This is the end to the last full week of my maternity leave, and I’m pretty sad about it. Most days I feel okay. I know that babies go to daycare and they are well adjusted, happy children. I like my job for the most part so returning to work in itself isn’t the problem. I feel needed at work and feel as if they missed me. I think I can be useful there.
It’s just the idea of not seeing Adelaide all day that breaks my heart. I’ve only been away from her for a max of about four or five hours at this point. I can’t imagine only seeing her a few hours a day and living for the weekends. It makes me sad that someone else will get to play with my baby in the afternoon, see her smile and witness her milestones.
Adelaide will start off going to daycare only three days a week. She will be home with Tim the other two days. In some ways, this makes me feel better. Adelaide won’t be spending her entire week with strangers, she’ll at least spend some time home with Daddy (and the daycare folks won’t be strangers for long). Still, I can’t say I haven’t shed a tear over the fact that I’d rather be the one to stay home with her two days a week. I wish the roles could be reversed. I wish I had the flexible part-time job and Tim had the salaried position with the benefits of healthcare. This just isn’t in the cards for our family at this time, so we’ll both do what we have to do to best support our family.
Last week at one of my mommy support groups, this topic of going back to work came up in discussion, and one of the other moms started crying. She’s a lawyer and will return to a job with long hours. Even though her maternity leave still has several more weeks, she was already feeling guilty. The facilitator wanted to stop all other discussions and pushed the topic further. She asked whether the mom had someone she could talk to about her feelings and apprehension. She didn’t. Most of her friends and colleagues didn’t have kids. One friend stayed home with her daughter for two years and couldn’t really relate. “Do you want to hear the other side?” the facilitator asked, “ya know, just for kicks?”
She went on to explain an experience that was clearly her own. “Well, you could have stayed home with your kids for eight years. One of your kids may need private school. They may want hockey lessons, and you have no money.” She told us how guilty she felt for staying home with her kids and not having the “strength” to suck it up and go back to work.
Clearly, as moms we are too hard on ourselves – no matter what side of the fence. Fortunately, I do have a support network and friends who are positive examples of working moms. Despite how green the grass seems, I’m not sure I would feel fulfilled without returning to work at least part time. I never expected going back to work to be easy, so I’m allowing myself to mourn my maternity leave. Like so many other aspects of motherhood, this will be an adjustment. Being kind to myself, balancing work and home to the best of my ability, and being supportive of my husband are all I can ask of myself and that’s the best for Adelaide, too.