Eight weeks ago I welcomed a pink, chubby, new darling into my life. We were strangers that had only knocked on doors but had not yet come face to face. Now as I’m ready to head back to work tomorrow this pink, chubbier darling stares back at me and my heart bursts. We are no longer strangers. We have been constant companions, sharing late nights, meals, naps, hugs and tears in a way he hasn’t with anyone else. Eight weeks feels like enough if I don’t think too hard. Eight weeks feels like a lifetime when I think about the fact that I’d only taken 4 days off all year before this.
This maternity leave was different. Its four weeks shorter, but there’s so much else. When you have an uneventful birth and everything goes according to plan – there are no outward physical signs that it even happened. Sure, there’s the giant mesh underwear, ice packs, spray and water bottle you’re dragging everywhere with you, but otherwise you come home looking pretty close to the you that left for the hospital and you jump right back into your life. With a two year old already at home, there’s plenty to get back to.
I am thankful for the time the new baby and I got to spend together over these last weeks, but am equally grateful for the time I spent with J. During the grind I often only get the early morning and an hour or so before bed five days a week. While I was off he stayed home with me. He is such a little man now. Independent, polite, sweet, and caring.
When they are babes the time you spend at home those first weeks is about bonding, feeding, snuggling, but the conversations are really just one way. T and I spent a lot of time bonding, feeding and snuggling. When I go back to work that first day will be the longest I’ve been away from him his whole life and that is pretty intense to think about.
Spending these last eight weeks at home with J too has been such a gift. As I head back I’ve told him my vacation is over and knowing he’s going to either see Grammy or our babysitter during the week he seems pretty high spirited, and I hope it stays that way.
I, on the other hand, am struggling. I will miss him reaching for his guitar and backpack when he hears Wagon Wheel come on. I’ll miss the big squeezes I get ‘just because’ and how he will cuddles up next to me on the couch out of nowhere and him saying, ‘maybe I do it’ when he wants to try something on his own. I’ll miss T sleeping on my chest, his burrowing into my shoulder, and his fascination with the ceiling fan.
The other side of all these feels is my drive to get back to work. It’s been there, lurking below the surface. When I check my email as the kids nap or before they wake up for the day. When I jump online to finish a project that I wasn’t able to wrap up before my leave. Take a conference call to work on the budget for next year during the family naptime window. Heck, I even went to the office to visit 4 weeks postpartum and jumped into an impromptu employee relations meeting. It’s there because it is a part of who I am. I like to ‘move the needle,’ contribute to our company culture, to get people as excited about the office and what we do as I am. It’s a feeling I tell myself that all working mom’s have. Loving the time home, but feeling the pull of the office and need to contribute. If you ask me if I’m ready to go back, I’ll think of all of those things and tell you yes. I’m ready to roll. And I’ll show you too – I’ll get to the office early, roll up my sleeves and I pick up as if I were never even gone. But tonight I drove home in the dark and the tears started to stream and I let them because 8-10-12, no amount of weeks is enough.
It comes down to balance and compromise. Not needing to be the last one at the office because I need to be the first one home. Knowing that some things can wait until tomorrow or need to be reprioritized. That is really the next challenge, not going back to work – because I always knew I would, but going back and trying to be both sides of me, successfully.