When I got my first teaching job, I was beyond thrilled. I was absolutely ecstatic! In such a competitive market, I felt like I had hit the jackpot with the job I had been offered. Two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant with my first child.
I was crushed (a completely different story all together!)
I knew that because I had not been working at the school long enough, and wouldn’t have worked there long enough by the time I had my baby, to be eligible for FMLA. My husband was in school at the time and we simply couldn’t afford for me to be gone from work for longer than was absolutely necessary.
I told my boss. And then worked, teaching kids for the whole nine months of my pregnancy. I stopped working on my due date but had absolutely zero signs of labor. I knew that if I didn’t have my baby soon, I would be heading back to work at a very tender age for my new son. I chose to induce labor and had a wonderful experience birthing my baby boy.
Fast forward five weeks. I had to head back to work. I was absolutely devastated to leave my perfect baby boy. I had the good fortune of having a husband whose schedule allowed for three full weeks of bonding time while I went to work. I was very fortunate that we didn’t have to worry about a babysitter for a while longer.
Every day was heart wrenching.
Every day I missed my little family.
Every day I was grateful to have a reason to get out of bed and go be around other adults.
I was so conflicted. I missed my baby boy but I needed adult interaction more than I imagined. I wanted to talk to actual people who weren’t spitting in my hair or sleeping for very long stretches during the day.
My perception of motherhood before baby was rainbows and butterflies and reading books and snuggling. I even purchased little books that I was going to read to my baby and he really couldn’t have cared any less! My reality was snuggling and boredom. It was me crying and him crying. It was watching Parenthood on TV while I nursed for hours at a time.
Work was a respite and I wasn’t even mad about it! But I did have mom guilt.
My mom guilt ate me up inside. It told me that I wasn’t a good mom. I feared my son wouldn’t remember me when I got home. I knew that was a lie because he was always thrilled to see me. I ran through the door every afternoon, and changed my shirt (first graders are not clean!). Of course, washed my hands, then whipped out “the boob” and snuggled on the chair. And yet the mom guilt was intense.
Everyone is going to have an opinion about what you, as a mother, should be doing. The best skill I acquired was to stop listening. Love as hard as you can, putting your babies needs ahead of your own. Try to put your needs front and center sometimes too. If you can do that. you are doing a great job. Whether you’ve chosen to return to work by necessity or because it’s what you wanted to do, you’re doing a great job.
Going back to work can bring forth a lot of emotion; your doula is happy to help you navigate those feelings. Just know that you are doing a great job and your children love you because you are their mother. Mom guilt will come and go and probably nag you your whole life, but you are their mother and that’s enough sometimes.