When I walked out of the door this morning, it took everything I had not to turn back. I knew that another glance into those brown eyes would change the course of my day in an instant. It would only make this more difficult. It would only cause me more pain. The thought alone nearly brought me to tears.
“Hold it together,” I told myself, as I tilted my head back to keep the waterfall from rippling down my cheeks. “You can do this. He’ll be fine.”
As of the day I wrote this, it’s been nearly two weeks since I transitioned back into the office after giving birth to my son. Two weeks of heart-wrenching moments that mostly feel like torture. Two weeks of waking up and telling myself that this day will be easier than the one before.
Each morning after my emotional pep talk, I head to work and inundate myself with mundane tasks and office pleasantries hoping that the time will fly by.
All the while, I am fighting the urge to check-in at home a million times to see how my little man is doing, or wondering if colleagues can sense my despair behind this N-95.
To be fair, there are days that aren’t so bleak. Moments where I get lost in my work and regain some semblance of normalcy. Then biology takes its course, my chest tingles as milk trickles down my shirt, and I’m reminded that I’m missing a special part of me.
This workplace version of me is strange and unfamiliar.
I have never felt so inadequate and unsure. Before becoming a mom, I was the overzealous, overachieving workaholic–most often the last to leave and the first to arrive. These days as a working mom, it’s an entirely different story.
Even though life has promoted me to motherhood, it subconsciously feels like I’ve been demoted in the workplace. It’s as though everyone around me questions whether I’m still capable of doing my job. And if I’m quite honest, sometimes I wonder the same. I’m hesitant to assert myself. I feel oddly out of place. There is a looming feeling of insecurity that I can’t quite rationalize.
I keep asking myself why everything feels so different now. Did I make the return too quickly? Was I right to come back at all? How do moms navigate this emotional roller coaster? Everything’s changed since he arrived.
When my workday has ended, I all but sprint out of the office and into my car.
The traffic lights can’t turn green fast enough. The elevator at our building can’t rise soon enough. Up until the moment that I press the keypad to the entrance of our home, my heart overflows with anticipation. Then I open the door and see that smile. Suddenly my world is alright as I relinquish all distress and allow myself to melt in his eyes.
Is it just me or has he grown an inch since this morning? We begin tummy time, and my mouth falls agape as he attempts to crawl. These moments are so precious and fleeting. How will I ever forgive myself if I miss them?
Maybe these are the very circumstances that propel women to re-evaluate their professional lifestyles. Maybe these are the very feelings that catalyze women into remote roles, entrepreneurship, and positions as stay-at-home moms. Maybe the need to love and nurture our families is so innately consuming that it forces us to imagine different possibilities. And inspires us to create lifestyles that work on our terms, and not the other way around.
Whatever the case may be, I’ll leave those thoughts to ponder later. Because right now in this very moment, my little man is all mine. And above all, time with him must come first. Are you a working mom who struggled to return to work after maternity leave? Share your experience and advice in the comments below.