Imagine a mom who has to leave a five-month-old to go somewhere very faraway, for business reason, for a week.
And I happen to be that mom.
If you've been reading my blog, you know that I -we- always, always take the children when traveling. We take them wherever we're going, and they enjoy the trips as much as we do. But for business trips I can't really do that, can I?
Here where we live, we're lucky because parents get 12 paid months of maternity leave (14 months if dads use his part). With my firstborn my first business trip abroad only happened when she was 16-month-old. She was at the daycare already during the day, although she was still nursing at night.
This time around it came a little early. I'm technically still in maternity leave, but two weeks ago my superior at work sent me a short e-mail, asked me briefly if I can organize myself and my family that I go to China for a week by the end of the month. I read this e-mail while nursing my baby to nap. An official invitation of the event was attached in the mail, and I impulsively answered that I could!
I called my husband who was at work, explained to him what just happened, and he, being his supporting self, said "you have to go! That's a great opportunity! I'll be fine with the kids". He was right, my participation in the event could mean a lot for my research.
What about the baby? She's exclusively breastfeed, she won't take bottles, no one else except my husband and myself had ever cared for her. In some other part of the world, where maternity leave lasts much shorter, this situation doesn't seem to be a big deal. Moms come back to work after six weeks, after three months. Here in this culture, not so much. I know many mothers who fight for even longer maternity leave because 12 months was not enough. I know many would judge me for even thinking of leaving. But you know what, it didn't matter. Because my husband is cheering. My mom thinks I should totally go. My mother-in-law is ready to come so she helps around while I'll be gone. My sister-in-law thinks my children would benefit more from a mom who'd been in China doing what I need to do rather than a mom who stayed at home that same week. A friend said I should go because if I feel that I have to sacrifice (because of not going) than something's not right. My visiting nurse (who pay home visits when I just gave birth) thinks there's no reason I'm not going because my baby is healthy as a horse. I've been pumping and freezing my milk and hopefully the baby would take bottles when I'm gone. I'll buy formula just in case. Until now she'd only fall asleep with me, nursing or being worn, but I know they'll survive without me.
I do love my children. And I'm extremely attached to my baby. But I do love my job. And I'm passionate about it, too. And there's nothing wrong about it. If I give up on this opportunity, I know I'd regret it. I wouldn't be content. And I'm not a good mother to my children when I'm not content.
I'm aware that many moms would give up on the trip and choose to stay with the baby. And I respect that. That's why we all are different. That's why I did choose to go. Because that's what made me, me. I just wish we were more fair about it. Dads never get questioned for leaving. Since our baby was born, my husband went for at least five of multiple-day-trips. To Portugal, Malta, and many many times to Belgium. But he never gets the "you're leaving the baby?", "you'd give her formula?", "are you crazy? she's too small" kind of stuff. Which I do. That's rather unfair. Or is that normal? Is it supposed to be normal? Should I feel guilty to love my job as much as my children? I don't think I should. And I don't think anyone should feel that way. It's seven days. I'll be away for seven days. Then I'll be back and stay at home with her for seven months. And at heart for the rest of my life.