his job, it wouldn’t be great, but we could survive. If I lose my job, that’s another story.

The stress was added to this week when I found out it’s unlikely I can qualify for term life insurance because of my history of depression. That’s plenty to be depressed about. I’m not sure how much life insurance I should get, but I was thinking a $3M policy… $150k for my son’s college, plus 30 years at $300k of salary. I could probably do less than that, but it doesn’t matter since I can’t qualify. I’m screwed because I tell my doctor that I occasionally think about killing myself. How am I supposed to get help if I can’t tell my doctor things like this when they ask me? Thank goodness we have a ban against refusing healthcare for pre-existing conditions these days (though who knows if that will last) but life insurance has no such rules. I feel like such a failure for my son and my family.

Meanwhile, I don’t know how to get into a routine of being a mom. I want to give my son a good childhood, I want to engage him and help him develop, and right now I’m not working and my husband is, so that’s really on me. But we barely sleep at night… I’m lucky if I get 4-6 hours of non-consistent sleep which isn’t even good sleep because of my son’s grunting and whimpering. It’s getting. little better but it’s still not good, and it won’t be for a long time. How on earth will I be able to be a great employee on this little sleep? I’m already daydreaming about the catnaps I’ll take in my office parking lot at lunch after pumping.

I’m not complaining here because this is a choice I made, and I’m so lucky to have more time off and protected than many other women in this country. And for now I only have ONE kid to take care of… I can’t imagine what it’s like with more than one (though I’d like to have at least one more when I’m ready–and by then maybe I can do the stay at home mom thing for a year or two? Wishful thinking.)

My kid does get to stay home with my husband’s parents while I’m at work and not go off to a daycare at this young age, which would be much harder. Still, I’m missing the opportunity to be my son’s mother, or that’s how it feels. But, then again, as I glance at him now fussing on the floor, clearly over this once nice position for solitary play time, coos, and giggles, I also think how grateful I am that I will be going back to work and that this isn’t going to be my full time life. So clearly, I’m torn. I just don’t know how to do both, or even this alone, but I’m going to have to figure it out.

Real Estate: Buying Property with Mother-in-Law?

The costs of home ownership in the Bay Area are, well, terrifying. My husband and I (and now my husband, his mother and I) have been visiting open houses each weekend –just to get an idea what, if anything, is in our price range. The short answer is–not much.

Although we’re definitely not wealthy, we now have the benefit (?) of his mother joining us in our home purchasing endeavor. And, by joining us I mean joining us to live with us in an in-law unit (or second unit of a duplex) that we purchase together. should be super-duper grateful that she’s offering a $1M cash downpayment to make this possible. I am. But I’m also super-duper nervous because the other $1M (since the properties we are looking at are about $2M) will come from my husband and I (mostly me myself and I) – and the way their family communicates is practically non-existent so I’d be wrapping my future everything up in a property that’s co-owned by his mother (or, she “gifts” him the money so it’s fully owned by us, but the ownership then is a lifetime of debt to her in other means.)

Do I like my mother in law? Good question. She is, for all intents and purposes, a quiet person who keeps to herself. She marches to the beat of her own drum, but we get along. Would I prefer not to live on the same property as her? Yes, of course. But she’s also willing to help out with childcare and as much as I am nervous about her providing childcare to my kid(s) once they’re of walking age (she’s doing a fine job now with the 10-week old), it’s certainly nice to not have to spend $20k+ a year on daycare, and it’s extra nice keeping it in the family.

The actual scenario we’re looking at is that his mother gifts us the $1M, we get a mortgage for $1M, then his father (who is not married to his mother–never has been–but who is friends with her) gives us $2k a month in “rent” to bring down the monthly costs. All-in-all, financially, doing this with a ~$2M duplex or a reasonable single family + in-law unit makes a hell of a lot more sense than spending $1.5M+ on a single family home with no future rental potential. Even if our mortgage is $7k a month, my husband’s father’s contribution of $2k brings that down to the $5k that is that max I feel comfortable paying monthly for our PITI. I’d like it to be less than that, but at this point realistically it’s not going to get under $5k for what we need to make this work.

I’m just struggling with the lack of fiscal communication here, and how it feels like I’m dealing with a bunch of elementary school students in handling a very serious, very costly purchase, should we make it. That said, what right do I have to ask for any sort of special communication when it’s my husband’s mother who is making this purchase possible at all… shouldn’t I just roll with it? He’s an only child, his mother has practically put her income after very low expenses under pillows her entire life, and she seems to want to offer that to my husband and my child(ren) more than spend it on herself… I mean, for a women who has never owned a home, car, or pretty much anything “new” in her life, I doubt she’s going to change suddenly and spend that money. If I thought she would, or even would enjoy spending it on something else, I’d refuse the cash. I don’t want to be responsible for destroying her retirement. But all she wants in her retirement is a small place to live with a backyard and, most importantly, to spend as much time with my child(ren) as possible.

