Why I Took a Sabbatical From My Job For 9 Months
In October of 2019, my oldest daughter was born. I took a standard 6-week maternity leave, then promptly returned back to my job as a teacher. My husband was in graduate school and working an assistantship at UL, so he was very flexible. My mom was a retired teacher and eager to watch our daughter for us. Between the two of them, we didn’t need any formal childcare and our baby was lovingly cared for by two family members for several months.
On Friday, March 13, 2020, we were sent home from school for “5 weeks,” due to the quickly spreading disease COVID-19. My husband was sent home from graduate school and his assistantship, which both became remote. My mom was banned to her house. The rest of the world shut down as well, and our family of 3 was contained in our house together for an indefinite amount of time.
Because of the timing of COVID, the time I got to have with my baby during her first year of life exponentially increased! By the time schools opened back up and I went back to work, I had spent not only 6 weeks home with her but rather 6 months!
Every day of those 6 months I was so thankful for the extra time with her, even though it was under the most unpredictable circumstances.
Additionally, Ian (my husband) continued his graduate school program almost entirely remotely for the next two years. Again, between him and my mom, our daughter was able to be home with a family member up until almost her third birthday.
When we were expecting our second daughter, Ian and I both reflected on the experience we had with our oldest. The extra time we had at home with her as a baby was so special, and as we continued to discuss the topic, it became clear that it was important to us that our next baby get a similar level of quality time at home with family before going to daycare.
The next step was to figure out how the baby was going to stay home with someone! I honestly considered resigning from my job to stay home with her, and just reapplying for a new position when I was ready for her to go to daycare. Ian and I did weigh that option, but we weren’t sold on it.
I went in to do some research and discovered that I may be eligible to take a partially paid sabbatical from my job.
The loophole was that I had to be enrolled part-time in graduate school. My husband had been encouraging me for years to begin pursuing my master’s degree, but I was always hesitant to do so while he was in graduate school because I didn’t want both parents pursuing a degree at the same time. However, now that he was finished, we would simply be switching roles – one of us in graduate school, and the other working full time.
I was due for our daughter in November, which was actually the perfect timeline. If my sabbatical application was granted, my time home would be: maternity leave November-December, sabbatical January-May, and summer off June-July. I would be home with the baby for a total of 9 months before she went to daycare.
After a few conversations with Ian and thinking it through, we decided to pursue this route! It was a win-win in so many ways. I would get plenty of time home with the baby, I would begin pursuing my master’s degree, my job would be legally held for me until I returned, I would still receive a partial paycheck, ALL of my health insurance would stay intact, and we would have me as a flexible parent for our kids while the baby was under one year old.
Work was always going to be there, and time with our new baby was irreplaceable.
I communicated my plans with my bosses, and they graciously accepted my intentions and agreed that it would be a win-win for everyone. (I would be coming back to work for them in 9 months as a more educated employee.) I proceeded to apply for a sabbatical with the district, and my application was granted.
Fast forward almost 11 (!!!) months since our girl was born, and I have been back at work for a couple of months now. I can say that I was able to slip back into my position almost completely seamlessly. The baby is in daycare and has transitioned better than we anticipated.
I am about ¾ finished with my master’s degree in educational leadership, and I have zero regrets about taking a break from work in order to spend more time with my baby.
Our plans worked out pretty much according to plan, and I’m so happy that I made the decision to take the sabbatical. When I reflect on the first few months with each of my girls, I know that each of them spent every day of their first months of life safe, loved, and cared for by family. Anytime I ever felt guilty about not being at work, I just reminded myself that work was always going to be there, but my baby would only stay a baby for a short amount of time.