So, as I've mentioned, I'm unemployed right now. The details aren't important; suffice it to say that I lost my job, through no fault of my own, while I was on maternity leave. (And, because I know someone will ask, no, I did not lose it in a way that is illegal under FMLA or similar.) So, I've been out of work since mid-June. For the first 8-12 weeks, I'd have been out anyway, so that didn't bother me a bit. The next eight or so weeks didn't bother me much either--I started looking for a job, but was happy enough to have my maternity leave extended and didn't worry too much about it.
Now, coming up on the seven-month mark, I think it's safe to say I am bothered. A few possible jobs have come up, but none of them have worked out for one reason or another. My unemployment insurance benefits will be running out soon (and I am still not sure if they'll be extendable under the new federal deal or not, something I should probably find out), so I'm increasingly worried about money. It's more than that, though--I just need to be working. This time at home with Buzzy has absolutely been precious, and I'll own up to being glad, ultimately, to have been laid off and forced to take more than the 8-12 weeks I'd planned, but it's really time to get back to work.
This experience of unemployment has been quite different than the one I had two years ago. I think that is mostly down to having just had a baby and focusing on that, rather than on having a job and what it means not to have one. There is probably also an element of having been through this before and come out of it in better shape than I started, which increased my confidence. Though I am frustrated by having taken so long to find anything, I can see it (most of the time, at least) as a structural problem with the jobs available, not as a personal problem with my skill set and self-presentation.
There is, however, another obvious reason that this time is different--by virtue of having a baby, I do not present to the outside world as an unemployed person, but as a stay at home mom. When I was a random unemployed 31 year old woman, it was clear that being at home for several months was not a life choice, but a circumstance. This time, it appears the opposite. It is almost bizarre how different that makes things feel. There is almost no outside pressure to find a job. In fact, if anything, I'm getting the opposite, as people keep asking me if I'm sure I want to find one, or suggesting I just plan to stay home for the first year/two years/whatever. In effect, Buzzy gives me the perfect reason to be unemployed for a long time and not have it questioned.
This clashes completely with the other new feeling, which is my abject horror in having a dependent for whom I am not providing financially. Sure, Buzzy is being provided for, and financially my family as a whole is doing fine, but I'm not personally contributing anything beyond the paltry sum I get from unemployment, and that bugs me. A lot. Much more than just feeling like I was mooching off Mark when I was unemployed without a kid. This makes little sense, since I am certainly contributing more to our family by staying home with our baby than I was during my period of baby-free unemployment, but the feeling remains persistent.
Ultimately, I think what I am experiencing is one of my first experiences with the phenomenon known as "Mommy Guilt." While being unemployed in and of itself is easier this time, having been through it before and feeling more-or-less professionally confident, the baby makes the fact that I am not bringing in much money sting even more than it otherwise would. And I'm sure, once I find a job, I'll feel guilty about leaving him for 40+ hours a week, even though I am very comfortable with day care as a concept, and with the particular day care options we have. For some reason, knowing that no matter what I do, it's going to feel like I'm doing it wrong? That makes this all easier to deal with.