As of yesterday, my Sweet Penelope is three months old. And thus, this monthly milestone marks far more than simply growth and development. It marks my return to work.
Just one year ago almost exactly, I experienced the same turning point in my life that is returning to work after having a baby. In this post I expressed the emotional heartache I felt and I wish I could say this second time around that I was both wiser and stronger.
But I am not.
In the nine months I was a working mom last year (I went back on maternity leave in September), there was no shortage of mom guilt felt for leaving my child with someone other than me. There were times I picked up Elliott at my mom's house in the evening and he just seemed so different from when I dropped him off the morning; he was older, keener, than he was just eight hours before. There were times I'd sit beside my husband in the car on the way home with my silly baby in the back seat, wanting to cry. Feeling an actual ache in my chest. I was missing so much. Moments I would never, ever get back.
While it does get easier a few days after you return to work, the guilt and the sadness and the missing your babies never, ever goes away. I can honestly say these last four months at home, while stressful and exhausting, were some of the best months of my life. I spent all day with my kids, and though many times I needed a break, each day was remarkable. I saw Penelope smile for the first time. Elliott learned to walk. I got in countless snuggles. Elliott has changed in ways in can't even measure and I got to be there to experience all of it.
New guilt is also abounding this time, as my kids will not be with one of their grandmothers as Elliott was all of last year. They will be with someone else entirely. We have entered into a full time nanny share. We have found so many wonderful benefits to sharing a nanny and are thrilled with the opportunity and the nanny we chose, but it doesn't take away the anxiety I feel about leaving my kids with someone new. We will have a new set of routines, a new schedule, a new relationship to build. I can't help but feel like someone else will be raising my kids. I worry about the adjustment Elliott will have to make to being in a new place all day, away from his home and in someone else's. I worry about him getting along with the little boy (who is almost exactly his age) he will be there with each day, or the nanny's five year old son who is there in the afternoon after he comes home from school. Will he eat and nap well? Will his heart be okay? I also worry about my sweet little girl, how she'll adjust, and what this will do to our breastfeeding relationship. I worry about what this will do to my milk supply. What it will do to our bond as mama and baby girl, something I am finding is so precious and special.
Ultimately I know... this is for the best. This is the reality of our life. I am fortunate enough to have a job that allowed me to go on two maternity leaves back to back. My boss was always understanding when I need to take Elliott to one of his many doctor's appointments along with my prenatal appointments. I have amazing health care through that job, something that is exponentially necessary for our family. I'll earn vacation and sick pay the moment I return, I'll have every weekend off, every holiday, evenings at home with my little ones and my wonderful husband. The mom guilt never goes away, but it will soften. It will be a constant reminder to soak in every moment I can. And you had better believe that I will.