with Karli Larson
The transition from stay-at-home mom to divorced-and-working-full-time mom can be challenging, and sometimes very lonely. Throw in a few cats, an ancient dog and one very brave boyfriend, and life gets downright crazy. Join me as I talk through my thoughts and struggles, my miscalculations and my triumphs. We're in this together, you and I.
When I'm not writing here you can find me over at work on the TisBest Philanthropy blog.
I had a meeting with my boss when I was 9 months pregnant, nearly ripping at the seams of my maternity shirt. I was uncomfortable and somewhat cantankerous and I was itching from every pore, eager to get this cumbersome pregnancy over with. I wanted to expel the baby, and...love him a bit, of course - but more than anything, I wanted to get back to work. I wanted to make phone calls, send emails and get stuff done, without a gigantic protruding belly, niggling worry about my potential skills as a Mother, and constant heartburn.
“Gary, I’ll be back at work in 6 months,”I assured my manager,”I can’t wait to return.”
I’m Canadian, and by law, I was entitled to a year of paid maternity leave (though “paid” is a tenuous term: the highest payout is 50% of salary with a capped maximum income of 50K a year - not enough to live on.) But I didn’t plan on taking the full year because…what on earth would I do with an infant for 365 days? I’d go nuts. Working was what I did, instinctively and crisply: motherhood seemed so vague and foreign and…terrifying.
Fast forward almost half a year and I called Gary and tearfully admitted I wouldn’t be coming back after 6 months after all. My baby had pounded a love into me that I hadn’t known existed. I knew it was cliche, was annoyed by my “weakness” - but my baby had lit a candle in my heart and work just wasn’t as important as it had seemed in the unimaginable days before him. I couldn’t bear the thought of missing his tiny sighs, his first steps, his limpid eyes staring at me trustingly in the morning.
When I finally did go back to work, a full year after I’d left, I exited the elevator with mascara stained cheeks. I’d dropped my tiny son off at daycare and I drove downtown feeling like I was going to puke all over the floor of my Jeep. There was guilt in every hour, wrenching heartsickness at every meeting past 4:00. I’d rush to get him at the earliest opportunity, and when I should have been concentrating on Powerpoints and board meetings, I thought of him crying for me and I wondered how long it would be before I just totally lost it.
I couldn’t have imagined it would ever get easier, that any of that burning guilt would dissipate. Yet, almost three years later, I’m here to tell you that it does.
I know it’s partially because Nolan can speak now, because he has friends and a streak of independence, but I almost never feel guilt about working for a living, away from him. He loves his friends at daycare, and he is old enough to understand that Mommy works so that we can have a house and cheese pizza and Charlotte’s Web in the DVD player. I am eternally grateful that I have a work-from-home career, and that I need to travel for business relatively rarely. But my guilt is so much less than it once was, mostly because I am there for him so much.
We amble through forests and overturn rocks for creepy scuttling pictures, and unprompted, my son tells me that I am the best Mommy in the world. I cook and clean and work for him, and in some ways, I embark on a social life for him, too. He loves his babysitter on the occasional Saturday night, and I love having a social life as a woman as well as a Mommy. My downtime makes me a better Mother, I know this wholeheartedly.
I work full time, I lead an active social life - and I feel no guilt, really. I’m amazed, in retrospect, that it’s morphed this much in 3 years, but it has.
New working Moms, I want to tell you: it really does get easier and better and you will find your mojo, too.
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