I would be a liar if I said I never dreamed of only working part-time or being a stay-at-home mom when I had children. While pregnant, my husband and I even mulled over the possibility of me working part-time when the baby arrived. Ultimately, we decided it would be best for our family for me to continue working full-time.
When our daughter arrived and presented with a variety of medical issues, we were faced with the decision of figuring out how to best meet both her needs and the needs of our family.
Things that we once took for granted became very important. Even if we could make it work financially for me to stay home, being the carrier of our health insurance made it critical for me to continue working. On top of that, finding childcare for a medically fragile child is next to impossible unless we were willing to pay a significant amount of money for hourly nursing services. In the end, I was forced to reduce my schedule to part-time and rely on family members to care for our daughter in my absence.
Let’s be honest…reducing my time at work wasn’t all that much of a sacrifice. It was a consideration before we even knew of our daughter’s disabilities. However, here I am a year later returning to work after another summer off and I can’t deny the disappointment and frustration that go along with my return. I am certainly disappointed about leaving my daughter at home. Yet, I also find it challenging to return and be reminded of the many sacrifices involved with being a special needs parent … this time in regards to my career.
Upon returning to work, I am once again made aware of the many leadership opportunities within my profession that are no longer an option for me. I watch colleagues being chosen for leadership positions and professional development opportunities, knowing that my limited availability excludes me from being a good candidate. Further, I am plagued by guilt for being an inflexible colleague and teammate (despite having the most supportive team imaginable – which almost makes it worse sometimes!)
I am unable to drop everything at home to run into work for a few hours and meetings have to be scheduled around my limited availability. I’m the person in the room who appears glued to her phone, when in reality, my phone doesn’t leave my side so I can be reached in the case of an emergency. And if I’m really honest, most days my mind is swimming in the daily details and worries that go along with raising a special needs child. The energy I used to have to go above and beyond at work just doesn’t exist.
I go to work and give it everything I have (left), while reminding myself to be grateful I am able to continue to work at all. I know other families of children with special needs who don’t have that option. Yet, some days it still stings just a little that I am unable to be the professional that I always envisioned.