12 weeks. I’ve never had that much time off of work since I started my first part time job at 16. In the beginning it seemed like so much time. Now here I am thinking about just how quickly it went.
It was hard. I spent the majority of my last day of leave preparing for the first day back. I barely slept the night before (Alexandra waking up to feed at 3:42 am was only part of it). I wasn’t nervous to go back, more just unsure of how I would feel about it. Sometimes the thought of sending her to daycare would bring tears to my eyes while I was still with her! I was so afraid that I’d cry all the way to work and be an unproductive mess the whole day and end up questioning whether or not it was the right thing to do. That didn’t happen.
What did happen is that I woke up way too early (3:42 am) and was ready long before I needed to be. This did give me some extra time in the morning to spend with my adorable little peanut (though admittedly I wasn’t enjoying it as I should have been because I was thinking about how I was going to have to drop her off and it made me sad). She did fine at the daycare. Didn’t cry at all. She even gave her babysitter a huge grin. I left feeling sad and empty, but didn’t cry. Part of that was because I knew it was all going to be alright.
When I arrived at work, I was greeted exceptionally well. My co-worker who had been covering for me for 3 months had sent me flowers to welcome me back and was so nice and told me to “ease back into it.” It blew me away because I know after 3 months of doing the work of two people he had to be anxious to get it off his plate. My boss came over and treated me the same way and then more and more co-workers came by to welcome me back. I know I was already emotional, but it really just made me feel so great and reinforced to me that it was right.
Each family has to make their own decisions about what is best and no one else will ever know exactly why that’s what works for you. Sometimes parents can be so critical of other parents on everything about raising kids just because their methods/opinions differ from their own. During my leave I read a lot of reasons why women choose to not return to work after having kids and had a very hard time finding anything in favor of returning to work for reasons other than financial necessity. Since I do feel passionately about my choices, I wanted to do the working mom’s a favor and describe my reasons for actually choosing to return to work. Before I do, I want to clarify that I am NOT defending my choices, NOT criticizing those that decide to put their careers on hold for their family, NOT trying to say that MY decisions are best for every family. I’m simply explaining why they are right for US.
Its hard to explain your reasons without touching on money at all. Obviously, that is why we work because I wouldn’t be doing this without being paid. That being said, if we really tried, Tim and I could make it work on one income. I don’t just want to “make it work”. I want Tim and I and our kids to be able to see the world and experience as many of life’s pleasantries as possible. If we only have one life to live and we never know when its going to end, shouldn’t that be the point, to have as much fun as we can on a regular basis. Struggling to live off of one paycheck just doesn’t sound like as much fun to me as the opportunities that both of us having a career can present.
Another reason is that I actually enjoy some aspects of working. Sure, the day to day routine can be stressful or mundane but when I really get going on a big project that I’m interested in, I actually have a lot of fun. I take pride in my work and I enjoy tackling big challenges and solving problems. It gives me a great sense of purpose and accomplishment when I help solve a large problem that helps my company or department. These feelings make me happier, and I believe this happiness directly transfers to being a more effective parent (for me).
I love my daughter more than I ever thought was even possible. I love spending time with her. It fills me with feelings of love, but it isn’t exactly stimulating to me to do the same things with her over and over and over again all day long. Usually by the time the afternoon rolled around I was really hoping she would nap for a little while so that I could read my work emails or the news, or even just browse through a magazine. Something a little stimulating. At work I’ll get all that stimulation and I’ll go home and be tired of it and just want to give love and won’t mind doing the same things with my daughter over and over and over.
I realize that I am really fortunate in the job I have at the company I work for. The job itself can frequently be mundane but I have wonderful co-workers and a great boss and honestly it makes all the difference in the world. The people I work with are genuinely good people and the company I work for holds itself to a very high ethical standard and it just feels good to work here. Sure, there are stressful moments and not everyone that I work with fits into that category but the majority of people I interact with on a daily basis do; more so than any other position I’ve held at any company. In the grand scheme of things I may not always feel appreciated, but I DO often feel appreciated by my closest co-workers and my boss, and that also contributes to my happiness.
Obviously, there are MANY things to consider when trying to decide what makes sense for your family. Even after you’ve made the decisions I think its only normal to question them occasionally; especially when love and emotions are involved. Coming back to work reminded me why I made the choices that I did. Its not easy by any means, but for us it is worth it. And I plan on being there for her no matter what. Field trips, vacations, sporting events, everything. That’s what vacations and personal days are for.
So there it is. My reasons for choosing to go back to work full time and be a full time mom. I say “full time” mom because its not like you ever stop being a mom just because you’re not physically with your child. I would leave work in a heartbeat if the need arose, and she KNOWS I’m always on call during the night. So whether you work, or stay home, or breastfeed or don’t, I think the biggest requirement for being a good mom is simply being there and loving. If you can do those two things, I think you’re probably doing something right.