`It was odd all of a sudden to not think of myself as part of the work force'

When Judy Cole began filling out a form in a pediatrician's office last year, the receptionist asked, ``Your job?'' The question took Ms. Cole by surprise. She had recently left her job as a television producer to stay home with her infant son. ``I didn't know what to say,'' she recalls. ``It was odd all of a sudden to not think of myself as part of the work force.''

Sitting in the living room of the family's second-floor apartment on Chicago's North Side, surrounded by toys, children's books, and a friendly 90-pound dog named Max, Cole holds one-year-old Jacob and talks about her year at home:

``I'm a lot more relaxed than I was when I was working.

``I don't see why you want to have a child if you're going to go back to work 60 to 80 hours a week. I get the feeling that for some people, having a child is kind of a status thing, like getting a new BMW. They don't think about how time consuming a child is, how much attention you want to give children and how much they need. What happens is, they resent the child.

``A lot of people my age have a romantic vision of having a baby. But dirty diapers aren't romantic. There are times when you'd like to read the paper for 15 minutes, and you can't. That's not romantic, either. The reality of it is that there are times when it's boring, and for some women it's excruciatingly boring.

``You have to be adaptable. You've got to figure out how you will integrate your child into your life so your life isn't diminished - it's enhanced.

``For me and for a lot of my friends, you very much define yourself by your work. Your identity is largely based on what kind of job you do.

``I miss going out with a crew and filming stories, and coming back and writing them. I miss the adrenalin-pumping you get from that.

``If I found a job that paid a fortune and was really intellectually stimulating and challenging, I'd have to give it some serious thought. I probably would end up taking it.

``On the other hand, I've known women who go back to work after having a child, and they don't spend any time with them at all. If you work a 40-hour week, that doesn't include travel time. You're talking probably 50 hours. You see your child in the morning and in the evening. You only have about two hours together.

``If I take a year or two off to enjoy the time while Jacob is young, so I miss two years - big deal. But I wish companies would provide ways for women to be able to do some work and earn an income and still be able to have accessibility to their kids, whether that's Flextime or on-site day care or job sharing or part-time work.''

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