On being a working mom, and the end of maternity leave…

This will need to be quick. The baby’s asleep, but just. The toddlers are still stirring, “reading” as dusk falls in their room. There’s a hush, but I know it’s only momentary.

For a few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how to blog. Part of why I haven’t kept it up in recent years is because I wanted to settle on a theme. But would it be writing? Photography? Motherhood? Cooking? I realized, finally, that it’s all of those things, because this is is my life. I’m a creative woman who works full time, and I often still feel like I’m adjusting to motherhood (even three kids down the line…).

But for tonight, I’m prompted to write because lately another topic has been on my mind, after lots of conversations with friends here in town. I think a large part of what and why I’ll write is the topic of being a working mom. Because, for now, I work full time, and it sometimes feels so very lonely. The local motherhood group is fabulous, but it mostly meets on Monday mornings, so I’ve only ever gone while I’m on maternity leave or the rare day off.

There are nights that I’ve cried to my husband about how isolated I feel, because work means I’m racing home to pick up my kids, put dinner on the table, and cuddle as much as possible before sending them to bed and doing it all over again. So friendships are forced into pockets of weekends or rushed lunches. One of the things I’ve realized while on maternity leave is how many playdates I’ve tried to set up before going back to work–and how one of them was actually, technically the very first we’d ever had at our house, and you guys,  my daughter is already four years old. We’ve met up with friends with kids for dinner parties before, sure, and she’s got friends at daycare–a playdate at our house,  something so simple, was four years in the making.

There are plus sides to working. I get lots and lots of interaction with adults, and in my particular job I’m in a creative and intellectual environment, and absolutely love it. And every time I think about the possibility of staying at home with my kids (something that is just not in the works for us right now), I worry that I’d miss my job while I struggled to fill the days with the right balance of playdates, finger paint and pb&j.

There’s a lot more I want to write here, about adjusting to pumping, or balancing sick days with hubby, or post a few updates about creative projects I’ve got coming up. Or the curry chicken salad recipe that I get requests for a lot.

But tonight, I want to talk about one more thing, quickly (baby’s stirring! I knew this was going to be short!). In a week and a half, I return to work. And it’s just as hard as the first time. On my first day back to work with my firstborn, a kind colleague sat down in my office and asked how it was going being back–and I said it was ok, so long as I didn’t have to think about being apart from my daughter. The same will be true this time. I’ll drop her off, go to work, put my pump in the drawer, and then try to forget her sweet smiles for just a little while. It never gets easier, you just get used to it.

A few months after I returned to work that first time, I watched another new mother, an acquaintance here in town, drop off her son for his first day of daycare at our facility. And it was one of those moments that all the kids were crying, or noses were running, or there just weren’t enough arms to hug all the babies. And I saw it in her face. She left that morning, with her baby, and quit her teaching job and has stayed home with him ever since.

And you know what? I get it. And I felt guilty being the one who said goodbye that morning. Because every day, every single day, I want to turn right back around to go home with my babies.

For now, I’m going to sign off and go cuddle my sweet girl who’s waking up and who, at ten and a half weeks, will give me the biggest grin you’ve ever seen. And we’ll cuddle as much as we can for these next few days. And, let’s face it, I’ll probably cry.

6 thoughts on “On being a working mom, and the end of maternity leave…

  1. This was a great post! You are an incredible mom who handles. (and juggles!) many responsibilities. Feeling isolated is sometimes a function of feeling like one is missing out on friendships, the activities of our friends as compared to ours among other reasons.

    As I read your post, it evoked the memories of how I felt the same as a young dad. The main difference probably being that a mothers’ heart longs to nurture a child in a more perfected way than how men are designed.

    The positive being that you do indeed feel a longing to be with your kids.

    A working mom, whether inside or outside the home, is one of the most difficult and challenging vocations. I salute you!

  2. Thanks for this – I’m not working full-time right now, but I do often daydream about my kids when I’m working and work when I’m with my kids. Oh, the fine line we walk.

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