Today’s guest author, Missie, can be followed on her personal blog.
Should I work full time, doing a job I love or should I stay home and care for my high-needs preemie, whom I love even more? I don’t know what the right answer is to this question. I can tell you it’s one I’ve asked myself time and time again. And just when I think I’ve firmly decided one way or the other, I ask the question all over again. I’m not going to lie – it was almost impossible for me to work full time with a preemie who had up to 4 appointments a week shortly after our NICU journey ended. And it’s also almost impossible for us to afford for me to stay home full time. I worked hard for the position I’m in and it’s a career field I would like to stay in long-term. I will always love my children more than my job (even through terrible threes) but my career is also important.
I remember posting about my struggles in an online preemie mom group. All but one of the moms answered in some variation of “balancing preemie post-NICU visits is a full-time job”. And it certainly has been. The running joke in our household is that we’ve filled up Noah’s specialist punch card. I was in denial and assumed they all just wanted to stay home. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
One week, I was traveling 20 minutes south for dermatology, coming back to our town for GI and a well-visit at our pediatrician, then heading north 30 minutes for our NICU developmental clinic, further north for surgery consults, blood draws, hematology appointments and then back south for a helmet evaluation. Some nights I fell asleep before my head hit the pillow. Either that or I was tossing and turning, worrying about mixing up appointments, not getting there on time, forgetting to call insurance to clear up a billing issue, calling to schedule another consultation and just plain balancing a toddler, husband, preemie and life in general. Not to mention standing PT, OT and speech therapy appointments. And work. Oh, the work. I work in a high-stress job. Most days I can leave that stress at work. Sometimes it spills over and I bring it home.
Sometimes my home stress spilled over into the office. A few times, I would burst into tears when someone asked how my day was going, my heart aching to be home with Noah. My whole body telling me I needed to be with him. Sometimes it was my overloaded mind simply wishing for a break from it all. From hauling my pump to work, leaving my kids with someone else all day long and trying to turn one off when I was either at home or work. There were many times I thought of throwing in the towel. Was I working simply to pay for child care? Noah being immune-compromised meant he couldn’t go to a typical daycare. Staying home though would bring a whole new set of challenges. Bringing both Noah AND Grace to every one of those appointments, which would also throw Grace’s schedule, routine, predictability out the window. Could we even afford it?
Somehow, the weeks passed, blending into each other, and suddenly we went a week or two without a specialist appointment. We are on the downward slope where weekly and monthly visits turn into quarterly appointments. We’ve crossed a few specialists off our punch card completely. We know that at any time, a test result, a bad cold or a new development can change all of that. But for now, twice-weekly therapy appointments and once a quarter specialist visits are our new normal.
It’s possible to follow your gut and either work or stay home. No matter what you need to do, you will make it through. One day you’ll put your overloaded calendar down and leave it at home without worrying that you’re missing an appointment. You aren’t alone in your feelings, no matter which way you’re leaning today. It gets better. You’ll figure it out. When you do, share your secret with me?