Maternity leave, I must leave you

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Tomorrow, I'm going back to work exactly one year (to the day) after I went on hiatus to go have a baby. 

And I'm having completely mixed feelings about it.

My little girl is about to turn one, and I hate the thought of not being with her all day, every day. I hate thinking about someone else collecting her up from her nap, cuddling into her flushed, sheet-creased cheeks and holding her close until she wakes up enough to be in the mood to play. I won't get to hear her babble to herself over the monitor as she awakes, won't get to creep into her dark bedroom that smells pee, that smells oddly wonderful. I won't get to tiptoe across the rug and peek through the bars of the crib at her grinning face, as she squeals with delight to see me. You wouldn't know now but I'm pre-coked-up Justin Bieber and she's a starry-eyed “Belieber”, the way she squeals and waves her arms up and down when I come in the room. 

Thinking about not doing those things makes me want to hurl myself onto the floor and throwing a fit like Honey Boo-Boo when she doesn't get her Gogo Juice.

What if she says her first real word when I'm not there? I'm going to miss important moments of her life. The closer her first birthday gets, the more I start seeing her entire life flash before my eyes. Before I know it, she's not a baby anymore. She's a little girl. And for 40 hours a week I won't be there to see it happen. It breaks my heart.

But maternity leave is also kind of taxing, and I have to admit, there's also a part of me that feels excited to get back to work.

I enjoy what I do. It fulfills a part of my brain and makes me feel smart and challenged and whole. I get to have meaningful discussions with like-minded adults. If I didn't get to exercise those muscles, I would most-definitely be a less-fulfilled person. I've always known that, just like my own mom, I wanted to be a working mother – to be independent, earn my own money, have something in my life that's only for me. I admire women who are working moms, and I strive for that myself.

Other working mothers have made it quite clear to me that life is about to become insane. That the hours of 5:00 (suppertime) to 7:30 (bedtime) are something like a Megadeth concert. You have to jam playing, loving, snuggling, feeding, changing, and bedtime into two hours. Really, you just have one hour, because at around 6:00 every day, all children under the age of about five turn into Sybil.

Now, I just wanna say it: you men are great, you really are. You're good for fixing things around the house, pouring drinks for guests when we host dinner parties (when you're told to do so), mowing the lawn, snow blowing the driveway, and making grilled cheese sandwiches and frozen pizzas for our supper. I don't know what I'd do without my man. He changes a diaper with the efficiency of MacGyver dismantling a bomb. He gives the baby nighttime cuddles and can put her to sleep like The Great Reveen can entrance the most riled-up bayman you'll ever find. And I mean, I'm useless at setting up the wireless and all those other “tech-y” things. I'm just a girl! Without him, I wouldn't know anything about hockey. I mean, there's no one else around here to describe to me the social upbringing and stats of each player. If he wasn't here, how would I be able to punch my fist into the air and triumphantly cheer, “Marian Gaborik!” at the TV screen every time that handsome little Slovak hits the ice with the speed of a starling?

But guys – come on. I don't mind giving credit where credit is due, but you must admit that in most households, us women do most of the work when it comes to planning for the child's general wellbeing. Meal planning and implementation (and knowing that almost-one-year-olds shouldn't eat things like popcorn and honey), daycare research and arrangement, dressing the children in clothing that matches, researching and recording their developmental milestones, ensuring their receive their immunization needles...these are all very time consuming activities. And ones that you sometimes (basically never) think about. You float in after work and swoop the child up into the air, sit down for cuddles and kisses, then waltz into the loo to check out your new Cars magazine until it's time for supper.

Now that I'm going back to work and won't have the whole day to complete the above tasks, I can only imagine what the hours of 5-7:30 will be like in our house. And I ONLY HAVE ONE CHILD! AND SHE'S NOT EVEN ONE!

How did my mother do it with three rug-rats? Two of them boys, who were always yelling and pretending to be He-Man and Battlecat and haulin' on their birds all the time? They would traipse around like two savages, and then when their friends came over...watch out. My youngest brother once put his friends' head through the wall. There was a big old dent behind dad's office door for ages. My other brother once threw and A&W Root Beer-flavoured sucker into the air and it shattered the light fixture in the kitchen (I was there for that one, must admit). How many times in our house did mom and dad yell, “BOYS!”.

I even know of people who have THREE boys. I have one friend who told me that during this fateful 5-7:30 timespan, when they all get home from work and the boys run savage, pulling at her pants, nipping at her heels, she simply says, “Wait a second, boys. Mommy hasn't had her wine yet.” Very good piece of advice, I believe, no matter how many children you have and no matter what their gender may be.

Shag the faux, mini-He-Mans and Battlecats – moms are the real superheroes. Cliche? TRUE.

It's hard enough doing all of this while you're home all day. Doing it while you're working full-time is a freaking miracle.

Now, there may be some women reading this who are now thinking, “This bee-yotch doesn't respect stay-at-home moms!”

Not. So.

Why do us women have to be so darn competitive, anyway? We're all on the same team for God sakes! Why can't we put on the Spice Girls and get some girl power on the go?

I think full-time moms are amazing. They're loving, unbelievably patient, selfless, and strong. As much as I now look up to my mom now for working full-time and finishing her masters while we were youngsters, and as much as I kind of want to be just like her, and looking back I wouldn't have it any other way - there were also times during my childhood when I wished she could chaperone a field trip or be at a bake sale. Kids who have that are very lucky. Society would suffer without stay-at-home moms.

Working part-time would be the bomb as I'm sure every mom thinks. But alas, there aren't many part-time jobs around, and first and foremost – we gots ta pay the bills, yo!

So moms – whether we're working in an office or in our homes – don't be hatin'! Let's just support each other and whatever kind of hard work we do.

As I trip through this last day being an at-home mom, battling the waves of excitement for going to work and heartbreak over missing my little goose, I will try to focus on the positives.

She'll make new little friends. She'll socialize. She'll learn things at daycare she won't learn at home, like sharing, and hopefully how to put things away.

I'm focussing on the big smile that will be on her face and the joyful squeals I'll hear when I go to pick her up each day.

With me going to work, maybe we can take her on a trip every now and then. We can put her in clarinet lessons or jiujitsu or whatever it is she wants to do. Hopefully, working will make me a better mom, because I'll appreciate every minute I get to spend with her.

At least until she turns 13.

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  • Mary McKim
    January 30, 2014 - 07:30

    Leaving your beautiful baby and going back to work will be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. You will need to remind yourself of all the reasons why you do it. You don't know what the future brings and, as a parent, you must always have the ability to support your kid yourself. You don't know if you will end up being a single parent. I really hope you don't. But if you do, and if you have a job, although the world will seem to be falling down around your ears, you still have that pay check; that health care plan; that pension plan; that life insurance. I was a single parent. But I had a skill and a profession and I was always able to get a job. Yes, it was hard. Being that kid's Mom is the most important thing you will ever do. And being that kid's Mom with a pay cheque means you have the best chance of giving that kid a good life. A loving partner is a blessing - but things change. And while you might not always be someone's partner, you will always be that kid's mother. Going back to work is a very smart thing to do. Good luck.

  • ALISON
    January 29, 2014 - 22:11

    Well done! Awesome job. I am a new mom. My little guy is 6 months old. I have just gone back to work full time and my husband is at home with our son. This article describes what I went through....even with his dad spending quality time with him!