Getting A Taste Of FIRE – Being On Maternity Leave

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.

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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.

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Loneliness

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.

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Guilt

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.

Related: The Financial Implications Of Having A Baby In Grad School

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.

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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.

Related:

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15 thoughts on “Getting A Taste Of FIRE – Being On Maternity Leave”

  • Happy to hear that your growing family is doing well after the birth of your daughter – congratulations!
    I think it’s so interesting that you get to have a taste of FIRE and stay home. And, I know it won’t mean much coming from someone who isn’t a mother yet, but be patient with yourself. It seems to me that “guilt” you’re experiencing is natural – your whole life (and body, and emotions) just took SUCH a dramatic turn. It’s normal to crave structure, that doesn’t mean you don’t cherish your baby. You’re doing great 🙂

  • It’s tough when you have to change your routine. Hopefully, you’ll step back into work schedule with minimal problems. Take it easy and don’t stress out too much. You’ll have more adult interaction soon. Best wishes.

  • A lot of women falsify feel that their kids is their purpose but I think it’s so wrong. Another person is your responsibility but not a purpose. That’s just baggage for the kid. I’m glad that you are independent and not the super attached mom who lives through their kids. It’s good to let them grow up and have resilience. That’s why a job would be good for parents =) plus the money haha.

    • Nicely put! One of my biggest fears is that I will become a burden to my kids in the future due to my lack of savings/retirement/income. I’m sure my kids will love me dearly, but I still don’t want to depend on them, especially financially >_<

  • What you are expressing is very normal for a large majority of women. You are definitely not alone in these feelings and emotions. These are legitimate feelings that are very much impacted by the hormonal shifts your body is going through post delivery. While you may not have a severe set of PPD it is very likely you are feeling a mild case of the *baby blues*.

    This too shall pass. I worked 40hrs a week until I was 35 weeks pregnant with my last pregnancy.. at that time I was written of work to rest until the babies arrived. I was home for 15 days with my 2 year old when my water broke. I resigned from my job 6 weeks after delivery leaving me home with an almost 3 year old, 2 infants and a husband working long hours with a commute to try to make up some of the financial loss. I was anxious, I was overwhelmed, I was EXHAUSTED… I found an amazing outlet with parenting boards on the internet and no doubt being able to connect with someone at any hour of the day or night helped! My babies were born in March so although they were full term and healthy.. we were not going anywhere that was not necessary due to the high number of germs.
    Be kind to your self. Take up the neighbor on watching your oldest for a few hours.. get a good nap in, or run a few easy errands with just baby and keep her covered from the public! It will help you feel human again!

    • Thank you, Jessica! I’m glad I’m not the only one with all of these mixed feelings and emotions. I’m glad you found a support network online. I’ll need to check it out as well 😉

  • Thank you Mrs. FAF for your honest reflections on child rearing. Sadly, I have no experience in this realm. But all the advice provided here strikes me as eminently constructive, especially Jessica’s. I’m so happy for you and Mr. FAF. Congratulations on Baby F2. And best of luck as you transition from full-time mommy to full-time person once again. Cheers.

    • Thank you, Mr. Groovy! I only have 1.5 months left of my maternity leave, so I’m trying to enjoy it, knowing I will return to work mid November. But I still look forward to the transition back to being a full-time person 😀

  • Lily just mentioned that you wrote about maternity leave being like FIRE haha!

    CONGRATULATIONS on your new baby girl!!

    I was on a whole 14 months of maternity leave + a bit of vacation in there and I’m back at work! I miss being on maternity leave!! I think the optimal balance would be to work part-time.

    I don’t think you need to feel guilty about not wanting to stay at home. We have enough mom-guilt as it is. I do know what you mean about wanting to be productive. The unstructured-ness is difficult staying at home and the lack of ‘freedom’ is difficult to adjust to too.

    I think the feelings you have feeding your baby are night are completely, completely normal! You’re staying up, sleep deprived, and you have the maternal hormones all coursing through you. I don’t think I felt normal emotionally until maybe 8 weeks afterwards. The first month was definitely very hard.

    • Thank you, GYM! I can’t wait until my baby is 6 months so that she can eat solid food and hopefully sleep through the night. I’m staying at home and can wake up late in the morning or take a nap here and there. But I won’t be able to do so when I go back to work. Sleep deprivation is not good for the soul hehe

  • Congrats! It can be a real challenge sometimes but everything finally gets better and it’s perfectly normal to feel down when everything changes so much when having a child.

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