I remember my close friend telling me that she was ready to go back to work at the end of her maternity leave. I was about three months pregnant at the time and I didn’t love my job (I actually did love the work but the environment was quite toxic and my boss was challenging, to say the least). The idea of being “ready” to go back to work after any extended period of time off was completely foreign to me. What’s more, the thought of being ready to go back to work after maternity leave? Ready to leave my child with whom I had just spent a meaningful and beautiful year?? That was NOT going to be me.
A month later, I landed my dream job. I found myself doing exactly the type of work I wanted to do. I found myself being challenged in all the right ways, doing work that I really cared about, and working with a group of people that I truly admired. I was four months pregnant at this point. My new position, while close to perfect, was a temporary contract, which was set to expire while I was on maternity leave. Suddenly, I was no longer quite so excited to go on leave. I couldn’t wait to meet my son and experience life as a mother (although, admittedly, I had no idea what that meant at the time), but I was worried about what it might mean for my career. My pregnancy moved forward and my bosses assured me that they would do what they could to hire me back when I was ready to return to work, so did my best to focus on the tiny human growing instead of me and not stress about my career.
Maternity leave was hard. It was wonderful. But, it was really hard. For me, maternity leave was a 12 month long emotional, sleep deprived roller coaster ride. I felt completely out of control much of the time. Every time I felt like I was getting the hang of this whole childrearing thing (this wasn’t a common feeling, but it happened…sometimes), I was thrown for a new loop.
I found myself questioning my identity often during those 12 months. Before I became a mother, I prided myself on being a thoughtful and present daughter to my parents, wife to my husband, sister to my siblings, and friend to my girlfriends. I mourned my pre-baby independence. I missed my old life.
I missed my job.
I was nervous to come back to work. My son had yet to master the art of sleeping (he still hasn’t, for the record) and I was worried that I wouldn’t be as sharp at work as I had been on eight hours of sleep a night. I was also concerned that I would feel out of place back in an office setting; that I would be constantly thinking about my son and whether he has happy, healthy and cared for. But, at the end of my maternity leave (maybe even a little before that), I was ready to come back to work.
It is still hard for me to admit that I am happier as a working mother than I was as a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes I feel judged when I tell people in my life that I am happy to be back at work. Sometimes I catch myself feeling guilty when I am relieved after dropping my son off at daycare for the day or dread the sleepless night that may lie ahead. But I am grateful for the life that I have.
When my friend told me a lifetime ago that she was ready to go back to work at the end of her maternity leave, I foolishly thought that I knew how I would feel in her shoes. Becoming a mother has provided me with a whole new perspective on relationships and career and, really, life in general.
Today, as a mom of a beautiful, strong 15 month old boy, I am so grateful for the lessons that I have learned and will continue to learn in this new role. As I look bleary eyed at my computer screen at work and wonder if my sentences are even coherent from sleep deprivation, I reflect on how lucky I am to have a job I love going to everyday and a husband and son that I love going home to at the end of my work day.
Can you relate to feeling judged as a working mom? Do you have a story about what it was like for you to return back to work after maternity leave? Please post your comments below!
Originally published at www.possibilify.com