As my maternity leave winds to a close, and I prepare to go back to work full-time, I’ve been reflecting on my time with sweet baby James. I started my leave 2 weeks earlier than my mid-October due date, so that I could get some relaxation time between the busy summer season and before the baby arrived. Besides the usual first-time culture shock of life with a newborn, I was really enjoying the quiet time at home and was hardly giving a second thought to my job besides periodically forwarding important emails. Even with all the stresses, the “time off” was much needed. However, as the weeks passed, I began to get a little antsy – I knew the “plan” had been to start working from home come late November/early December, and I was approaching that time with mixed feelings.
Let’s chalk it up to new-mom naiveté, but this whole “working from home while also watching the baby” thing has decidedly NOT been a success! It may have worked had I had help in house, but as it was, I felt stretched too thin, torn in two opposing directions. I’ve managed to get some time-sensitive work-related tasks done, but found I had to cram my productivity into the brief times that James was asleep, when I may have rather been seeing to household chores, or relaxing myself. And if I was concentrating on something when James woke up, I immediately felt guilty for trying to focus on anything else but his needs. Needless to say, December has been stressful.
Because of all this, I’m very much looking forward to returning to work in the office! As much as I loved all the baby snuggles, the bonding and sweet smiles that have started to emerge, I always knew I didn’t posses the mindset necessary to be satisfied only by such things. I thrive on the mental stimulation that only a challenging job and its accomplishments could provide (and I know I’m not alone). It may sound cold, and some may even be wondering why I would bother having children if I couldn’t wait to get back to work. But I’m a true “American woman” who wants it all – family and a career – and has the tenacity to go after both.
Now before I get any defensive comments from SAHMs, let me say this: I respect you. Seriously, my hats are off to anyone who can do this 24/7, for indefinite amounts of time. It’s just not the life for me – I need both work and play and I need them to be compartmentalized. It doesn’t mean I don’t love love LOVE my little baby, that I don’t enjoy the time I spend cuddling with him in bed while he’s nursing, or even that I’m not aware of that line from the Ruth Hulburt Hamilton poem – “babies don’t keep.” And it doesn’t mean that I won’t run to him when he needs me, or that if I ever have to choose between work or family that family won’t always come first. But if I’m going to be able to give him the best version of myself, one that is fulfilled and happy and beyond excited to play/snuggle with him when I am home, then I need to have access to the other, outside-of-the-home parts of my life that make me feel whole. And now that I’ve finally come to terms with this need, I’ve decided to take the rest of the time OFF between now and my January 2nd back-to-work date (when Butch takes over as the stay-at-homer for a few months until daycare starts) – that way I can focus my “at home” energy where it should be, and will be in the future – on Mr. James!
So whether you’re a part-time or full-time mom or worker (or a little of both), remember – we’re all just doing our best, for everyone involved. And our kids will know we love them, in both ways that are and are not said aloud. One final thought, from a friend’s recent facebook post: