I posted several weeks ago about the fact that I was heading back to work after being home with my baby girl for four months. Looking back, those last few weeks before I started back were probably the worst I have had as a mom apart from those jarring newborn weeks. The anticipation of it all was brutal. I had always seen myself as a working mom, but because motherhood itself completely threw me for many unexpected loops, I didn’t know exactly how I would cope with being back at work. Every time something happened in those few weeks before I returned – every extended night waking, early morning blow-out, pumping mishap, Tylenol administration – I would think to myself, “HOW will I deal with this once I’m working when I can barely deal with it now??? Ohmygod I can’t do this, my liiiiife is about to suuuuuck…”
Fast forward – as of today, I’ve been back at work for exactly two months. I wanted to tell you all that it has been going…
Actually surprisingly well??
I will clarify.
It is HARD. Getting back in the swing of things only took a few days, and after a couple of weeks back, I felt like I had never left. My job is stressful, though, and juggling a variety of student issues while worrying in the back of my head about whether I’m going to get my pump in at 2:00 is definitely tough. It has taken practice to get my mind in one place – you know, the whole leaving work at work and leaving home at home thing – but I’m getting better at it. I feel a little bit guilty about this, but there are definitely those mornings when it’s nice to be able to walk out the door and away from the crying. At the same time, I look forward to leaving work with extra enthusiasm. The worst days are the ones where I’ve had a rough go of it on the job and then come home to a cranky baby, which is of course the precise situation for which wine was invented. Thankfully, being a working mom has been mostly “good hard” so far. I always loved how rewarding my job is, and I have an even bigger feeling of pride and satisfaction knowing how much I’m able to accomplish for my students AND my own family in one day.
I am TIRED. My daughter was a champion sleeper from the time she was 8 weeks old. WAS. Until a fantastically awful sleep regression started about a week before I went back to work. One thing I have learned about myself is that my ability to be a fully functioning human being on six hours of constantly interrupted sleep is pretty incredible. That said, I’ve always been a terrible sleeper, but I am asleep practically the instant my head hits the pillow these days. I get up at 5:00 am on work days, and baby lets me sleep in until 6:00 if I’m lucky on weekends. Thankfully, my six-month-old is at her very cutest – all bleary-eyed, rosy-cheeked, and chatty – at that hour. No matter what level of hell she dragged me through the night before, everything looks better in the daytime. And the fact that I have become very practiced at cleaning, refilling, and running my coffee machine while holding a squirmy infant is also really helpful.
I think we’re both better off for it. So far, I have seen many benefits for both me and baby. I stay sane with adult interactions and daily cognitive stimulation. I have the opportunity to ask my coworkers 1001 baby questions during the day. I shower and dress myself daily in decent clothes. I get away from daytime television. Baby learns to accept new people, gets exposed to unfamiliar places, builds immunity, and learns to pose perfectly for daily pictures sent to her Mama at work. Seriously, though, before I had my daughter, work was really my pride and joy. It was something I worked hard at and felt good at. My view of motherhood has really evolved in the last six months, I think in large part because I have had the opportunity to return to this bit of normalcy – and enjoyment – in my life. Yes, I definitely have my days when I’m crunching numbers in my head about that whole stay-at-home mom thing, when it’s hard to leave her, when I feel like I’m missing out on stuff, and when it’s hard to reconcile that I’m spending the whole day with other people’s kids while mine is at home. Mostly, though, working has made me a better, more confident, and more patient mom. To me, that is priceless.