maternity leave

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I went back to work today. It was actually a smoother and more positive experience than I expected. Everyone kept telling me how glad they were to have me back. I have a long to-do list, but so far my supervisors have been conscious to not overwhelm me.

Monday I wrote the following post sitting in a coffee shop while Adelaide spent her first day at daycare. I didn’t have a chance to upload the photos of her first day of “school,” so I didn’t publish it. Here is the picture Tim took of us this morning along with Monday’s post and photos.

Check out Adelaide's baby legwarmers! Oh, and I got my hair cut.

 

***

I go back to work on Thursday. It will be exactly 12 weeks from the date of Adelaide’s birth. Plus, my midwife suggested returning to work on a Wednesday or Thursday to “ease into it.” We only needed Adelaide to go to daycare on Thursday and Friday this week, but since we’re paying for three days a week, we sent her today for a practice run. We thought it would give Tim and I a chance to get some things done, and we could make it a short day to “ease into it.”

I have to admit that dropping her off was even harder than I expected. I didn’t like someone I just met cuddling my sleepy infant as I turned and walked away. (And I hate that I have to pay so much for something I don’t really want in the first place!) As Tim and I walked around the corner, I was grateful I had today to go home and cry. I wouldn’t have wanted to head to work feeling that way. However, as the hours have gone by, I wonder if it might have been easier being at work on Adelaide’s first day. Maybe I would have been more distracted?

As we left, the ladies assured us we could call anytime to check in throughout the day. “You can call 10 times if you want,” her teacher said. I didn’t feel it necessary to call, although it did cross my mind. I knew we’d be picking her up at 4:00, and I was confident I could make it that long. After spending a few hours at home with Tim, I left with laptop in hand and headed to a local coffee shop.

As I sit here in the window drinking my iced coffee, I am reminded of my old life. The grad school days of writing and reading in coffee shops in the middle of the day are behind me, but I remember them fondly.  I just received an email from our daycare. The owner/director wrote:

Hi Beth,
I don’t want to bother you on your first day back but thought we would check in and tell you how cute your daughter is and that she is happy and comfortable all the teachers want to hold her:) She has been wake and full of smiles, eating well and enjoying her first day of school. …

Her note brought tears to my eyes, and I fought the urge to sob here in the coffee shop. The next couple of weeks will be quite the adjustment, but I’m sure it will be much harder on me than on her.

Okay, time to go pick her up!

First day of "school." Apprehensive?

Nah, she's all smiles.

Edit: When I picked her up, she was awake and content strapped into a bouncy chair. They said she didn’t cry all day. She’s the youngest baby at the daycare right now, so she was fawned over. Seeing her there made me feel a lot better about taking her today. I’m glad we got our practice run.

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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.

 

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