I still have six weeks until I go back to work after a year long maternity leave. Already I feel the panic setting in. Months ago, if you had asked me, I would have said that I was so ready to go back. That was then. Now as I stare down D-day I, of course, no longer feel the same. The precious moments with my family feel fleeting as I stand on the cusp of another big change. I don’t do well with change, even change that I can anticipate and plan for.
I felt much the same after my first maternity leave. I was afraid to leave my little boy and anxious about managing the day-to-day struggle that is the life of a commuter family. (My husband and I together spend more than 20 hours a week driving) The first time I went back to a new position, a part time position. The prospect of only three days a week away from my son seemed reasonable. I still had two days a week with him all to myself. The best of both worlds in many ways. Over the months, I slowly eased my way back into a five-day work week. The transition was smooth, my son flourished in care and we all did well.
This time I’m going back to a position that I started only a few short months before my leave. I’ll be working full-time and though I would say I had a break, it was one filled with work responsibilities as I helped to keep projects moving along for a department in flux. I’ve been away, but I haven’t really. In some ways that will make my transition back to work easier, in others it means I go back feeling like I never left.
But more than the work stress, there is the stress of leaving my second beautiful baby boy. I know he’ll do fine, he’ll have his big brother with him. I also have a tremendous caregiver who loves my children as if they were her own. Often I have felt she does a better job than I do. I will go back to work secure in the knowledge that my children are really cared for. Though that makes it easier, it is far from erasing the guilt I feel that my second son won’t get that extra time with me that my oldest did. I also feel guilt that this time around when we are together my attentions will always be divided between the two. Already I mourn our special time. It will never be the same again.
I choose to work outside of the home for many reasons. I enjoy a particular lifestyle, I want my children to enjoy it too. We have a beautiful home made with love, but not sustainable on one income. I need the challenge and learning that comes from a stimulating workplace. I want my children to grow up feeling loved and cherished by family, but also with the skills to be independent and confident. I believe child care helps them to be well-rounded individuals. Though some of the circumstances cause me to feel guilt, I do not feel guilt that I work outside of the home and leave my children with another person. She loves them, so why should I? I am not so foolish to believe that I am the only one who can give them the love they need. I believe that it takes a village to raise children and that children do better when there are many loving adults in their life.
So why is it so hard? It’s simple, I love them, with every fibre of my being. As much as it is important to me and helps me to achieve the goals I have for my family and me, I don’t relish leaving them. If there was a better balance to be had, perhaps I would take it. For the moment this is how it has to be for our family. For the moment I must forget that I have only this short time left and focus on enjoying them every moment I’m with them.