Work it, Mama

Mom at work 1950s

Image via Flickr user army.arch under a Creative Commons license.

I’m just ending my third week back at work since maternity leave and about to start a new job at the University of Alabama, and the question I’ve been asked multiple times by a variety of people is “Oh, don’t you just hate not being able to stay home with Noah?”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my child, but my honest answer to that question is no, and that is how I respond. I’m not meant to be a stay-at-home mom. I enjoy my work greatly and get a lot of fulfillment from it. I think, in a lot of ways, it helps me maintain my sense of self because, doggoneit, I just really like what I do for a living!

In the six weeks I was on maternity leave, I felt so incredibly stressed all the time; I had no idea what to do with an infant for hours on end aside from feeding him and putting him down for naps. And that made it all the more stressful when he had just woken up, been fed, had his diaper changed and was basically laying on the changing table waiting for me to … do something? I became a terrible clock watcher, counting down the minutes until it would be time for “eating” or “needs a nap” to be the answer to why he was fussing again. At any given point in the day, I likely could have told you, to the minute, how long until Bobby would be home and I could hand Noah over and have a little time for myself.

Ultimately, I have all the respect in the world for women who stay at home with their children, but it’s just not for me. In the weeks since I’ve been back at work, I have had so many less emotional breakdowns (which I’m sure is partly due to the antidepressants doing their job, too); I don’t get frustrated to the point of crying and screaming when Noah is upset. In fact, I’m much more able to step back, look at the big picture and figure out what’s going on with him and how to soothe him.

Noah also has a great caretaker during the day. During the first week I felt some anxiety about leaving him; at the same time, when the day was over, I felt anxiety about picking him up. What if he’s in a bad mood? What if he’s had a bad day? What if we can’t get him to go to bed tonight? But these anxieties have faded quickly, along with so many of the other ones that were my constant companions for those six weeks of maternity leave.

I love this post from The Heir to Blair about being a working mom. You may miss out on a few daytime play dates because of your job, but if you are giving your child a happier, healthier mama in the time you do spend with him, then it’s better all around. And I have seen this in the past few weeks. I am happier. I think Bobby is happier, and I’m sure Noah is happier, too.

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One response to “Work it, Mama

  1. I totally feel you about the clock-watching. I still can’t wait for D to get home every day so I can chuck Ruby at him and have at least a few minutes without someone clinging on me. I work from home, so I do still get the fulfillment of doing a job I enjoy, but it’s hard NEVER getting any peace to do said work (since she’s a terrible napper … hard to get much done in 40 minutes). Fortunately, Ruby is now going to bed a little earlier, so I can do some stuff at night. It’s making me feel like something at least resembling myself again.

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