"Are you going back?"
That's the question all my friends have been asking since I gave birth seven months ago. It doesn't matter that I have declared myself on maternity leave. No one ever asks, "When are you going back to work?" But, "Are you?"
Nick asked most recently. And, as I was feeling particularly honest at the time, I told him the truth.
"I don't want to."
"Of course not," he said. "It's not natural."
I was going to get all raging feminist on his butt. I was going to raise my voice and say things that can't be printed in a family paper.
But I didn't. I couldn't. He's right.
I grew up thinking I could be president. Or an astronaut. Or a firefighting race-car driver/beauty-pageant queen. I'm of the generation of women - maybe the first - who couldn't conceive of a world in which women had fewer opportunities than men.
What no one ever told me was that all those opportunities are really meaningless when squared off with the huffing, sexist drag queen that is Mother Nature.
I was supposed to return to my job as a Register medical writer next month. But something has happened to my very chemical composition that has made returning simply impossible. I don't know what it's like for men after they have a child, but for women the feeling is insane. It's as though the little alien who hijacked my body spent the entirety of his nine-month probe altering every cell in my bloodstream, turning me into a into ... into a mom.
My son had a rough ride into this world. It took six years, a few failed medical procedures and two miscarriages until he finally got here. And then when he did, he almost died. Thanks to the amazing, amazing doctors and nurses at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Children's Hospital of Orange County, my son was able to come home when he was 1 month old.
I carried Zev across the threshold of our home, introduced him to his dog, his room, his world and realized that I didn't want to introduce him to his nanny or day-care center provider - or whatever - any time soon. I am madly in love with him, and I want to spend every waking minute in his company.
What kills me is that I know my mom probably felt the same way after she had me.
In my mother's day, women who didn't marry rich were encouraged to be either teachers or airline stewardesses. At least that's what Mom told me. She was a teacher. If she ever wanted to stay at home and raise Sis and me, she never mentioned it. She worked two jobs, supported the family through Dad's various failed business ventures and gave us the space to grow into competent, successful women.
So it shouldn't have been surprising that her first reaction when I told her I was going to quit my job was to exclaim, "You can't be a stay-at-home mom!"
But I can.
Last week, I made it official. It was strange, abandoning a career I love after giving it so much of my energy. It felt a little as though I had stood up in a crowded room and yelled, "I'm a goldfish!" And instead of men in white coats locking me up, suddenly I'm in a bowl full of water with people flinging little pinches of briny flakes at me. I feel like saying, "Wait I could just do that? I could just decide to quit and stay home with my son? Wow."
It'll be tough financially and scary psychically. But among the myriad opportunities I have Mom didn't is to accept these powerful mothering instincts as more than nature's sucker punches. I'm a mom.
I'm Zev's mom. And I'm going to be Zev's mom full time now.
So, no, I'm not going back. Not now, anyway. An incredible opportunity has come up that I just can't pass by.
This column appeared in the Orange County Register.