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Doing the Unthinkable

Deb Whiting
Haddonfield NJ USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 6, November-December 2002, pp. 211

When I was three months pregnant, my husband and I were invited over to a friend's house. The conversation started with talk of children and progressed to philosophies of parenting. The hostess said she thought that mothers should stay at home with their children. Then, much to my surprise, my husband agreed. I was furious. Although we hadn't talked about it, I thought he knew I didn't want to stay home when we had children. I had worked very hard during my PhD and post-doctoral training to get my university tenure-track job, which provided great colleagues, motivated students, and lots of variety in each day. I genuinely looked forward to every day at work.

If anyone had told me that a little over a year later I would quit this wonderful job, sell our new home in Maine, USA and move in with my parents in New Jersey, USA I would have laughed at the absurdity of such an idea.

But after having Becca, everything changed. I had never felt such an all-consuming love and need to protect. Her crib went untouched as she nestled between my husband and me at night. During the day, she was either at my breast or in someone's arms. My mother stayed with us for the first few months so the transition back to work wouldn't be as hard. After she went home to New Jersey, we began sending Becca to day care. I felt uneasy about leaving my baby with someone I didn't know, but I kept thinking she and I would become accustomed to it.

It didn't get easier or feel any better. I found myself dropping her off later and later, and picking her up earlier and earlier. And even though she was in day care just a short amount of time each day, she had ear infections on a regular basis. How could my meetings at work possibly be more important than being with my daughter? Despite the great support I received from my boss and colleagues, I began to resent the job I had loved.

During one particular phone call with my parents, I tearfully confessed that no one had told me leaving my baby was going to be so hard. My father suggested that my husband, Phil, transfer his medical residency post down to New Jersey, and that we live with them until Phil finished his residency in order to afford to have me stay at home. Much to everyone's surprise, including our own, we jumped at the offer. Once we made the decision, everything fell into place. Our house sold in one day. Phil found a good program to transfer into, and one of his medical school classmates transferred into his vacant position. I gave notice and matter-of-factly said goodbye.

It's been a year since we moved in with my parents. We've all done amazingly well together. Becca loves having so many people around, especially me. Phil is now chief resident and has a dramatically shorter commute each day. My parents have traded their privacy for the joy of having their granddaughter grow up in front of their eyes. It seems fitting that Becca's first sentence was "I see Pop-Pop."

Though I do miss my friends from work and the joy of connecting with students, this year has been incredibly satisfying. Watching my beautiful, joyful daughter absolutely thrive, and knowing my husband and parents are such an integral part of Becca's life, reassures me that we made a great decision for our family.

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