By Guest Blogger Kimberly F.
The moment my water broke was surreal. My world as I knew it completely changed in that moment and it was out of my control. Now, having been a stay-at-home mom for nearly two years, my first day back at work was just as surreal. It’s a very unsettling feeling that nothing is wrong, but nothing is quite right either. I had a deja vu of that very feeling sitting at my new desk on my first day of work.
I always wanted to have children and liked the idea of being a stay at home mom. I was going to be the 2000’s version of June Cleaver. It looked like it would be so easy for me. I was part of a “resource action” at the company where I worked and as a result, became a stay at home mom the day my daughter was born. I still had maternity leave and severance before I would need to start unemployment. The future, or at least the immediate future, looked bright.
For a long time everything was great. It certainly wasn’t easy, but we got into a routine and by two months things had settled (as much as a new baby settles). Unemployment checks were coming in. Jobs were slim, but I was trying to apply only for jobs I thought I’d really want to do. We certainly weren’t desperate for me to go back to work yet, so I had the time to be picky. I had settled into my role as stay at home mom and learned there were certain freedoms and certain restrictions. I had the freedom to do anything I wanted during the day without worry about conference calls or being in the office. There was no one to answer to for my time. I loved being at home with the baby. I was a stay at home mom! But then again, I wasn’t. I was an unemployed mom. A stay at home mom implies choice. This was what I wanted, but hadn’t been my choice exactly. Being an unemployed mom comes with anxiety and stress about money and what’s going to happen.
I was told by many well-meaning people that I needed to go back to work and put my daughter in daycare because I would feel so much better getting a break from being with her 24/7. I have to say I was completely torn about this. I knew I’d have to go back to work at some point if we wanted to continue to live in the lifestyle in which we were accustomed. I knew this day would come and I even had a plan in terms of what sort of care I wanted for my child. The home daycare that my sister used was exactly what I wanted and all of a sudden, the day care lady had an opening in December and I was presented with a job offer that was very similar to what I had been doing at a company I had worked for previously. It seemed like the planets were aligning and this was it.
My feelings about this “opportunity” are still torn. If you’ve never been in my shoes, you truly can’t understand. If I had taken maternity leave and gone back to work in 6 weeks, I would have a completely different mentality. I see the advantages of the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, but when you’ve been with that child for nearly 2 years, every day with very few breaks, it’s very difficult to think of any other way. I’ve taught my child so many things in this period and I was there when she first smiled, first laughed, first walked. I was extremely lucky to have this period of time with her. Giving that up and allowing someone else to partially raise her is such a heart-breaking idea, while at the same time, I know she will benefit from being with other children. I even have this very guilty feeling that I will have a little freedom, even though it will be within the confines of an office. I’m desperate to have my cake and eat it, too. Oh, the guilt.
And thus, I live in a surreal world right now. In the back of my mind, I realize that this is my life now. I’m back at work and while I’m in the office I almost feel like the childless me of three years ago. There’s no one asking for a paci or needing a diaper changed. Then I travel through this odd portal and I’m Mama again. There’s my daughter and she needs me and wants me to play. I know that this is all new and we all have to adjust, but my conscious mind keeps saying “just one more day of getting up early and getting dressed up and driving to that office and then it will be over and we’ll be back to normal.” Somehow I haven’t yet accepted that this is the new normal.
Been there? Done that? Share your comments below!
I completely know what you mean. After being a stay at home mom to my three kids from day one of my oldest’s life, it was the weirdest thing ever to be shoved back into the working world. I feel so blessed to have been able to be a stay at home mom for 7 years but when I became a single mom, I had no other choice but to return to work and doing something completely different than my employment in my pre-kid days. All four of us have adapted to this new normal and I have come to understand the working mom’s and the stay-at-home-mom’s joys, hardships, guilts, freedoms, sacrifices, etc mean.