I wasn’t very far along in my second pregnancy when I began fielding the question about whether or not I thought I would return to work. I told several people, including those I considered to be friends, that I thought I’d probably go back to work early and the onslaught began.
They’re only little for so long…
(As if I didn’t know that, with my firstborn baby bigger than I am already.)
A few times, I countered the argument that I wouldn’t be dropping my child at an orphanage and never seeing them again. I just planned to go back to the career I loved sooner than 12 months after his birth. But, the guilt set in. It sparked a lot of private conversations in our household as I grappled to come to terms with the mom I thought I would be and the mom I am. My spouse repeatedly reminded me that I was in the driver’s seat.
By the time I was seven months pregnant, I was questioning whether or not I would take 12 or even 18 months off. I fantasized about the hours of early morning walks around the neighbourhood. The leisurely afternoons spent in the park with our little bundle. I researched “mommy and me” programs at local spots and discussed options like returning to work part-time.
For a while, I thought I’d be a mom who delighted in the everyday parts of parenting. I wondered if maybe, just maybe, this was my chance to be the mom I simply couldn’t be with F. The one who had to give up maternity leave early to get by. To make the start that led me to being a mom with real choices.
When I went into labour almost a month early, I brought my laptop to the delivery room. Already that morning, I’d worked for nearly four hours before my water broke quite unexpectedly and *just* as I’d made a coffee. For most of the six hours we waited in the delivery room while my labour progressed, I picked away at emails and completed projects.
I should have known then…
The reality of my motherhood experience this time around has not included leisurely afternoons in the park nor peaceful early morning walks. I haven’t enjoyed the everyday parts of parenting. By the time S was six months old, I was excited to know I had a new job just ahead.
Objectively, both the mom I thought I would be and the mom that I am are good mothers.
The mom I thought I would be wouldn’t love her baby any more or any less. She wouldn’t feel less fulfilled or like a stranger to herself. She wouldn’t be happier. Neither version is a failure.
The only way to fail, I’ve now realized, is to try to force myself to be the mother I’m not.
The truth is that being a stay at home mother is not for me. It was hard to grapple with this realization because, if I’m honest… I sometimes wish it was. I wish that I loved “being home”. I sometimes wish I felt more at ease as a mother than I do as a professional.
I sometimes wish I didn’t have to split my time and my energy and my attention between two things I love so much. I wish I didn’t worry about what other people think of the mom I am.
But, the mom I am is a mom whose soul is set on fire both for my kids and for my work. She’s a mom who’s doing it imperfectly and trying to learn from the mistakes. She’s the mom who wishes she had more time for things like the Parent Teacher Association or managing the hockey team while simultaneously overloading her plate at work.
And she’s a mom who will cheer on every other mom trying to find her way forward. ❤️