The entire situation makes me so uncomfortable because even though I grew up with a lot of privilege and my parents providing for me, I have been extremely independent since I graduated college (outside of my wedding.) I feel guilty for the privilege I’ve had, but have always told myself that as long as I make my own money for the life I want to live once I graduate college, I’m doing right by the world.

There’s a very long post I will write one of these days regarding my own parent’s financial mess (my father passed away this summer and let’s just say the family networth went from $1M to $400k in about 4 years–again, that story will be saved for another post(s))–but I’ve been struggling too with coming to terms that I always thought there’d be something left to provide backup should I financially fall on my face one day–but the reality has sunk in that nothing will be left. I am in a much better financial situation than my sister who is 28 and still earning a little higher than minimum wage with no benefits, so I can’t complain. It’s still a scary feeling, nonetheless (to be written about in another post.)

But I’ve also saved up now $650k, give or take, in retirement and investment accounts, and I feel like I’m capable of buying my own property without the help of others. Well, I would be, anywhere else in the country. Here… anything under $1.5M is pretty terrifying, at least with a 30 minute commute from my job south of the city.

That leads me down the road of… why buy now? The prices are coming down a bit (I’ve seen a bunch of $100k price drops in the last few weeks which seems substantial), but do we really need to buy this year? Our 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartment lifestyle isn’t that horrible, especially given the size of our apartment (800 square feet) provides rather large rooms compared to 3br, 2ba houses for sale (some of those “master bathrooms” are masterly tiny.)

His mother doesn’t have to move now either. She’s still living in her parent’s house (I believe, for free, which she’s done her entire life), so she is ok there until her mother, who is in her 90s, passes away (clearly not wishing this on her at all, but there’s the reality that few humans live past 100.) Once she passes away, we don’t know what will happen with the property other than that it will be sold and, we think, his mother will get 1/3 of its value (possible that won’t be the case but no one talks in the family about things like that.) Even without that inheritance, though, she will still have the $1M waiting its use for a home purchase with or without us.

Part of me wants to power through the next few years in our 1br/1ba and enjoy the rent control we have with our $2450 rent. I’m 45 minutes from my office in rush hour, but maybe I can work out an alternative travel the where I get that sweet 30 minute each way drive. I’ve considered moving us closer to my office… but we can’t get anything near nice enough at $2450 a month. We could pool resources and live with his dad for $4450 a month… but we know without a private unit / in law that would be a mess. We’re not even going to try that…

So, we may just wait it out as long as we can. When his grandmother passes away, that will make everything happen faster, since his mother will have to move. Until then, nothing is making us leave this place. Our son can easily manage to live in a 1 bedroom with us until he’s at least one, and maybe longer. It does suck not being able to invite people over, but heck, what people would I invite over? I don’t really know anyone. And I work all the time anyway, or at least I will when I get back from maternity leave.

That seems like the right option– even though we could qualify for a loan that, with his mother’s cash, would enable us to buy a property now. Yet I’m not sure buying is right at all anyway… home ownership is a hot mess from what I can tell… it’s costly, it takes all your time, there are issues you don’t know about when you buy that pop up later… and in the Bay Area you have to buy “as is” with no contingencies which just sounds like a recipe for financial ruin. Why bother?

Well, why bother because I have a kid and I want him to have a stable life… both my husband and I grew up in houses from the day we were born until adulthood, and we value not moving around every couple of years, especially for our family. So there’s that.

Leave the Bay Area? Maybe. If we don’t buy now… and if I can keep my current job for the next 3.5 years to collect my stock, and that stock remains valued at what it’s worth now or more, then who knows… we could pick up and move. His parents won’t want to, but we could buy a place on our own. He wouldn’t want to be far from his parents, so–I’m not sure it’s really an option, but if we can have another kid (or two more kids) it may be the best one.

In any case, I’m not sure what to do… as always… but after looking at probably 100 open houses over the last year… all I can say is I really don’t want to buy anything I’ve seen. That’s not a good sign.

Why I’m So Stressed Out About Maternity Leave

Three months ago, I met with the director of benefits at my company who, after congratulating me on my pregnancy (then just starting my second trimester), told me point blank that I was not eligible to take more than 6 weeks off immediately following the birth of my child (paid or unpaid.)

Due to the way the California policy works, I would be eligible to take 12 more weeks off (6 of them semi paid, 6 unpaid) once I hit my “year” mark at work, but given I’d only be at 9 months when I would give birth, I was basically SOL.

