Personal – The Impossibility of Planning the Unknowable

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If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably get that I’m a planner.  It’s a thing that I actually like to do, and that I’m pretty good at.  This means anything from planning parties, to my wedding, to vacations, moves, and whatever else.  Give me a situation with a need, and a spreadsheet, and I will be off in dreamland, thinking about how to shape the future to the way I envision it.

But I’ve now reached an event and a point in my life where I cannot plan things out in advance – at least not the way I want to.  And for this, I blame the unpredictability of babies.  Babies don’t come when you expect them to – I’ve had friends go in for regular appointments in the month before a due date only to be told they needed to have a c-section now.  Or friends who scheduled the c-section for whatever reason, only to have baby decide they wanted to show up early.  Or just the common occurrence of baby showing up early because that’s what they want.  Babies come on their own schedule, and it’s not the kind of thing you can plan around.

And that’s what’s driving me crazy.  It’s gotten to the point where I’m having conversations with my belly to encourage baby to stay inside for as long as possible.  Which seems crazy – most ladies in my situation seem to be ready to have their baby.  Not me – not quite.  I’m ready to have the baby, except for the part where my leave balance isn’t quite ready.  If the Boy were to be reading this post, he would laugh and could probably tell you this next part for me: the federal government as an employer offers no form of paid maternity leave.  “But don’t you get 12 weeks of FMLA?” you ask.  Yes, but do you know what FMLA means?  It means that you are allowed to take unpaid time off to care for a family member, and not be fired.  Yay!  There are a ridiculous number of other rules regarding what kind of leave you can take at different points in your parental leave, including the fact that you can only use sick leave in the first 6 weeks to care for your baby, and after that, you aren’t allowed to use sick leave as a way to bond with your baby.  There are leave banks where other government employees with excess leave (usually because they’ve been working for decades and have accrued ridiculous amounts, which – I have no idea how that’s possible based on actually taking vacations every year) are able to donate their annual leave to someone to be used as sick leave, but the recipient must have exhausted ALL of their own sick AND annual leave before donated leave can be used, and the donated leave can only be used in those first 6 weeks.

So if you’re like me, and have been planning for baby for a while, and have a decent amount of leave built up (just under 8 weeks of paid time off), but are over the limit for the point where you can receive donated leave, you’re just kind of screwed.

It’s gotten to the point where I keep fussing with my leave spreadsheet (it’s awesome, and I’d love to show it to you sometime) to see what would happen in different scenarios.  What if baby comes early?  Well, it sucks to be me.  What if baby comes at the very end of the time that the doctors will allow before induction?  Not terrible, but still not enough time to spread my leave out over the entire time period.  The worst cases involve baby coming very early, because it means that I’ll have to go on unpaid leave again for events which are scheduled to happen right around the time I’m potentially going back to work.  People keep asking how long I’m going to work, and I keep saying, “As long as baby is inside of me” because the more hours I accrue, the more paid time off I get to have, and the longer I get to stay at home.

I will say that my boss is being amazing.  She’s offered up times and projects to work on to earn extra hours.  She’s mentioned the possibility of doing some work from home either at the end of my maternity leave/during my transition back (I really need to talk to her soon and get those details worked out).  My fellow reference librarian who had her own first child 18 months ago is sympathetic to my situation, and is preparing to cover for the time that I’ll be out.

At this point – the difficult thing is me, and my desire to know exact numbers.  I have a strong desire to drop leave hours into the appropriate boxes, and to know for certain how long I’ll get paid, and at what point I’ll be invoking the FMLA.  The date that I will first leave Baby with someone else, the date that I’ll have to start watching my budget even more carefully due to no longer receiving a paycheck.  I worry about how going on Leave Without Pay with affect my time in service which allows you to figure out things like retirement, and how it will affect other things like insurance and retirement account payments.  None of these are things I can control, and that’s something I need to accept now.  Because pretty soon, I’m going to be dealing with a much bigger part of my life that I can’t control or predict – a child.

So I think my over-preparation as far as lists, paperwork, calendar reminders and spreadsheets are concerned is a reaction to all of this uncertainty.  If I don’t know when baby is coming, or how things will be once baby does arrive, my best bet is to plan for as much as is feasible now, and then learn to roll with the punches later.  I don’t know if baby coming will make me less interested in planning things.  But it may make me more aware of the areas of my life where I can make a plan, and to double down on the things I can control while leaving myself open to possibilities when it comes to the uncertainty surrounding baby.

Ok.  That’s it – planning/maternity leave rant over.  Who out there has had their planning tendencies derailed by something coming up in life?  Or how has having a child/some other similar event changed your attitude towards planning for the future?  Am I crazy for putting together different versions of leave spreadsheets based on when Baby might come?  Or is the crazy thing the fact that I’ve had conversations with my belly where I specifically say “Not before this date, kiddo”?  I’d love to hear from other people and their tips and tricks for dealing with uncertainty in planning.

2 Comment

  1. Ashley W says: Reply

    I’ve been using your leave spreadsheet for years! It is awesome!

    You will be so smitten with baby that you will forget how stressed you were waiting. 🙂

  2. Beverly says: Reply

    I think you have answered your own questions. Baby will not be very helpful when it comes to planning. Flexibility is key with little people. So, as you said, keep planning the things you can control and have a general plan when it comes to baby with plenty of wiggle room for the unexpected.

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