Exactly one year ago, my maternity leave ended.
In some ways, time has never moved faster.
In other ways, I can’t believe how much things still feel the same.
But for 365 days, I have had a full-time job in addition to being a mom. My son has spent more of the time that he is awake out of my company than in it. This isn’t the role that everyone chooses, but it is the choice that our family made. Everyone’s situation is different, and no two experiences in those situations are the same. I’m not here to judge or teach. My only hope is to share.
Here’s what I’ve learned about myself and my little family in the year that I’ve gone back to work outside the home.
1. It’s not easier; it’s just different.
I spent hours staring at the white light of my phone screen in the middle of the night reading forums where moms would offer condolences and words of wisdom to moms who were getting ready to return to their careers. Over and over again, I read how it gets easier. When you read this post, I will be pulling out of my driveway with a lump in my throat. Again. On days when it feels like too much, I turn up my music or call my husband. Leaving isn’t easier. It still breaks my heart. In fact, it might actually hurt worse now that he waves goodbye. But it’s our routine, and it’s part of the life we’ve designed for ourselves as a family. I find comfort in that.
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2. No one loves your child like you.
They don’t. They won’t. They can’t. A parent’s love is something that I never fully understood until I became one.
3. Other people do love your child a whole lot.
Whether I’m talking about his grandparents or childcare workers, the other people in my son’s life love him. They play with him, they teach him, they help raise him. When it’s hard to leave, I think about how happy they are to see him.
4. Your time is precious.
I am a people pleaser. I am chronically nice. Or I was. For someone who tried and failed so often for three decades, it is amazing how easy it is to say no now. Some people receive it well. Some people don’t. But it’s not their time; it’s mine, and I’m going to use it how I see fit.
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5. Naps are priceless.
I am continuing to side hustle in the name of debt, and I am very happy that the bulk of my side hustle is now virtual. It allows me to work while my baby naps or goes to bed for the
night first few hours. Naps are priceless, but side hustling forces me to put a price on them. My baby hasn’t slept straight through the night more than a handful of times to this day. Do you really think I’m going to take a writing job for $5 or $10 or $15 an hour? HA! I used to think I knew what my time was worth. This has provided a whole new perspective.
6. Being a mom really is my favorite role.
It’s cliche, but it’s true for me. It is so rewarding to not only see the immediate impact of your time and energy and love, but to also watch that impact grow over time. I’ve also never laughed so hard, sang so much, or changed so many diapers. It really is an awesome job, even in spite of all that poop.
7. You can love your other roles without apology.
I love being a mom. I treasure my time with my son. But I really love teaching too. While I’m not connected to my students or my coworkers in the same way as I am my husband or my son, they do feel like an extension of my family. And that’s OK. That’s actually better than OK. I’m working to provide for myself and my family, and I’m also working because I enjoy it. And you know what, Moms? We are allowed to enjoy time with our kids and without them, whether that’s at work, at a coffee shop, or anywhere else.
8. Kids are expensive.
Even though we are starting to master the art of the hand-me-down, no amount of second-hand stuff can truly offset the expense of having a child. Staying home with my baby for 12 weeks cost me $18,500. That’s right. My maternity leave cost me nearly a third of my salary for the year. Never mind the committees I didn’t join and the stipends I turned down that first year (and likely will continue to bypass for years to come). There is a cost to staying home, and there is a cost to going back to work. Either way, kids are costly.
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9. Kids are worth it.
I never dreamt of being a mom. I had dolls growing up, but we didn’t play house. We played school. I wasn’t interested in changing diapers or warming bottles. I wanted Buddy and Sis to learn to read and write. I also really enjoyed scooting across the kitchen floor on chairs that my nana helped me turn into a make-believe school bus.
Decades later when my husband and I got married, we still didn’t know if wanted kids. In fact, I really had a hard time imagining what life would be like with a baby added to the mix. I was full of uncertainty until we took the leap. In fact, I am still full of uncertainty. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The act of growing a human is both breathtaking and difficult; raising one is proving to be equally so. I have never been happier. It is absolutely true that I have never been more tired and I have never spent money quite like we did those first few months (though I’m told college will make this pale in comparison). But my life has never been this full, my days never so satisfying. I have never been happier.
So Tell Me…If you have kids, does any of this feel familiar? If you don’t, did anything surprise you?