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From big business to the rugrat race

My husband and I always thought he'd be the stay-at-home parent, so I am shocked that I am the one changing diapers all day.

When we were dating, I was making a solid, six-figure salary in the software industry. I had already founded two companies and cashed out of one. He was a video artist and traveled to festivals all over the world showing arcane art on activist topics. He planned offbeat things to do on our dates; I would pay for them.

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I was rising so fast in my corporate career that a business magazine paid me to write about my ascent. I ended up making as much money writing as my husband made at his day job.

People asked me if I resented having two jobs and subsidizing my husband's career as an artist. Actually, I didn't mind at all. I loved to work, and he agreed to stay home when we had kids. I thought I was one of the lucky women who could have kids and still blast through the glass ceiling because I had a husband who would take care of our home life.

We planned to get pregnant at a time when it would not disrupt my career, but in September 2001, our designated family start-date, both my husband and I got laid off. I got pregnant anyway.

As my belly grew, I continued my freelance writing career while he volunteered in nonprofits, and we lead a bohemian life with corporate savings. But by the seventh month, I missed the structured, team-oriented atmosphere of work. I was editing my resume the morning I went into labor.

When the baby arrived, I planned to get a full-time, office job right away, but after only a few weeks of sleepless nights, my husband got a job offer. He wasn't even looking, really. But one of the people he met through volunteering got him an interview at a top-notch human rights organization. They offered him his dream job, so we decided he should try it.

Now I would be home with the baby, alone. For those of you who haven't had a baby, let's just say that going to an office is about a thousand times easier than dealing with a newborn. With a newborn there is no schedule, no break and no performance review to let you know if you're screwing up. So naturally, I wanted to be the one with the job. I tried to be happy for my husband. I tried not to hope that he would hate his job and quit.

During my first week as a stay-at-home mom, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't write and I couldn't figure out how any adult could stay home all day with a baby who can't talk. So I hired a baby sitter for a few days a week, and I went to an office to write and look for a full-time job.

But I never got around to the job hunt because I missed the baby while I was away. I missed his smile and the way he stares at his hands like he's not sure if they're his.

People often describe their family life in terms of earning power: The spouse who has the higher earning power is the one who works. This is logical, but it doesn't always work out that way.

Penelope Trunk is a New York-based writer who in the past has started Internet divisions at Fortune 500 companies, founded two technology-focused companies and endured an IPO, a buyout and a bankruptcy.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: Oct. 14, 2002
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