I did ask if I could use any vacation time to make the leave longer (since we have “unlimited vacation time”) and was told no. I asked if I could take an unpaid leave and was told that I would be let go if I did not return to work at the start of week 7. It basically seemed like I had no choice, so I just accepted it, three months into my new job, grateful to have any protection and moved on.

But now that baby is just around the corner and I’ve been talking to more moms, I’m terrified of going back to work at 7 weeks post birth. Like, I will be nursing every two hours through the night and I just don’t know how I will be able to do this. Even if I do make it to the office I’ll be a zombie and useless. I’ll certainly perform poorly leading to getting let go anyway. I mean, I’m not sure I’ll suddenly be on my A game again after 10 or 12 weeks post birth, but it sounds like at that point baby might be sleeping a little bit more through the night, and hopefully so will I.

So now I’ve contacted the head of HR and I am worried I’m just making things worse for myself right now. But I talked to my (newish) boss who basically told me she wants me to take all the time up front and I tried to explain to her I can’t. Maybe if she talks to HR I can, but really they’d have to work something out as it seems like I can’t do this on my own. I’m already so terrified about pissing my boss off–I am not the type of person bosses like to begin with, so I’m just really trying to keep my head down and get my work done… but now I feel like I’m just a walking target the next time they’re looking to downsize or just get rid of that one person who doesn’t fit on the team.

And it sucks because I don’t even want to take that much time off… I feel like I’m doing ok now… not great, but ok… ok enough to maybe every day not feel like I’m about to get fired. Except when I’m gone for 8 weeks or 10 weeks or more, well, then people will forget about all the effort I put in this year and I’ll be back to square one. And regardless of when I go back I’ll certainly be more exhausted even if I try not to be since I am baby’s food source.

There are days I think I should just quit but I know I can’t. There’s the salary plus the health insurance plus the fact that my stock is worth a substantial amount and I don’t see any of that until early next year. I’m fortunate to be in this situation but at the same time I’m crying every single day because I don’t know what to do — how hard to I push HR? I’m so new to this job. I don’t deserve any protection. I know that my skillset is somewhat unique and hard to hire for — so there’s a chance they wouldn’t find a replacement for me in the extra six weeks I’d take. There’s also a chance they would.

Part of me feels like I should just shut up, come back to work at 7 weeks postpartum and hold my breathe for the rest of the year until I vest my first chunk of stock and get some of my bonus (whatever they decide to give me) and then if I’m completely frazzled and ready to jump off a bridge I can consider leaving if necessary. I don’t WANT to leave but at that point I may need to. Or maybe I won’t. But at least then I’ll have made it through phase #1 and should be at about $650k networth. It would still be very upsetting to leave as I’d be throwing away my career at that point, along with substantial upside, but I’m scared and feel like I’m constantly on edge and really just not doing so well from a mental health perspective right now.

I wish my husband cared to make more money but he doesn’t. He provides in so many other ways and will be home to take care of the kid while I work, and for that I’m grateful. But the costs of living here are just really too high and he could be making more if he wanted to but he consults for one small business on a part-time basis and never really gets raises so every year his income is worth less and less. Now with baby the flexibility is worth a lot but it just feels like we could be in so much of a better place if he had any interest in financial stability for our family. I know that’s not his thing and I knew that from when I first started dating him, so I can’t put this on him at all. It would just make it easier if we both earned about the same, but we don’t. It would make it easier if I was better at my job or wasn’t having a baby, but all these things are not the case.

I feel really really really shitty about asking HR for more than the 6 weeks, and for every single conversation I have with my boss about my leave. I feel guilty for having a kid and I feel guilty for knowing I won’t be able to dedicate the time I want to raising it because I’ll be so paranoid that I will look bad at work that I’ll probably increase my time and output at work compensate. All the while I’ll likely be extremely exhausted. Maybe I’m thinking too much worse case scenario but how awake can one be waking up every  2 hours to nurse all night?

So many parts of me want to just quit but those parts want to quit because I hate the guilt and embarrassment of being a pregnant woman less than a year into a new job and dealing with crappy US maternity leave policies and also not wanting to seem like I’m entitled to anything just because I made the choice to be a mom. I guess if it gets to the point at 7 weeks where I just cannot return to work for my mental wellbeing, I don’t, and I deal with the financial consequences (which would be brutal to the tune of $100k-$150k+ in lost earnings, depending on when I return to the workforce.)

And I have no one to talk to about this which makes it even harder. I can’t talk to my boss–she wants me to take all the time up front and doesn’t care (nor should she) about the pay or no pay situation. I can’t talk to HR because their job is protecting the company. I can’t talk to my husband because he knows I lose my jobs often and just sees this at yet another one of those situations. I can’t talk to my family, they don’t understand. I can’t talk to my friends–my female friends who have kids have husbands who make $300k+ per year and either are stay at home moms or run part-time businesses. I can’t talk to my therapist about it because this isn’t a mental health issue this is a I need advice on how to handle maternity leave issue. So I just feel really alone right now and that’s what hurts the most and leads me to this very dark, hopeless place. I’m trying to be excited about having a baby but I’m just scared. I know I’m lucky to have even 6 weeks of covered leave at semi pay, but what happens on week 7?

