A friend of mine is just returning to our school after being on maternity leave for the last couple of months with her little one. Having gone through the struggles of returning to work myself, I dashed off a quick note to her to share that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This letter is very loosely based off of that note.
Welcome back! I know that you are full of all kinds of conflicted feelings and emotions right now. I want you to know that I get it. I want you to know that I’ve made it to the other side. I want you to know that there are so many women out there who feel or have felt exactly as you do right now.
First, let’s talk about all the adults that you now find yourself surrounded by. They are all excited to see you back at work (even if you’re still a little wary about the whole thing). They all want to come by and tell you hi and ask how your little one is doing. This is a little complicated, though, isn’t it? On the one hand, all you want to talk about is your baby (they are, after all, the Most Important Thing). But, if you start thinking about that cute little squishy face that someone else is holding and cooing at right now, you’re going to lose it and start crying (maybe even just reading that made you cry). It’s okay. Every single mom (and some of the dads) that you run into at work have gone through or are going through the same thing. Some will communicate it with a knowing glance or a gentle touch of the shoulder so as to not ask all of the Direct Questions (how is she? is he smiling yet?) that will cause you to break down. Just know that we all get it and we’re thinking about you and hoping you get through this day, this hour, away from your baby.
You will spend a significant amount of this time away worried about your baby. And, if you’re a breastfeeding mama, much of this worry will come from pumping. You’re going to feel overwhelmed with concerns like, Am I maintaining enough of a supply? Do I have all of the parts for my pump? Is it all going to work? What if I have less time to pump than I thought I did? What if one of the pieces of the pump malfunctions? What if I forget the caps to the little bottles? And on and on and on. Pumping is stressful and if, like me, the only time you have to pump is during lunch, you’re going to find it hard to relax (as all of the websites will tell you to do) as you’re scarfing down your extra-large salad because you’re more hungry now than you were when you were pregnant.
I wish I could tell you it’s going to get better. Instead, I can only tell you that it gets more tolerable. It’s never going to be easy for you to leave your baby with someone else. But, you’ll be better about knowing that it’s what you need to do for right now. You’ll get through it.
Finally, let’s think about the things you’ll get to experience that full-time stay-at-home-moms don’t get to. You’ll get to see the smile on your child’s face when they see you walk in the door. Later, when they’re older, they’ll run to you because they’re so excited to see you. You’ll have the experience of them telling you what they did that day and dragging you around to show all of the different things they played with. You’ll watch them meet all kinds of new friends and see them navigate their social world all on their own. You’ll see them learn a kind of independence and an ability to be comfortable with different people from an early age. You have all of these great things before you.
But, you don’t need to worry about that right now. All you need to worry about is getting through this next day so you can get home and snuggle your baby. And you will.