I wrote this post two years ago about going back to work after being home with Ava. So much of what I wrote then still rings so true now.
People ask me, “How is it being back?”
And I smile and say, “Okay.”
And there is usually an exchange of facial expressions, and nodding and body language that all says, “Yeah, I get it.”
And I say Okay, because I feel like it is the closets to honest I can get.
But here’s the truth.
Some days I’m totally fine, I work hard, and fast and a lot and the day is over quickly, and Ava smiles at me when I pick her up. She’s not ready for bed right as we get home and we get some smiles and laughs in together.
Some days I’m not. The first week back I moved through the daily routine with a layer of sadness, regret, worry and questioning on top of everything.
In the mornings, when Ava would wake up, I’d hold her against me and feel the tug of motherhood calling much stronger than any kind of pull to work. I’d feel her against my chest and just breath sadness.
When I picked her up that first week, she’d look at me with questions in her eyes that I couldn’t answer. I’d bring her to my breast to remind her who I was, what our bond was and comfort her.
At night, after she’d fallen asleep I’d just lay again with her on my chest and feel her weight. Feel my worry. Wonder what was next.
It was all new to me, the struggle and uncertainty. I wanted answers, but wasn’t even sure what questions to ask. So I just kept moving through the days hoping to find a rhythm or balance that felt Okay. When people asked me that first week I was honest,
“It is much harder this time.”
Part of the truth is, I have to work.
So the second week I geared up to go back. And that Monday night when I picked Ava up, she smiled at me.
And in that smile, so much shifted.
I needed to know that she was okay. I needed to know that we’d be okay.
It wasn’t (isn’t) about her caregivers, or where she is. It was never about that.
I know how lucky I am to have been able to stay home with Ava for 4 months. But that shouldn’t be good enough.
Look around our world. Look at the support mother’s receive in the form of paid leave. Look at how those countries respect and honor the bond and attachment this mothers and children have. The bond and attachment that is so critical to survival.
I started to feel it, I had it with Ava. I was with her, I was her everything for 4 months. And when we had to be parted we both were left listless and questioning.
Because it isn’t natural, it shouldn’t be our normal.
I like my job, I love what I do. I know that I need the balance of work and parenting. But I wasn’t ready to come back.
I just had no choice.
The story has a happy ending, of course. Because we both adjusted, we are flexible and our bond is much stronger than the daily separation.
But the truth of how it is to be back, the truth is,
Everyday it is hard.
Every morning I am crushed to leave her.
Every night after she’s fallen asleep I lay with her on my chest and feel her weight, let it sink in to me in hopes that it will carry me through the time apart.
I have no choice, so I train myself to stay positive. I relish in what I can do and accomplish at work, and I know and am thankful for the wonderful experience she has at Bright Horizons.
But I’m ready for our country to support mother’s differently. I’m ready for a larger change that is more in tune with everything mother’s who have to work do, and the time they could really use to bond and raise our future generations.
That’s the truth.