My second (and most likely final) maternity leave is wrapping up. First and foremost I’m blessed to have had 12 and a half weeks home with my newborn baby girl. A blessing in the US seeing as the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t have paid leave other than Australia (which does give a full year of guaranteed unpaid leave to all women, compared with the only 12 weeks of unpaid leave given to those who work for companies with more than 50 employees in the U.S.).
But I digress. I have been home with my second child since April. This maternity leave was much different than the first. I was calmer. I understood my baby better. I treated myself well, running most mornings, doing strength training and eating right. It has been a lovely time…but I’m ready to head back to work.
Enter guilt and shame stage left. This past weekend I was asked when I would be returning to work and then without skipping a beat told I must be sad to be leaving the baby. Hmmm, no, not really. I love my work doing policy-strategizing and planning and talking to other intelligent adults. I also love my daycare and am appreciative of what they do with and for my son (and assume they’ll do with my daughter). So that’s what I said to this person. When told I must be sad to see my maternity leave coming to an end, I said, Nah…I’m looking forward to going back to work! I got a pretty odd look.
Today, it happened again, except this time at my daycare. This time I was asked if I was having a tough time with the end of my maternity leave rapidly approaching. And again, I said Nah, I can’t wait to head back to work. And (apparently) a huge smile came across my face. By the looks on the women’s faces I asked if I was the only mom that felt this way. I was told no, just the only mom to smile.
Whereas with the first pregnancy I felt guilt and shame for being excited to head back to work, this time I’m just annoyed by others people’s comments that insinuate I’m not the norm. I know I’m a better mom because I work. And I know my kids get an incredible education at their daycare…a place I learn from and am amazed by.
This time around I am proud to say I’m excited to go back to work. I’m looking forward to getting into a routine with my kids and excited to get back to being me. Tonight I raise a glass to all moms. Those who work and those who stay home. Both are great choices, if they are a choice made by you.