Well, I’m back at work. And sometimes I feel like I don’t feel the way I’m “supposed” to feel about it. Ya feel me?
What I mean is… I never thought of myself as one of those people who was meant to be a mom or who began to hear a loud ticking sound at age 20. I went to college, I got a career going, I met a man I loved, and I decided having kids with him would be really awesome. But I didn’t play a ton of “house” as a kid. Being a mom wasn’t my end-all-be-all.
When I got pregnant, I began to wonder how I would react when the little nudger was actually a real, live, breathing little person. I’d heard lots of stories of women who thought they’d have no problem going back to work… until that first day back when they sobbed all morning and had to leave early and speed back home to the baby. Heck, I’ve even known women who went months never being separated from their new baby. It’s the “I was with baby non-stop for 9 months! It’s hard to leave baby now!” phenomenon.
Pre-pregnancy, I had always sort of rolled my eyes at that. But then, I got pregnant and thought, “That very well could be me.” You can’t predict what kind of mom you’ll be until it happens. You don’t know how that overwhelming love will manifest. A lot of moms become very attached. Some even a tad smothering. I feared I’d be a smotherer (and I think Mike will tell you he feared that, too). It’s just that I worry a lot about all the cruddiness in the world, and… eh, that’s a post for another day.
Anyway, turns out, I have no problem leaving my kid. I loved being pregnant, and then I loved no longer being pregnant. I never felt sad that he was no longer inside of me. Maybe because he was in there too long and I wanted him OUT. Or maybe because he’s just so darn cute that now I can’t imagine not being able to look at him.
We got home from the hospital on a Wednesday. My first outing without the boys was to the mall on Thursday. Yeah, that’s right. I left my kid with my husband when he was two days old. And why shouldn’t I? I’d looked after Ryan for 41-1/2 weeks, people. It was Mike’s turn.
I wasn’t sad while I was gone. It was an hour or two. I got some fresh air. I walked around without people pitying me and asking when I was going to “pop.” And then I got to go home to an awesome family.
Over the next three months, every time I went somewhere without the baby, someone would inevitably ask me, “Oh, is this your first time out without the baby?!?” By the fourth time I’d heard this, I started wondering if I was neglecting him or was some kind of freak of nature for leaving my kid so much. (Someone even asked me this on my first day back to work, more than 3 MONTHS after having him. Of COURSE I’d been away from him before! Sheesh, people!)
A few weeks into my leave, I knew I needed to eventually go back to work. That’s not to say that I didn’t love spending so much quality time alone with my son. It was amazing, and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything in the world. Yeah, there were times it was hard. There were times he was fussy and I’d be at the end of my rope by the time Mike got home from work (by the way, stay at home moms are heroes in my book… it’s a LOT of work). But I loved it. During that time, I got to watch him go from a little ball of sleep to an active, smiling, hates-tummy-time-but-otherwise-has-an-awesome-disposition little boy.
But I need to work. I have to have something to talk to Mike about at the end of the day besides whatever Ryan did. I want to talk about Ryan, of course… but I also want to talk about a difficult project I’m working on or a new way to use Facebook to promote my school. That doesn’t mean I think stay-at-home moms are dull or boring or anything like that. In my book, a stay at home mom = an amazing person. But everyone is different, and I personally have never been a big homebody. I get cranky and restless if I’m confined up at home for a full day, let alone 7 days a week. I need fresh air and other people and a little bustle. Mike has heard the phrase, “I’m antsy. We need to go out.” many, many times.
Evidence of my need to get out: Ryan’s first roadtrip to Sedona.
He seems to have no problem relaxing on a trip.
I know this about myself, and I know it doesn’t make me a bad mom. But leading up to the Big Return To Work Day, everyone kept telling me how it would be ok that I was going to have a total and complete mental breakdown while I was at work. It’s to be expected and everyone does it, they said.
I really didn’t think I would. But I was assured by many, many people that it would happen. I started to think that maybe… maybe I’m not a great mom because I don’t seem to have the separation anxiety that every other mom on the planet has. Then again, I’d never done it before, so maybe a huge rush of emotion was coming and I’d be blindsided.
The Big Morning arrived, and I got up and held Ryan for a minute before passing him off to Mike, who does the morning feeding. I ate breakfast, Mike put Ryan back to sleep, and I had a brief emotional moment. It was the stress of going back to work (I have a HUGE project due in a VERY short amount of time) and the fact that it was earlier than I’d had to be up in a long time (it was still dark outside). It was that we were about to see how our lives were *really* going to be. It was an unknown. And I’d been so happy the last few months, and now the holidays are done, the cold has finally set in to the desert, and maybe I’m a bad mom for leaving my baby.
It *is* pretty hard to leave this little present.
But if I’m being honest, my emotional moment really was brief. Maybe one tear. A few sniffles. And then I had to continue getting ready for work. All day, I dreaded the major breakdown everyone warned me about. But I was really busy. Really super busy. I didn’t have much time to think about a breakdown.
When I did think of Ryan, which was often, I felt a small ache. People asked me about him a lot, so I got to show his picture off and tell everyone what a good baby he is. By the end of the day, I missed him a ton, and when I got home, I was beyond happy to see him. But it was nice to dress in something other than jeans and a sweater. To have to go someplace where I was needed as more than a comfy spot to sleep on (not that I mind that…).
It’s hard to only see him for a few hours a day instead of all day … to worry that he’ll start preferring someone else or that I’ll miss major milestones (please roll over from back to front when I’m nearby, little man!) … that is an adjustment, yeah. And it might be a while before I’m totally ok with that – and maybe I never will be. But I’m not a total basket case. I’m not plotting how I can get out of my job and become a SAHM. My reaction to all of this seems so abnormal to everyone. I find myself often telling people that I really do love my kid a lot and that I really do love spending time with him. I don’t even know why I feel like I need to say that. Of course I love him. Of course I think he’s the best baby of all time. Of course the sun rises and sets with him. But having him in my life doesn’t erase who I was before. He has enhanced who I am, he has changed parts of me… but there was a whole lot of me there to begin with. I still like to go watch a football game and have a beer. I like to go out to dinner. I like to read a good book. I like to go for walks around the neighborhood. He’s not 100 percent of who I am. And if he were… well, that might be a little smothering, don’t you think?