Confession time: Monday was my first day back from maternity leave and if I’m being totally honest, I’m relieved.
Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE my kids: I love spending time with them, I loved breastfeeding Auggie and now breastfeeding Henry, I love cuddling, playing, going out with them – all of it! I’ve cherished this time I’ve had at home with them and I’m super thankful (and privileged) to work in a state that provides maternity leave. But working (especially in tech) is a huge part of my identity. For the last month, I’ve been feeling really far away from myself. Being on maternity leave with 2 kids under 2 is fun but totally insane! My days were spent continuously playing, feeding, changing diapers, pumping, getting thrown-up on and finding small victories in the minutiae. The first time I brought the kids out of the house at the same time I literally felt like the most accomplished person in the world… for simply leaving the house!
This week while working I got to: talk to adults about problems that needed my help solving, take breaks to pee, eat and drink when I wanted, and immediately start to add value. This made me feel really good and made me feel more whole. So why do I feel so guilty that I felt ready and (in truth) relieved to be headed back to work? Gendered stereotype BS! Even though I’m married to a woman and we’ve decided together that she has a strong desire to be a stay-at-home-mom and I have a strong desire to be the main breadwinner I feel guilty. Decades of print, media, and “norms” have indoctrinated my subconscious to believe that all woman should have a strong desire to be a stay-at-home-mom and if they don’t something is wrong with them. I say subconscious because I’ve had many examples of the empowered working moms, but for whatever reason, that deep seated guilt is there. Many many well-intentioned friends and family sent me texts and posted comments saying they know how hard it is to return to work. And this made me feel even worse about it! I felt (feel) guilty for not feeling guilty/upset about returning to work.
Am I going to miss my kids? Yes! Do I love my kids? Yes! Am I relieved to return to work? Yes! And what I’ve come to realize is despite what societal pressures may try and dictate, I can be just as good a mom and feel good going back to work than one who feels awful about or doesn’t go back to work at all. Also, there are tons of other moms who feel the exact same way. When I been honest with my working mom friends (especially those in tech) their feelings have been very similar.
There is no one perfect way to feel or parent – so I hope in sharing this all my happy/ready/relieved to go back to work mamas can feel validated and a little less guilty – YOU ROCK! You’re an awesome mom!
Last – shout out to all the stay-at-home-parents out there. To those of you who view it as less work than a full-time job and simply love it (like my wife) YOU’RE AMAZING. To my SAHP who do it out of necessity but given the opportunity would prefer to be working outside of the home: hang in there and keep up the GREAT work! If you and your spouse are both working and have help watching you kids – that’s awesome too! Like I said there is no one right way to parent, I just wanted to highlight that there should be no shame if feeling relieved or even excited to return to work after leave.