One year ago I returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave. I sat with Avery napping in my arms in tears and wrote this in my journal...
"It's my last day of maternity leave. It makes me tear up just to say the sentence out loud. There are a lot of feelings that come along with today… Guilt, that I won't be able to spend enough hours with my daughter outside of work hours. That I will spend 40 hours at a place that I don't love, and come home and spend time here two hours every night with Avery most of which will consist of feeding her and getting her ready for bed.
Anxious, that things have changed at my job or things weren't done correctly and I'll be bringing stress home to my house that has been filled with excitement over new sounds, rolling over, long stretches of sleep at night, my hair unwashed for three days, wearing my pajamas all day, laying on the floor and reading books and watching Avery take in the world.
Regret, that we didn't go outside enough, that her baby book remains untouched, that I haven't written my birth story, that I didn't get enough pictures, that we didn't make enough noise during naptime to get her ready for daycare, and I spent so many hours reading the Internet and not just listening to what my baby needed, that we didn't take enough walks, breathe in the fresh air, get in those naptime workouts.
Fear, that I won't be able to keep up, that dinner won't be eaten together every night and won't be healthy, that laundry will pile up, the house Will look dirty, the new car will be a mess, that I'll be more tired than I have been and spend less time with my husband, maybe listen a little less, and spend too much time complaining about work in the little time we have together every day.
Guilt, anxious, fear, regret, they are all words that have no positives and all I can do today is try to find the positive in tomorrow. I'm going to take every single minute for today with Avery… Because nothing I do today is going to change that I have to go tomorrow.
So where is the good in all of this… The mechanical answer would be I must work so that we can continue to dig out of debt and be able to save for things like the home we want to bring up our children in, vacations to show them the world, hobbies and things that make her happy. (And her daddy) But other things are good too, we are sending her to a wonderful daycare facility that will teach her things and socialize her with other children. She will learn from being around them how to use her voice, crawl, enjoy story time and music. My job is flexible enough to where I can control how much time I can spend with her, if only I could control getting up early in the morning… Which I'm not very good at. My goal would be that at least once a week I do an early shift so I can get out and take her somewhere fun, like a park or a stroll downtown, or just home for some good old Mommy playtime.
In a few weeks it will feel normal, I'll see all of the other people at work who have to go through the same thing every day, before I know it months will have gone by, then years and we will be a family with two working parents and it will be the new norm. What we have to commit to as a family is putting each other first, taking vacations even when they're staying home, and even cherishing those late nights waking up in the middle the night and the sweet cuddles and rocking to put her back to sleep.
The first few weeks when Ed was home will be some of my favorite memories of my life. When all you can do is laugh because you really have no idea what you're doing but you're doing it together. We laughed so hard we cried some days and some days like the day before he went to work we just cried. I will never forget how making a new noise made us stop in our tracks and run over to cheer her on and see her smile. And I'll never forget how she stretches out with both arms over the top of her head when you wake her up in the morning and she just smiles up at you. And sometimes after the 3 AM feedings she would be fast asleep until you put her down in her crib and then her eyes would just pop open and she would give you a big smile waiting to play. We both spent plenty of evenings and early early mornings with her nustled up in our arms wanting to be close and warm and falling asleep in the recliner. And Ed sleeping on the floor for the first three nights underneath her bassinet to make sure that she was OK while I got some shut eye. And introducing her to her grandparents and looking at their eyes well up with happiness.
So what do you do when there's nothing I can do to delay tomorrow another day.... snuggle a little longer, break all the rules, let her sleep on me, rock her a little longer, play more.
I put her to sleep (much against her will tonight) and I made brownies to drown my sorrow in chocolate. About an hour after she fell asleep she woke up startled and crying out of no where. I ran in to calm her and she looked at me with her lower lip out as if to say, I don't want to be sleeping these last few hours
So here we go. Bags are packed. Mommys going back to work. May you look up to me one day for being strong for you. And smile when I get home tomorrow."
...the past year really has flown by as cliche as it sounds and I still have a lot of the feelings I had on that day a year ago. I'm proud of myself that I have exceeded my goal of waking up early once per week and normally do this daily now, getting out of the house before 7 most mornings and leaving work before 5 to maximize our time. As a family, we keep each other in check to spend one on one time together before bedtime to really connect and I think Avery really loves this time together. I went down to working part-time to keep up with things in our lives and while our time together in these young years will never be enough, I couldn't be happier and I'll always constantly fight the guilt that can make its way into trying to ruin our happy. And thankfully, she does LOVE daycare, especially music class and she kicks and giggles when we pull in everyday but still runs over to me laughing when I pick her up each night.
Last Friday I woke up super early and got a few hours of work in and left my office at 3pm to go and get Avery for a special Mama & Daughter 5 minute session with Sabrina Fields among some pretty awesome fall colors. It was probably more special to me than her at this age but I can't get enough photos of me being present in her life, especially in the out of routine and spontaneous moments like these.
To any other working moms or moms who work as moms, don't let the guilt get you, keep your goals realistic and reflect back on these times often! You're doing awesome!