As so many parents know, returning to work after having a baby is hard. It’s hard dropping your tiny, helpless infant into the arms of strangers. It’s hard balancing family, work, friends, and household responsibilities. It’s hard emotionally, mentally, and physically.
I returned to work after a 6-month maternity leave, and after being back at work for several months, I found myself questioning why. Why am I leaving my baby with strangers? Why am I having dinner delivered 4 nights a week? Why am I paying someone to clean my house for me? Why am I spending only 2 (waking) hours a day with my daughter?
After contemplating these questions over and over again, I decided it would be best to switch to a part-time schedule. So, I found a great part-time job, with great hours, at a great company. And then COVID-19 arrived. Like so many other people, my life was turned upside down. I was laid off almost immediately – and I’ve been unemployed since. I went from being a part-time worker to being a full-time stay-at-home mom. I got more time than I had ever anticipated having with my daughter. In a way, I got exactly what I thought I wanted.
But here’s my truth: I need to work. After working full time as a mom, and now, being thrust into staying at home as a mom, I know I need to work. I am grateful for the ability to spend so much time with my daughter these past few months, and I wouldn’t trade the time we’ve had together for anything. But I don’t want to only be a mom.
I want to talk to other adults about things that have nothing to do with kids. And yes, even in my job as a teacher where I literally talk to and about kids all day long, I have opportunities to interact with other adults and talk about other things.
I want to be a role model for my daughter. I want her to find success in life, and I want her to know that women can do so much more than cook, clean, and raise children. For me, the best way to show her this is to model going to work.
I want to be challenged. Don’t get me wrong on this one; being a stay-at-home mom is challenging. It’s a different kind of challenge than the challenge of working. While being at home with my daughter challenges me to come up with developmentally appropriate games and activities, create healthy, balanced meals, and juggle grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and nap time, the challenge I get from work gives me a sense of purpose that makes me feel valuable.
I want my daughter to interact with people other than me. At daycare she interacts with other adults, plays with other kids her age, and sees other parents as they drop off and pick up their children. At home, she sees me and my husband. I want my daughter to learn to interact with other adults and to navigate playing with other children, and I can’t give her those opportunities in the same way that daycare can.
I pulled out my work bag today to grab something out of it, and I got excited. I am fortunate that after just a couple of months of searching, I have found a job and will be back in the classroom full-time beginning in August. I will miss my time with my daughter, and truth be told, at some point next school year will probably question why I decided to go back to work. In a perfect world, there would be enough time in a day to work, spend time with family, cook, clean, and relax. But in the meantime, I’m just doing the best I can while trying to make it all work.
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