I get asked almost daily if I’m taking a full year of maternity leave. It’s almost a given, I find, and people are surprised to hear that I’m heading back to work after just six and a half months. They’re also surprised to learn that Soph’s daddy is taking four and a half months of paternity leave (as a side note, I hope this becomes less and less surprising as more and more parents split the year off between them). This choice was right for us — I started a new job just three weeks before I went on leave, and I felt uncomfortable being out of my role for a full year. Also, financially, with Blaine’s benefits, it made more sense to give him some time at home.
I’m good with this decision. Honestly, I’m not just saying that. I’m lucky enough to love my job and my boss. I crave the adult interaction. I am so looking forward to tapping my creativity in a way I’ve missed these past few months (not that singing “Peanut Butter and Jelly” over and over again to elicit baby giggles isn’t creative, but you know what I mean). I also think it will be a wonderful bonding experience for Blaine and Soph — I have visions of Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom, preferably minus the grease fires, but the ironed grilled cheese is fine with me.
Despite all of this, I still have this niggling feeling at least once a day that I will be missing out on too many things by going back to work early. That Soph will know it’s too soon, that she’ll miss me and the transition will be difficult. That she won’t take thawed breast milk the way I’m hoping she will. That I will overcompensate for my absence and worry more than necessary, when I’m already a champion worrier as it is. Of course I know that she’s a baby and that as long as her needs are being met, that as long as she feels secure and loved, she’ll be fine. It’s her mom that I’m not so sure about.
I know this is probably just the start of a lifetime of guilt. I’m sure I’ll be late for a school play, or forget to wash her favourite shirt for the first day of school, or make her wear her winter jacket to the playground on a warmish late-March day even though I know she’ll probably get teased (don’t worry, Mom, I forgive you). I’m sure every late night or weekend day I work will make me doubt my mommying skills.
I’ve reasoned this out by telling myself that Sophie will witness my career, that she’ll know she can be ambitious and have a family, and that neither one will be perfect but that both can be happy. It’s the age-old double-edged sword for all women, I think, and much as I’d like to be the Once and Future Queen who could pull the sword from the stone and change that for mothers the world over, I know it won’t be so. That we will continue to wage war over the mommy guilt, just as we’ll fight the good fight against work-life balance and hope to come out on top at least some of the time (that sounds vaguely dirty, but that part is important, too, so I’ll live with the innuendo).
So the countdown is on. The baby weight lingers so I’m cringing at my limited work wardrobe, and I’m soaking up the giggles while I still can. Soph — go easy on your dad, and remind him to send me pictures of those morning smiles I’ll miss so much. Don’t worry, I’ll tell him you like to chew on Mr. Octopus and that the pink soother is your fave. I just hope you’ll be proud of me someday, when you realize that I’m dream-chasing for me, sure, but also for you. So you’ll know you can have it all, too.
Photo by oreses via Flickr