 

 

My Messed Up Maternity Leave Plan That Makes No Sense

The good news, is I get some paid maternity leave. That’s more than most women in this country can bank on. I’m extremely fortunate that my company has to follow the laws of the land (in this case, California) to provide 4 weeks of “before due date” and 6 weeks of “after delivery” protected leave with some pay (via state disability, and the case of my company, a few weeks fully paid.)

Now, the good news is that I get ANOTHER 6 weeks of semi-paid leave after the first 6 weeks of disability. The bad news is, I’m not allowed to take it until I hit my one year mark on the job — which means I’ll have anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months (1, if I give birth on my due date) in between leave #1 and leave #2. I thought maybe they’d allow me to take a week or two unpaid, so I could be home 8 weeks with newborn, but no dice. Basically, they are strict about these policies. Since we have an “unlimited time off” policy I’m, ironically, not allowed to take any time off (vacation OR unpaid) after I get back from my 6 weeks. That seems kind of f’d, esp the whole not being allowed to take UNPAID time, but that’s the law – and my company is not going to go out of their way to provide anything beyond the law, esp to someone who is so new. I can’t blame them, but it still sucks. Continue reading

A Happy Post, For a Change: Hello Second Trimester

I sat on the floor early this morning and did something I haven’t done — felt something I haven’t felt — for a long time. I sat and cried. The crying part isn’t the usual part. It’s that those tears streaming down my face were happy tears.

I triple checked out of disbelief — was I also thinking of the best way to remove myself rom this universe? Did I have negative, self-defeating thoughts causing the tears that I somehow wasn’t detecting? No, I was crying because – baby. Because tomorrow, depending on who you ask, I’m either entering the last week of my first trimester or the first week of my second trimester (I’ll be 13 weeks pregnant.) And, my prenatal defect ultrasound was yesterday and everything went great — baby is healthy, so far as they can tell in the things they tested for, and spending its time upside down sleeping until you wake it up and then, in true related-to-me fashion, bouncing all over the place the second you wake it up. Continue reading

Things I’m Looking Forward To… Almost 11 Weeks Pregnant

This isn’t the life I imagined, but let’s be real, I didn’t have the ability to imagine much of a life at all. At 34, I’m constantly perplexed but how I got here, and so fast. I’m suddenly an old mom, especially an old first-time mom. Not quite a 40-year-old mom, but old enough that I’m bewildered by the majority of women in my Facebook group who are in their teens and twenties who are having a child, often their second or third. I ask myself briefly, did I wait too long for this?

But then, I’m grateful for having the time in my life to get somewhat settled. I haven’t made as much progress in my mental health as I would have liked — I still have panic attacks, still suffer with depression, still am too sensitive to every stimuli and fail to think rationally in any situation requiring at outcome for myself. If this doesn’t make me sound like someone who is set to be nominated for future mom of the year, I know I’m not going to be a perfect mom. Maybe in my 20s I would have wanted to be. Today, I know better. Continue reading

Trouble at Work… Again.

My biggest problem in the workplace is that I’m incapable of estimating how long projects will take — especially when they involve delegating work to others and/or finding outside vendors for that project. My new job requires lots of this, and it’s becoming more and more apparent but the day that this has the potential to  put a significant wrench in my plan to stay in this role for at least four years.

I have the opportunity to be successful in this role. I have a supportive boss who believes in my general ability. But he has big goals and my role in achieving those goals is not a small one – which is great – I have an important position that can really move the needle. I have a chance to make a difference for the whole team, and to maybe, finally, contribute consistent quality work. Continue reading

8 Weeks Pregnant: Progress of Creating a Life

Being pregnant is like living in two parallel universes, especially in your first trimester when no one knows you are expecting. One is your regular life, where you go about your day at work and around friends living like you had before, with the exception of pretending to drink alcohol and hoping no one notices you haven’t drank in weeks. And, only you know this giant secret, one that many women have at some point in their life, that they have a new life, a new person, being created inside of them – as they give that presentation to their team or share a laugh with friends, holding a glass of wine without taking one sip.

Continue reading

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May the Force Be With You: Bringing a Child into this World

It has taken 34 years, but I’ve finally – almost – accepted that my parents will never be the loving, empathetic, caring people that I’ve always assume parental types should be. Like any human, they are flawed, but unlike many humans, they are extraordinarily self-centered,  giving only financially as a means to feel powerful and in control. Continue reading