The Day You Go to Work

1.29.07: A labor of love


I started back to work—just part-time for now. Charlie doesn't seem to mind. And neither do I. In fact, it's been wonderful for me. I have a job that I love, that I was happy and eager to get back to. We have babysitters we all love, who are part of our family. It was an easy decision to return to work, to keep our routine going, and to bring in a little extra income.

It wasn't such an easy decision when I had Julia. I had been working as a staff writer in a job that I didn't exactly love, but that I was grateful for, since it allowed me to work from home. Even so, I was completely torn over the decision to go back to work and let someone else take care of my baby. Someone who wasn't me. It was heart-wrenching at first. There were days when I would sit at my desk and cry. The first time our babysitter Grace took Julia for a walk in the stroller, I paced the hallways and peered out the windows every few minutes. After five minutes, my palms began to sweat. After ten minutes, I was having heart palpitations. After fifteen minutes, I developed a twitch. After twenty, I had myself thoroughly convinced that Grace was kidnapping Julia to sell her on the black market. When I saw them coming back up the driveway, Julia snoozing peacefully in the stroller, I was a puddle of relief.

This time around, I think the return to work has been hardest for Will. Every morning, Julia wakes up and asks: "Dada, is today the day you go to work?" Both Will and Julia are devastated on the days when he has to say "Yes, Juje, today's the day I go to work."

"WHYYYYYYYYYYY?" asks Julia, every morning, as Will calmly explains the inner workings of a capitalist society to his two-year-old: "I have to make money so we can buy blueberries and ice cream at the grocery store." Most days, Julia nods her head in understanding and complicity. (She loves blueberries and ice cream almost as much as she loves her dad.) But one recent morning, Julia announced: "Dada, I have some money. I'll give it to you so you don't have to go to work anymore. Come on!" She ran to her toy bin, dug out her wallet, rifled around in it, and handed Will a penny. "Now you don't have to go to work, Dada!" she cheered happily, jumping up and down. "Hooray!"

I could see the heartbreak on Will's face as he tried to explain to Julia that we might need just an eensie bit more money before we could move to Palm Beach and take up shuffleboard. "I'll tell you what," he said, "Why don't we start saving all of our money now, and when we've saved enough, I won't have to go to work anymore."

"OK!" Juje agreed, happy to have a project. She dumped the rest of her coins and handed the empty wallet to Will. "Here, Dada. You can save your money in here."

Will went to work with a heavy heart that day. A lot of days. I'm only fully realizing this now. It's true what all the pregnancy books say: while moms-to-be are focused on the impending birth of the baby, they sometimes don't realize how stressed out the dads-to-be are about providing for their growing families. While I was busy folding onesies and stacking columns of diapers on the changing table, I didn't see Will quietly unfolding his newspaper and scanning columns of interest rates and stock prices. When I was painting pictures of fishies and sailboats to hang on Charlie's walls, I didn't quite notice Will constructing his complex spreadsheets illustrating our entire financial future. I was buying maternity underwear; he was buying mutual funds.

I have noticed that he works a lot. And I've given him a lot of grief about it, especially since we've had a newborn in the house. But I'm slowly starting to realize that it's because we have a new baby that Will works so much. Because he's responsible. Because he's committed to taking care of his family. Because he's doing the very best he can.

Still, on Saturday, when Julia wakes up and asks: "Is today the day you go to work?" and Will breaks into a huge grin and yells "Today's the day I stay home!", I'll be right there with them, shrieking, holding hands, jumping up and down, yelling "Yay! Let's go sledding! Let's make hot chocolate! With marshmallows!" And euphoria will break out once again -- if only until Monday.

Join's Managing Editor Dana Rousmaniere each week as she chronicles life with a new baby.

Read the next entry: 2.5.06: The Blink of an Eye