"Are you glad to be back?"
Ahhh… the number one question I was asked this week as I return to work after maternity leave. Ask anyone that question on a Monday and they will punch you, but I tried to be more graceful than that.
If you asked me that this week I probably gave you a half sarcastic answer, "yes! It's so good to talk to real humans again!" Or... "sure thing! With Mila at home I didn't even need to set an alarm!" And gave a smile, moving on, trying to keep it positive.
So here, Ill cut the bullshit. This is how it goes down.
The Ticking Time Bomb
Monday morning I got up around 330, and high anxiety kicked in. Three factors that contributed to that:
1- Not knowing when Mila, my “bomb”, was going to wake up next to screaming and flailing around to be fed
2- wondering if I left enough time to argue with my three year old about her fashion sense by wanting to wear 50 shades of pink and leaving her hair unbrushed, and
3- wondering if I was actually going to be able to get all four of us out of the house by 545 so I could check MORE things off of my to-do list before 7am that most people don’t accomplish in a day.
But that’s just the start. Speeding around to drop the girls off by 6:15, and either pumping while driving or finding a parking lot before school starts is a necessity, all while allowing just enough time to get my bearings straight before the students arrive for me to show off my dog and pony show. All day I give teaching my 100% while pretending that I am well rested and actually have my shit together. Then, pick up the kids, throw some dinner together and attempt to feed everybody when they are their fussiest. Bath time? Hahaaha. That is another post. You know, IF that happens.
A day in the life.
This repeated every day, except some days I would get up earlier because well, when your alarm goes off just before you intended, it's harder just to go back to sleep. Other days, dry shampoo was my best friend. And I’m pretty sure that half of my “professional” outfits had spit up on them… at least the ones that fit. ‘Cause, you know, still need to find time to get that baby weight off.
Alas, it is Friday. And my morning started off with breakfast in bed from my amazing husband. As I shoveled another bite of eggs in my mouth (because that anxiety never leaves) I also check our accounts because it is PAYDAY! Then the reminder hit, and those eggs got cold very quickly.
The terrible reality of maternity leave.
My bank account revealed to me that I am getting paid the equivalent of about four dollars an hour through August because we owe nearly FIVE figures for taking time off to not only take care of the newborn, but recover myself.
I often wonder why it is so hard. The whole work/family balance… because it really should not be that way. We spend our lives primarily working, giving our kids away to another person who will practically raise them so that we can work. Then at the same time, our country penalizes us and hits us hard financially as a punishment for having children. The fact that if our family was not in great financial standing that I would have gone back to work after 16 days post-birth against medical recommendation should not be a worry for anyone. I'm not talking about political issues, I am talking about moral ones.
So yes, this week was hard as shit. But that maternity bill disintegrates in my mind, and I never regret taking the time off that I did, because if I did not, I would never have been the witness to my baby’s first smile amidst her severe screaming through the pain of colic. Or my one year-old, counting to 10 for the first time, and watching my three year old become the BEST big sister ever. I know that there will be many "small" moments that I will miss in the coming weeks, and that just makes my return harder.
Yesterday I left work and ran into another colleague. She did not ask how I was doing. She knew. We walked together rather silently to our vehicles, and as we approached them, she said, "it's amazing isn't it? What us women can do." She knew exactly how I felt without me saying a word. I was like a little puppy bursting with happiness – she didn’t have to ask! My heart swelled up with nothing but love, and just as fast as I drove to work, I drove away from it to see my girls. Every. Day.
I am sharing this because I know there are many other mama’s out there struggling with this same, exact issue as well. Maybe it is 2am and youre struggling to stay awake to feed your baby, or maybe youre sitting next to your pump beat boxing to that lovely rhythm. I’m not going to console anyone or offer unwarranted advice but if I could give you that reassuring glance and pained, half-smile, I would. Because just like my colleague knew, I know.
There's no place like home.
A special thank you to Mila, for keeping me up at night to gradually write this over time, my husband for marrying me, and Britt who encouraged me to post what was going to simply be an Instagram post. Love you all!