Before I shared the news of my pregnancy with the world, I decided to tell my boss and co-managers first, in the form of a five person group text. They deserved that much, after all we were like family – a very, very dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless. Apparently, they all found this news to be so unbelievable that not one single person responded. I waited a day before making the announcement on Facebook. That’s when the comments from co-workers flooded in. My boss even called me in to his office to confirm. He congratulated me and I assured him that after nine years of being a faithful employee, I would not be leaving.
Throughout my pregnancy, my employer was amazing. My boss never took issue with me having to leave work or schedule myself off due to doctor appointments or not feeling well. He checked in on me often and was very supportive. After my last pre-natal check-up, I returned to work. He asked how everything went. I told him Doc said I was dilated to three and 75% effaced. It would be any day now, in fact, I could go into labor that night. It was already two in the afternoon, so my boss told me to go ahead and go home. It would be my last day until after the baby was born. That was a Thursday; my daughter came into this world that Sunday morning.
I am not a salaried employee. I don’t have health, vision, or dental insurance, a 401K plan, sick days, vacation days, or paid time off. There is no maternity leave program. I earn an hourly wage and have a company provided (and paid for) cell phone. There are some pretty amazing perks at my job. My family can tent camp for free and float the river in a raft or a tube for free. We stay in cabins at an extremely reduced rate. I’m not required to wear a uniform – tank tops and flip-flops are perfectly acceptable. I have my own office with unlimited internet and little to no supervision as well as my own kitchen. We enjoy company paid for lunches in the summer and my boss is very flexible with my schedule. If you’re an outdoorsy person with no desire for material things, this is a dream job.
I am still humbled and overjoyed that my employer paid me a partial weekly salary while I took my leave. I am grateful for that.
When my daughter was two months old, I returned to work. It was the off-season and I was still nursing, so I brought her to work with me. The rock ‘n play was set up next to my desk and she slept most of the workday. When she was ready to nurse, I just closed my office door. My boss walked in and I held my breath. I was 98% sure he would be okay with my new office mate, but 2% of me still worried. (Yes, in retrospect, I should have asked first.)
He stopped by my office and we exchanged warm hellos as he welcomed me back. He had a new puppy on a leash with him that was very excited to meet my daughter. He fussed at the pup before saying to me, “I’m sorry I brought my dog to work.”
“I’m sorry I brought my baby to work,” I replied and that was the end of the discussion.
My daughter is one now and no longer sleeps most of the work day. I have exchanged the rock ‘n play with a pack ‘n play. She spends her time watching Chu-Chu TV on YouTube (and if I never hear the Mommy Finger song again, it will be too soon.) Sometimes I take her out of “baby jail” and let her crawl around my office as she tries to unplug my computer or just sit on my lap while I attempt to type one-handed. She loves for me twirl her around in my swivel chair.
My boss still brings his dog to work, too. She’s not a puppy anymore and he no longer keeps her leashed in his office. When they arrive, she promptly runs to me, licks my face, then goes to do her “job.” She has become the official “Guardian of the Baby.” She walks in circles around the pack ‘n play, making sure everything is as it should be. She licks my daughter’s feet through the netting, then settles down in place, right next to the play pen. If someone dares enter my office, she jumps up and stands at attention – her ears sticking straight up and her tail pointing straight out. Once she determines they are not threat, she lets her guard down.
Most days my daughter doesn’t interfere with my work, but some days… well, it can be tough. There are times when she is splayed across my desk as I change her diaper while she kicks and squirms. My office now reeks of fresh baby poop. Occasionally I take a call while she is saying, “Mommommomm” in the background. I get tired. So very tired. I wonder how I will ever get my work done while spoon-feeding a baby and wanting to rip my hair out after hearing the “Johnny Johnny” song for the umpteenth time today. It’s times like these that I have to remind myself she won’t always be here.
I don’t know what the cut-off age will be, but I know when she starts walking, talking, and getting into everything in sight, I’m going to need figure something out. Finding childcare makes my stomach turn. I don’t want to let her go. I want her with me until she has to go to school. I have no back-up plan and no idea where she will go while I’m at work. It’s a problem that sits in the back of my mind constantly and it weighs me down. I was not afforded this luxury with my older children and now that I am able to take my child to work with me, I can’t imagine not having her.
Believe me, I know I am incredibly lucky to be in this position. It’s a struggle moms all over the world face when their maternity leave ends. I am so thankful. I love my job and I love living this camplife. I’m proud to raise my daughter in this environment and will probably only retire when my hands are too arthritic to type. Until then, I hope to take my daughter to work with me as long as possible.