Next week I return to work after a year-long maternity leave. I can feel the panic setting in. Months ago, if you had asked me, I would have said that I was so ready to go back. That was then. Now as I stare down D-day I, of course, no longer feel the same. The precious moments with my family feel fleeting as I stand on the cusp of another big change. I don't do well with change, even change that I can anticipate and plan for.
I felt much the same after my first maternity leave. I was afraid to leave my little boy and anxious about managing the day-to-day struggle of a commuter family. (My husband and I together spend more than 20 hours a week just getting to and from work) The first time I went back to a new position, a part time position. The prospect of only three days a week away from my son seemed reasonable. There would still be two days a week with him all to myself. The best of both worlds in many ways. Over the months, I slowly eased my way back into a five-day work week. The transition was smooth, my son flourished in care and we all did well.
This time I'm going back to a position that I started only a few short months before my leave. I'll be working full-time and though I would say I had a break, it was one filled with work responsibilities as I helped to keep projects moving along for a department in flux. I've been away, but I haven't really. In some ways that will make my transition back to work easier, in others it means I go back feeling like I never left.
But more than the work stress, there is the stress of leaving my second beautiful baby boy. I know he'll do fine, he'll have his big brother with him. I also have a tremendous caregiver who loves my children as if they were her own. Often I have felt she does a better job than I do. I will go back to work secure in the knowledge that my children are really cared for. Though that makes it easier, it far from erases the guilt I feel that my second son won't get that extra time with me that my oldest did. It's also heart wrenching to know that this time around, when we are together, my attentions will always be divided between the two. Already I mourn our special time. It will never be the same again.
I choose to work outside of the home for many reasons. I enjoy a particular lifestyle, I want my children to enjoy it too. We have a beautiful home made with love, but not sustainable on one income. I need the challenge and learning that comes from a stimulating workplace. I want my children to grow up feeling loved and cherished by family, but also with the skills to be independent and confident. I believe child care helps them to be well-rounded individuals. Though some of the circumstances surrounding the choice cause me to feel guilt, I do not feel guilt that I work outside of the home and leave my children with another person. She loves them, so why should I? I am not so foolish to believe that I am the only one who can give them the love they need. I believe that it takes a village to raise children and that children do better when there are many loving adults in their life.