By: Heather Desmond O’Neill
As September approaches and I gear up to head back into my full-time job in a local public school, I’m reminded of my first day back to work as a mom:
I was dressed and on my way to work for the first time in 6 months and as I pick up my beautiful 6 –month-old son to kiss him goodbye, he vomits all over me. This whole working mom thing was on its way to a really bad start. I love my son, and I love my job – but meshing the two together is going to suck the life right out of me.
My heart broke that first day…even after my unexpected wardrobe change. There was an ache in my arms and my heart that I didn’t know was possible. I had had the “I can’t wait to get back to my baby” feeling the few times I had left him – dinner with my husband, doctor’s appointment, pedicure – all the things a new mom should do on her own – but this leaving to go to work feeling was new and awful. I cried the entire way to school. I put up pictures around my desk and showed off my bouncing baby boy to my colleagues and students. And I rushed home at the end of the day and could not wait to snuggle and hold him for the remainder of the evening. Knowing I was going to have to do it all again the next day was torture.
To my surprise, it did get easier. It took a few days, but I didn’t sob the entire way to work. My eyes would just water for a minute or two. The pit in my stomach seemed to shrink as the weeks went on. And the ache in my arms to hold him would start to emerge on my drive home instead of as I walked into my classroom. It did get easier.
Then there were the days when he was still sleeping as I left for work. Those days I would go into the nursery, rest my hand on him as he slept (first to ensure he was still breathing and second so he could feel my love for him), and desperately want to wake him so I could hold him and nuzzle him and hear his giggle before I left, but knew that it would make leaving that much harder. I couldn’t decide which was worse, having him awake or asleep as I had to leave for work.
I was jealous of my husband – he got to enjoy the quiet early mornings with our son. He got to lie in bed with him and mentally take note of all the new sounds he was making. He witnessed his face light up when the ceiling fan was turned on. He would get to roll on the floor and do tummy time with him. And I had to go to work. I desperately wanted to stay home.
But as the days, weeks and months went on, I rekindled the relationships with my students and it was clear to me the reason why I left my beautiful baby boy every morning. I loved teaching and working with young adults. As much as it pained me to leave, I would have been equally as empty without my students in my life. They helped me get through this extremely tough change in my life and gave me something to look forward to when I went to work.
I can’t say that it’s easy being a working mom. It’s certainly not easy being a stay-at-home mom. I think being a mom in general, however you do it, is pretty tough. But to all of you working moms out there who have to leave your babies every day – it will get easier, you will get through this, and you will cherish the time you spend with them at home that much more.