When I returned to work after my first maternity leave, the guilt ate at me. Those first couple of months I was leaving my little guy with his Dad while I hopped on the train and went to work, but within a few months we were dropping him off at daycare.
Each and every time I dropped him off and drove away I felt as though I had failed. A career felt so unimportant and I felt like a phony sitting in on client meetings and pretending like any of it mattered to me.
It didn’t matter.
I spent my entire day counting down the hours until I was able to get home and be with my family.
In those early years of motherhood I went back to work not because I wanted to but because I had to - m income was necessary so I got up every day and did what I had to do to contribute to our family.
In those early years it was so easy to lose myself and make my entire life about my kids. I lived in the right now and didn’t think about the years that would inevitably come where I would be forced to look at myself and think about what it was that I wanted - not what my kids needed from me - but what I really wanted.
Those baby years came and went like a wildfire; starting so quickly and burning through our lives, turning everything we knew upside down. They were intense, crazy, hectic years full of love, giggles, and tears. Just as fast as those baby years came they were gone. Those chubby little legs slimmed out, nights grew longer, and life changed yet again.
I was never really fully aware of how important it was for me to do things that make me happy when I was lost in the milk fog of newborns. Oh, I took an hour here and there to go to the gym or out for coffee with a friend but I never truly focused on me. I stopped thinking about my dreams and my goals; my mind focused only on how to get as much time at home with my kids as possible.
Now that I have come out of that baby haze that occupied every moment of my life I am so glad that I kept something for me. That I have somewhere where I am more than just a mother. I am happy that I didn’t just bury my goals and my hopes, I may not have stoked the fire but I never put it out.
Now when I kiss my kids goodbye and head off to work and that familiar guilt starts creeping in I remind myself of all that I gained by going back to work.
Yes, the financial benefit is great; we can pay for our kids sports and family vacations without worry. Yet there is so much more to it than just the financial aspect.
I am happy that my kids see me do something that I enjoy and they see me a part of something that doesn’t revolve around them. They see me taking risks; changing jobs because of the opportunities involved, working hard towards my dream of writing. I hope that it helps give them the courage to reach for the stars and find their passion.
Contrary to the multitude of articles that I read pointing out that daycare is harmful to children, I now see some of the ways daycare enriched their lives; the friendships they built, how it helped prepare them for school, the independence they gained. Our daycare provider became such an important part of our lives and our family.
Having a job outside of the home isn't the only way to do something just for you, some mothers train to run races, some create art, some run their own businesses from the comfort of their home. The point is don't allow yourself to get lost in motherhood. One day your kids will grow up and you'll be left trying to figure out who you are again. Doing things that are important to you helps you maintain a sense of self but it can also be a life lesson for your children.
I have rules to my working life: We have dinner as a family every single night. I do not miss soccer games or dance lessons. Most of my writing is done after the kids are nice and cozy in their beds.
My life and who I am is constantly evolving. My dreams and my goals also change. My decision to go back to work was initially made out of necessity but after making it through the first few years I have come to realize that being a working mother is worth so much more to me. My daughter sits on my lap as I put the final touches on this post and asks me what I'm writing about, I tell her and she smiles and says "Mummy, I'm going to be a writer one day," and I know that I'm doing something right.