Over the past several weeks, I’ve slowly stripped my office of all things personal. I’ve pulled down notes and cards from my bulletin board, I’ve deleted years of e-mails, I’ve recycled an impossible amount of paper. Today I shoved the last of my stuff into three bags, shut down my computer, said goodbye to the people I share an office with, and stepped out into the cold. Aside from the three extra bags, it felt a lot like leaving on any other Friday. The big difference, of course, is that I wasn’t just leaving for the weekend: I was leaving for 6-12 months* of parental leave.
My parental leave is partially funded. While Sea and I will be taking a (significant) financial hit, this partial funding means that I’m able to have more than the weeks or scant months away from work that so many of you have described. I feel lucky to have this time, and even more lucky that Sea will be able to take a full two months away from her job. I’m looking forward to spending time together in our little family, really getting to know Bingo.
At the same time, I’ve worked in the same organization for a very long time. My work is meaningful (to me), engaging, and something I’m truly passionate about. Stepping away from it, even temporarily, involves stepping away from something that has defined a great deal of my adult life. Today I joked with my manager that I couldn’t handle being “cut off”, and that I would probably still be checking and responding to work e-mails when I went into labor. Except I wasn’t really joking: I don’t know how to let go. Confession: I’ve even had moments of resentment and jealousy as I’ve trained my (truly lovely) replacement.
I’m sure that I will let go of my work, likely stop thinking about it entirely, when Bingo is here. I’ll forget how to log in to my work e-mail, I won’t wonder how things are going in my absence. Right now, pre-Bingo, that’s hard to imagine—but I’m sure it will happen. And I’m absolutely sure that this new job will be even more meaningful and engaging under this new pint-sized boss.
(Side note: As I was readying myself to leave, a co-worker asked me if I was looking forward to my “break”. Though I only have a theoretical understanding of what parenting a newborn will like, I still felt like hitting her for treating parental leave like an extended vacation!)
*I don’t know exactly how long my leave will actually be. Sea might end up taking part of the available time. We’ll see!