When I was pregnant with my first baby, I totally thought I would love staying home. I imagined all the play dates we would have, the groups we would join and all the new mommy friends I would make. I could see it in my head. The afternoons filled with adorable kid friendly crafts, the cute pictures of lots of babies all born in the same month sitting on a couch together, exercising with a group of moms. You know, the whole post baby package we see all over the media.
Then I had my son and I quickly realized that what I saw on TV and all over social media was crap. Being a mom was way harder than I had anticipated. It was not all play dates and time for lunches and new mommy friends. In fact it was pretty lonely. There were hours spent re-watching the entire series of 90210 (that really happened) when I couldn’t move from the couch in fear my sleeping baby would wake up. There were walks, and trips to the mall spent trying to keep a baby calm and fed, all while trying to keep my boobs from exploding.
As my son got bigger, there were fun play dates and parent and me groups with new mommy and daddy friends. There were trips to the park and failed attempts at stroller strides and honestly, it started to get fun. But I still felt like something was missing.
It was initially my husband who suggested that maybe I should go back to work. I scoffed at that, I mean, I was meant to stay home. But like most statements that I’m not ready to hear, it takes me time to process them and decide if I agree or not. Ultimately, when I was ready to listen to myself, I realized he was right (you’re welcome honey).
The idea of going back to work made me happy. There was an excitement that I hadn’t felt for a while. I was ready to have adult conversations and feel productive. I was ready to have a task with an anticipated beginning, middle and end. But all that meant that I had to leave my baby in the care of someone else.
And cue the guilt (and anxiety). And there was lots of it. What if he took his first steps and I wasn’t there, what if said a word and I missed it? What if his caregiver didn’t know that he liked to cuddle with his lovey before he took his nap, or that he liked to be held a certain way when he drank his bottle? There were so many conflicted feelings that it was hard to manage, and to be honest with you, it still is.
There are missed dinners, bath times, books and activities. And although my husband is amazing and incredibly supportive, a lot of work falls on him (how we split that up will come in a later blog post). But there is one thing no one can manage but me, and that is the guilt.
So how do I deal with it? I acknowledge it. I remind myself that I am a much better mom because I work. I am teaching my children how to responsibly manage their time, and how important it is to continue doing something they enjoy. I get to explain to them what I do and have them be proud of me. I get to teach them to be independent and to manage life without their dad or me always by their side. I remind myself I am boosting their confidence. I am teaching my daughter that women can work be whatever they want to be and I am teaching my sons that gender roles aren’t so easily defined.
In the end I know I made the right decision, because I feel more like me. If you are struggling with your decision to go back to work, or struggling with the fact that you have no choice, remind yourself of the positive aspects of working even when the guilt feels overwhelming. Remind yourself that you are a good mom, and make sure you always end your day practicing gratitude for what you have. And if you are still having a hard time and need to talk, I'm always here.