I am writing this post after staying at home with my baby on maternity leave for three weeks.
It makes me feel like I’m already retired early and financial independent (FIRE), at least for the time being.
I don’t have to go to work, which makes me feel like I’m retired.
I don’t have to worry about money since I still get paid through a combination of short-term disability, parental leave, and sick leave.
In a way, I wonder if this is what it feels like to FIRE. And below are my thoughts on it.
I’m ready to go back to work.
I have to preface this by saying that I love my baby dearly and appreciate the time off to take care of her.
Mr. FAF and I were super happy during the first two weeks despite our lack of sleep and my pain from the birth.
In fact, I had been waiting for my time off maybe one month before the due date.
I was getting tired of commuting to the office for two hours both ways every day with a heavy belly.
I was getting sick of people telling me what to do and pushing their share of the task on me.
I was ready to leave the office, though temporarily, to escape all the boredom and frustration at work.
Yet, here I am, three weeks later, missing that same office, the commute, the desk, and the colleagues I was more than eager to say good-bye to just less than a month earlier.
The other day, Mr. FAF and I took our son and daughter for a walk on the trail I took to commute every day. It brought about an intense nostalgic feeling.
I told Mr. FAF I missed the commute, the podcasts I listened to on the commute, my office, the sense of productivity, and the structured day on the job.
Now I am a new mom whose schedule depends almost completely on a new baby. A day goes by with the repetitive pumping, breastfeeding, and changing diapers.
I know I am nurturing a tiny human being. My job is important, if not indispensable to my baby and our family. Yet, I still feel like I’ve accomplished nothing after a day is over.
I have a wonderful husband who takes good care of his wife and kids. Mr. FAF eagerly takes over the night shift of taking care of our newborn so that I can recover faster.
Yet, I started to dread it when the night comes. It’s when I feel so lonely when I wake up to breastfeed our baby and when she refuses to sleep.
It’s when I just sit there with the breast pump, listening to the repetitive sound of the tiny machine in front of me.
When did life become so repetitive? Our baby is growing, and I have her weight and height to show for it. Yet, for some reason, I feel like my life has come to a halt.
During those nights of breastfeeding and trying to calm a fussy baby, I start to feel lonely and desperate.
Why is the baby crying? She doesn’t want to breastfeed. I’ve already changed her diaper. Why is she not sleeping? Those questions pop in and out of my mind every day.
Mr. FAF stays at home with me and the baby for four weeks, but sometimes I feel so lonely. I feel so out of touch with reality. I still check my work email every day to see what’s going on in the office.
Someone just left the organization a couple of days after I gave birth. I wonder if she was let go or decided to leave at her own will. I started to miss the interaction with my colleagues.
And there’s a reason why I started to crave interaction with other adults. Our baby is too young, and her immune system is not fully developed, so the pediatrician told us not to go out or have people over.
Basically, in order to protect our baby, we should limit going out and meeting other people. Mr. FAF and I still went to a consignment sale and the grocery store two weeks after her birth, but I ended up staying outside in the car since we didn’t want our daughter to catch any viruses.
I felt like my life had been turned upside down.
I started to crave the normalcy where our family would go out on the weekends, Mr. FAF and I wouldn’t need to worry about our baby staying awake for hours at night, and us going to work every day and coming home to have some fun family time instead of rushing Mr. FAF to go to bed early to do the night shift and me watching the two kids on my own until they fall asleep.
Related: The 5 Hidden Benefits Of The 9-5
I keep telling myself that our baby will grow soon, and that one day we will be back to our normal life, this time with a new family member.
And in those thoughts, guilt starts to strike me. Am I not totally happy with my baby and our new life? Why do I want to go back to work and leave my daughter at daycare?
Part of me wants my normal life back. But part of me knows that I need to stay at home to take care of my daughter until she’s 2.5 months. In a way, I am conflicted.
But I know I don’t have postpartum depression this time around (at least not yet). Mrs. Frugalwoods recently wrote about her experience of having post-partum depression and how it’s affected her life.
Her post reminds me of myself after I gave birth to Baby F1. I was super stressed out and constantly worried at the time since I wasn’t sure if I could finish my Master’s program and find a job.
Back then, Mr. FAF was a third-year in his PhD program. In a nutshell, neither of us had a full-time job, and money was tight.
This time, both of us have a full-time job. I also have an excellent employer-sponsored health plan that covers 100% of my delivery costs and costs $0 to add Baby F2. I can’t be happier with that arrangement.
Be happy with my life
I got out of the post-partum depressions after having Baby F1 when I started a full-time internship with health insurance and began working about 2 months after birth.
That internship was like a life savior when I was drifting in the sea, not knowing what would come next. It meant an income, health insurance, and most importantly, peace of mind.
I was still searching for a full-time job, but the fear of running out of money didn’t haunt me so badly anymore.
Money. That word sounds so simple. And I know some people don’t even care about it. But I do. A lot. Sometimes even too much.
This time, Mr. FAF and I welcomed our daughter into this world without having to stress about finances. We get to stay at home and enjoy our time with her.
In a way, it feels liberating to me not being caught in the 9-5 grind. I feel like I’m FIRE’d. But it also makes me question my purpose in life and whether I’d like to stay at home with my kids full-time.
I don’t have any passion projects I want to dedicate myself to 100% yet. Maybe I just need more self-discipline and structure in my life. Maybe it’s just this phase when our baby is so young and still needs lot of attention from us.
Whatever the reason is, I think I need to keep searching for my purpose in life so that I won’t need to resort to my job to feel a sense of productivity and achievement besides taking care of my family.