From time to time you read an article in magazines or newspapers about the issue that many (new) parents (read: mothers) run up against: I 'have to' go back to work, but I do not want it.
But who does that mean?
Prestigious law firm
Once I worked at a prestigious law firm, with 1000 men we were in a super-bright office building, with a view over one of the most famous rivers in the world. A generous salary, nice clothes, tasty lunches and, moreover, occasionally a tasty chew. Like me, thousands walked around in that big city. Tracking the departure and arrival times of your commuters train. The loud grumbling when the train failed again. Whether you slipped into your office cold and ice-cold (stumbled). It was searching for nice tents where you could spend your hard earned money. The nicest make-up. New bag needed, shops enough!
But as soon as I got older, things started to shine less. Because even though I had a nice salary, my money went up, popped up. With a high mortgage, a well-priced train season ticket and a gym that I visited less than the local baker (never) and all the other nice 'extras'. And when people around me were having children, I wondered how quickly they were back to work. A comment has always remained with me "I DO NOT work anymore, but I WANT to work again". Serious? Are you crazy? Why would you? Why do not you take a year off? Because you have to feed your shopping addiction, or because you just want to have lunch without children? But why? Who should do that?
Fast forward a year or 10. I am on the eve of my maternity leave. A year long (I do). Yes, really, well, a little longer, even for 14 months. Because well, that was one of the advantages of chasing your own shadow: working hard = long leave.
I had to get back to work again
I did not miss my work for a minute of those 14 months (we were still living in the time of the Blackberries), because contact was enough. And before I knew it, I had to "get back" again. I say "had to", because otherwise I would not get my 'welcome back' bonus (disadvantage of long leave). But after a while, the fun was gone. I did not want to make that long journey at all, I did not want to leave a crying child at all. I did not want to spend my free Friday grumbling because I did not like it anymore. I had not done anything nice for myself for ages. Having lunch? No, I work through, then I can go home sooner. Do something nice tonight? Nah, I'm going away like that. New bag? No, the diaper bag is fine.
As soon as the 'must' period of 9 months back at the office was over, I left. A job that I had put my heart and soul into, no longer gave me satisfaction. Even though 'I' did not have to work anymore, after a while the crash came. Because because I had to 'do nothing', I completely lost my rhythm. Days of rain together, weekends came and went, until the weather was Monday and 'everyone' went to work and I did not.
Back to work
I kept it up for 14 months, then I started working again for 3 days, now in the meantime 5. Because I totally lost my way. I no longer had any meaning, I felt totally excluded, just wanted to participate again. I 'had to' because I no longer wanted to sit at home, but also for practical reasons.
There was actually no dilemma - the situation solved it for me. It was just pure necessity. Pure necessity because I wanted to be among people.
Now I get it
So when a new mother says 'I do not have to work, but I want it', I understand that completely. Because there is always a 'must' - a personal, a financial one, a necessary one. Because that is our society. And actually that is pretty unfortunate.