Reflections on Maternity Leave & Returning to Work

I’m not going to lie, returning to work last Monday after 4 months of maternity leave was rough. I cried.

As much as I thought about it before the day actually arrived, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that rushed in the second my alarm went off that morning. I had prepped my lunches for the week on Sunday, Simon’s schedule was worked out with the nanny, J and I talked about how we were going to make the routine work…etc. I thought I was ready, but Monday rolled around and my plans crumbled right in front of me. At that point I did what any logical person would do, I sat down at the kitchen table and cried.

Simon slept a little later or woke a little earlier (I can’t remember now – mommy brain) and I quickly realized that any sort of morning “schedule” was just going to be really hard with a 4 month old in the mix. I could plan as much as I wanted, it wasn’t going to make a damn bit of difference.

I am such a planner. I am organized and prompt. At least I used to be.

Taking 4 months off when I had Simon was a blessing. I fully recognize how lucky I am that I work for a company who offers maternity leave and paid time off (I saved some so that I could use it after my maternity leave ended), but I still want more time.

Pre-baby I hadn’t ever taken more than 3 weeks off of work at one time. I have worked for the same company for 13 years. I always talked about taking a leave of absence or working overseas or doing something different, but the grind of Corporate America and relationships got to me and I just never got around to any of that.

I got a taste of ‘not working’ though and I kind of liked it. Actually, I really liked it. If I didn’t have big dreams of owning a beautiful home in the Chicago area, being able to pay for Simon’s college, and taking family vacations now and then, I could absolutely consider taking more time off. It’s not that I don’t want to work at all, I do, it just stinks to have to leave Simon when he’s so young.

I didn’t know that I would feel this way. 4 months ago I would have told you that I would be ready to go back to work. That I might be one of those people who was actually knocking down doors asking to come back to work early because I didn’t have the patience… but I wasn’t. Now I know I’m not. Actually, I wish I lived in Europe or Canada and could take a full year off and then I still probably wouldn’t be ready.

Maternity leave went way too quickly. My desire to enjoy the summer, take long walks by the lake and join mommy groups was thwarted by the fact that it’s just really hard to get your sh*t together when you have a newborn. I sort of understood that theory going into mommyhood, but I didn’t know that. I thought that I would just make it work.

I am an organized, thoughtful, put together person – I could absolutely care for a baby. Yet I brought this innocent life home and everyday for weeks I thought, “why am I trying to reason with a 2 week old and why is he winning?!”.

Ha.

I spent the first 6-8 weeks in and out of a new baby haze. Making it through the day on my own while J was at work felt like an accomplishment in itself (especially if I had eaten lunch or was showered when he got home!). Add to that some trouble with breastfeeding and trying to get Simon to appreciate naps and I was too tired to do much else.

Every day that it felt hard I reminded myself that “this too shall pass”. And it did. Too quickly. Even the hard parts. Even the parts where I desperately googled the answer to crazy questions at 3AM. It went too fast. I blinked an eye and 4 months had passed. Simon went from teeny tiny blob to curious, cooing, cuddly, rolling all over the place baby right before my eyes.

I guess if I am honest I am a bit bitter that just as things were getting easier I started back at work. I’m not even suggesting that I had a difficult baby – I don’t think I did – I think I just had an infant and we needed to get in sync and figure each other out. Now we leave the house with ease, we take daily walks, we run errands, and I understand Simon’s schedule and what he needs.

And now I am back at work. With mommy brain in full effect.

I’m at the end of week 2 and my brain just isn’t quite fully in the game yet. Every mom that I’ve talked to says it takes time, but I cannot believe how REAL “mommy brain” is. Not only do I miss Simon like crazy during the day, but I can’t wrap my head around work yet either. There are moments that I feel like I am staring at my laptop willing it to do whatever I need to do. Unfortunately, my computer can’t read my mind.

I know that I’ll get back into the daily grind of work and I’ll hopefully figure out the right balance of mom and employee, but right now? Right now it’s hard. Right now I am thankful for an understanding team and a great nanny who sends me pictures that tell me that Simon is happy and thriving during the day. He is getting wonderful care and lots of kisses from both my niece and my brother and sister-in-law’s new puppy.

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Simon enjoying a walk with my niece.

I am grateful that Simon is a mere 2.5 blocks away from me, spending time with his cousin during the day. I know that we have it pretty good. I’ve taken advantage and have walked over there every day around lunchtime for a quick squeeze, but still, this returning to work thing isn’t easy. I know it just takes time – all around it takes time, but if I were to win the lottery or happen upon a load of cash, I wouldn’t complain about it :).

First 4 months passes in a flash and then next thing I know Simon is 18… I just don’t want to miss it. I am so scared of missing it.


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4 thoughts on “Reflections on Maternity Leave & Returning to Work

  1. I love this post! Meant to read it yesterday but Isla boycotted naps. I love that photo of Simon and Margot!! Too cute. And I agree – too fast. I teared up while reading and FREAKED at the comment re: 18 years old. Please, please no. I forget you’ve been with the company for 13 years!! So loyal! Let’s start a company, okay?

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