It's Working Project

I gave birth on Jan 3rd, in the dead of winter. I couldn’t walk anywhere, there was nowhere to go. I was envious of my friends who had maternity leave in the city or in the spring, anything that allowed them to walk around or be around other people. One of the painful parts about new motherhood was how lonely it could be.

For Jennifer Senior, living in a rented house in the suburbs made her maternity leave particularly difficult.


Jennifer had taken six months maternity leave, spent in an apartment on the Hudson. “We were in Hastings, with a very pretty view of the river and fabulous deck, but it was freezing out. Even when it warmed up, you couldn’t go anywhere. I didn’t have deep roots in Hastings. There was nothing to do in town. It’s not a particularly vibrant place, it’s not like there are a zillion cafes with things to do.”

So she defied conventional wisdom about taking time to rest when her baby napped.  “I found the most restorative thing I could do is get online and answer emails and make phone calls and talk to people. So that I was still part of the community. My mood was compromised by not sleeping, but I think it would have been worse if my rhythms were only yoked to the baby’s. Even seeing mass emails to the editorial staff was completely helpful to me.”

She also found solace in spending time with her husband. “There was a Tom Stoppard play when Rusty was three weeks old. I timed it so I fed him, went to the play, and came home. It was just so I knew that my old life had not ended. Your kid needs someone warm and loving and it doesn’t have to be you. We left him with my parents early on (at about five months old) for Sicily for a week. It’s a great time to leave your kid. Five months, they are not particular, they don’t have separation anxiety yet, and it was his grandparents. I was so crazy lucky.”

She trusted her husband’s intuition as well. “This is my husband’s third kid, he had a lot more perspective throughout. I never had attachment parenting ambitions.”

Jennifer missed the city, eventually moving back. When she did return to work, it was for long hours, too long for most daycare options, so she found a nanny. “Leaving the baby in someone else’s hands is terrifying. Not that terrifying because there are people who are really good with babies. Not every new mother is really good with babies. I am not a totally baby-oriented human being. I think there are much more exciting stages. I just had to get over the anxiety of leaving. When Rusty had a fever, and being told by the babysitter that his fever is 104, what do you do?”

Jennifer always anticipated returning to work, a passion she credits her mother with instilling in her.  “My mother went to law school at night when I was 8 or 9. I had it in my head that it was not a sin to go to work, it was part of a woman’s life. If you had a calling and you had something to do, you should do it.”