That dreaded talk you have to have with your significant other after a couple of months of maternity leave…you know what I’m talking about. Do I have to go back to work? Really?
You’re either one of two types of people.
The days quickly turn into weeks, and before you know it, tomorrow is your first day back at work. And it SUCKS. And you dread it so much. You want to spend just another day, week, or month with your little one and you frivolously look through your budget to see if you can make ends meet as a stay at home parent.
Or, you’re bouncing off the walls and are SO excited to have actual human interaction from someone other than your significant other. You’ve been waiting for maternity leave to end because you’re going stir crazy, and as much as you love your new precious little one, you’re ready to get back to the grind. Let’s face it, maternity leave is no vacation.
I for one, had the chance to experience both and both were about as pleasant as I could make it.
When Sterling was born in June of 2015, it was just kind of a known fact between my husband and I that I wasn’t going to work. My husband was active duty Army at the time, and so luckily I was able to stay at home comfortably for a good while. My husband was able to take two months of leave to stay home and help take care of our newborn, which was SO helpful.
After my husband went back to work though, I felt as if the relationship between Sterling and I had shifted. It was so much harder to take care of him without my husband around, and honestly I cried the first day he went back to work. It was just a lot more difficult than I had ever imagined, especially because Sterling and I had a strained breastfeeding relationship. Instead of getting help to solve what I now know is a tongue tie issue, I wallowed and dug further into my hole and resorted to exclusive pumping. That may have been the catalyst into why I actually developed postpartum anxiety and depression, but that’s a story for another rainy day.
As the months went on, I found myself becoming more and more isolated. I didn’t want to leave my house unless it was with my husband, and I had barely talked to the 2 friends I had when I lived in Colorado because I didn’t want to come off as too needy. I also felt an immense pressure to have the house spotless all the time because my husband worked four twelve hour shifts a week. If I’m being honest, I wasn’t even really good at that. I tried to have dishes clean, laundry folded, and toys picked up, but I was always two steps behind all the other tasks I felt I had to do. I felt lonely and desperate and decided to take a different turn on my life. Another reason for not ever leaving the house was because of my decision to exclusively pump. I was pumping every 2 hours on the dot, and I couldn’t make any plans unless I figured out when, and where I could find the time to pump if I had left the house.
When Sterling was about 7 or 8 months old, I started joining all sorts of groups on Facebook. Breastfeeding groups, mom date groups, babywearing groups- you name it. I started going to these community meet ups hoping I wouldn’t scare anybody off with my shy and goofy self. I FINALLY started getting the interaction I needed, and I made some INCREDIBLE, lifelong friends by joining these groups. I may not live there anymore, but you bet I’m always liking all their posts and leaving comments about their cute ass kids, and checking in via text to see how they’re doing.
I finally went back to work when Sterling was about 11 months old. It was bittersweet, but after realizing I was happier being out and about and talking to people, I was ready. That was the start of my milk supply basically depleting because of not enough pump breaks, but I was happy for at least lasting that long.
Before Greyson was born, my husband and I had already arranged for me to start working as soon as my maternity leave was over. Clint was going to start school full time, and I was going to work full time. We were basically reversing roles from our previous child. I was so completely devastated as the days moved closer, but I knew I had to accept my fate.
I ended up going back to work when Greyson was 8 weeks old, so about the usual time moms are going back to work after maternity leave. After stumbling my way around trying to find one of the three pump rooms that were currently available, I felt a huge pang of relief as I was finally able to express breastmilk. All this felt like unknown territory, but at the same time was all too familiar.
Suddenly, Clint calls me and tells me that Greyson won’t take a bottle. I feel my heart beating faster thinking about how hungry he must be, and how I need to get home to feed him, but I somehow kick those bad thoughts out of my head and offer solutions on how else my husband can feed him. “Can you please try a syringe, or a spoon, or even a cup?” It takes a while to hear back, but when I do I hear that Greyson finally accepted my milk in the form of a Tylenol syringe.
I finish my shift at work without any other hiccups, and race my way home to embrace and nurse my newborn for the rest of the night. As he is in a deep milk coma, I sit and wonder, how in the hell am I ever going to go back to work tomorrow?
But somehow I do. The days blend into weeks, and weeks turn into months. All of a sudden, a year has passed and I have a walking, “talking” toddler and I feel GUILTY. Isn’t that strange? I feel incredibly guilty that I was around for all the major milestones with Sterling, but have basically missed all of the ‘firsts’ for Greyson. I mean, it does make me feel like 80% better that at least those moments were cherished and experienced with my husband, but maybe it’s the mom in me that feels like I should be around to see everything happen. I know it doesn’t make me any less of a mom, and at least I’m home at a reasonable time every night to be able to spend a good bit of quality time with them.
It took me a long time to overcome that guilt, but I can definitely say I’m much happier in life right now than I was almost two years ago. It wasn’t easy, but I found my groove with work. I was able to create enough of a supply while pumping at work, and even continued to breastfeed until Greyson was about 18 months old. I’m not so worried about missing any important milestones anymore, because I know the moment I step through the door to my house, the boys are more than excited to show me their goofiness and everything they’ve learned about themselves.
So, as you can tell, both staying at home and working full time were quite different from each other. Each version had some golden highlights, and quite a few bumps in the road. I honestly can’t tell you what the journey is going to be like when Clint and I try for a third child. But what I do know, is that I shouldn’t be worried or feel guilty about missing the first steps, or not getting the house fully cleaned when you’re a stay at home parent. There’s no need to put any unnecessary stress on yourself when you’re already being the best parent you can be- just be you, parent how you parent, and your kids will be getting all they could need.