Before long, I’ll be back at work instead of home with my baby and toddler. However, unlike last time, I’m not cursing the calendar and frantically crunching numbers trying to figure out how we could possibly survive as a single-income family. Instead, I find a teeny-tiny part of myself actually looking forward to my return to the workforce.
Now, before you dismiss me as cold and heartless, here are a couple of things you should know. First, my husband and I battled infertility for years before we were lucky enough to have our beautiful daughter, thanks to IVF. We were blissfully enjoying our family of three when we found ourselves unexpectedly pregnant when she was just 7 months old. We were excited for our bonus baby, but also shocked. Very, very shocked.
Second—and this one is important—given the option, if money were no object, I would absolutely, 100 percent choose to stay home with my kids full-time. I know myself well enough to understand that I would need some kind of creative outlet—freelance writing, flipping houses, flipping gourmet burgers…something. But since I know I’m going back soon, I’ve not been doing much besides taking care of my kids (and occasionally showering).
Here are the top 10 reasons why I’m not dissolving into a puddle of tears every time I think about returning to work:
I actually like my job. I was working somewhere else during my last pregnancy, and this job is a billion times better. I like what I do, I miss my work friends while I’m out, and sometimes I even miss the work itself. Returning doesn’t feel as much like a “punishment” as it did the first time. My day care is pretty awesome. In our situation, day care is really my sister’s house, where my daughter spends the day running around and playing with her cousins, whom she adores. My sister sneaks her chocolate chip cookies, and everyone has a grand old time. I know right now my daughter misses them, and they miss her, too. I also know that my son will have just as much fun once he gets there. Even if the kids were in a day care center, that would be OK. Early socialization skills? Hell, yes. I know what to expect. Unlike last time, when I imagined my child forgetting me—or worse, liking my sister (her caretaker) better—now I know exactly what it’s going to be like. And even though I suspect that my daughter sometimes does like my sister better, at this point, I’ve learned to deal with it. My brain is slowly turning to mush. I’m one episode of Daniel Tiger away from having my bachelor’s degree revoked. I miss the critically thinking and decision-making involved in my job. The longer I’m home, the lazier I get. I miss getting up every morning and taking a shower, and taking care to pick out clothes rather than just staying in the same sweatpants I wore to bed. It would be different if I knew I was staying home indefinitely because I’d be making an effort to sign up for playgroups and activities and all those things SAHMs do during the day. But since my time left at home is so short, I’m not doing any of that. We thrive on routine. I’m not into sleep training, and I breastfeed on demand, not at specific times, but there is something to be said for a reliable schedule. At home, the days kind of slip by, and I’m never quite sure what time it is. Working full-time will force me to be more organized and have a set routine. I can finally stop cleaning so much. Blame it on boredom or on too much time studying the accumulating dust on the fan blades, but these past few weeks, I’ve become obsessed with cleaning my house. My Swiffer is begging for a break. My mom threatened to stage a vacuuming intervention. I need something new to focus on, and working 40 hours won’t leave me time for compulsive cleaning. It gives us all a chance to miss each other. Every night when my husband comes home, my daughter gets so excited and runs to the door yelling, “Daddy! DADDY!” Back when I worked, she used to be just as happy to see me at the end of the day. Now I’m necessary and constant (like oatmeal). There’s something to be said for being rare and exciting (like birthday cake). It makes me feel like a strong role model for my daughter. Studies show that daughters of working moms complete more years of education, are more likely to be employed (in supervisory roles, specifically), and earn higher incomes than daughters of stay-at-home moms. Who am I to argue with statistics? I’ll get a break from being a mom. Listen, I’m in LOVE with motherhood. Like, enough to make you sick and probably hate me a little. But here’s a secret I don’t admit to many people: Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from being a mom all the time. Eight hours a day with no small humans requiring my urgent attention? Despite how much I love my little rascals, that definitely sounds appealing.
Bottom line: I love my kids enormously and cherish every moment we have together. But loving them doesn’t mean I need to spend every waking minute with them to prove it. Being a working mom is challenging, but it’s not impossible, and even something as “sad” as returning to the office has a silver lining.