A Career Mum

I’ve been back at work since July 10 and I still haven’t figured out how to do both well. I anticipated that I would find it hard to be a good mom while working, but I had no idea the emotions that would accompany my career side. It appears that you can’t ‘win’ on either side.

Before becoming a mom, I was pretty proud of my work abilities. I was good at what I did and loved doing it. Now each day is filled with guilt and self-doubt. I feel guilty leaving at 5pm (even though I’ve put in my eight hours). I feel guilty that I think about A during the day. I question myself on my abilities now: did I forget to do that because I’m not as good as I used to be; does my boss wish I wasn’t coming back and my mat leave replacement was staying? Everyday is plagued with these thoughts. Mother co-workers tell me to stop doubting myself and to just do what I can. But I’ve never just stopped at what I can manage. I’ve always put in the extra time and effort. I was okay with not identifying myself through my career during my maternity leave because I wasn’t working and I had a new medium to identify myself through: I was a mom. Now I seem to be falling short of both.

During my maternity leave, I went to playgroups; I played games with A; I went on outings; I shopped at farmer’s markets and cooked meals. I wasn’t perfect but I felt like I was doing well. I also had time to do things for me. Now I rush to pack a lunch for A in the morning, wondering if daycare questions my food choices. For dinner, I throw something together that isn’t hitting anyone’s top meal choices. And when I do go to the gym I feel guilty that I’m again dropping A off only two hours after I picked her up from daycare. The house is a mess and slowly I’m purchasing my own lunch from a drive-thru more and more.

I’ve only been working for 7 weeks but I feel like I need a week off to catch up and re-group. How do people do this? My hormones are all over the place and I could sleep for days. Clearly as a single mom, choosing not to work is not an option.

I’m hoping slowly I’ll acquire more tips and learn how to manage. My first win was to hire a house cleaner. The first day I came home after she’d cleaned I wanted to cry. My mood jumped and my shoulders felt lighter. My second smart move was to make little containers of meals that A likes for lunch to allow for quick packing in the morning. Next on my list is to pre-prepare the ingredients for meals so I just have to add them together (cut up veggies, cook meat, etc).

Anymore tips out there? I’ll take any. Leave them below.

A View into Working and Motherhood

Last week, I got a glimpse into what it will be like when I go back to work. I taught a course Monday through Friday and then participated in a course on Saturday. Six whole days of being away from A. It was hard. My best friend was amazing and babysat her all week. Yet instead of feeling grateful, I felt jealous!! I was envious of the time she got to spend with A while I was at work. So ridiculous.

I also found myself bending on rules that I’d previously set. I started bringing A into bed with me at night. I pushed back her bedtime. I didn’t want to let her go.

But I’ll tell you what I did let go, everything else. My house was a disaster. I didn’t make it to the gym once. I started buying my lunches once the weekend leftovers ran out. I didn’t blog. I simply worked, spent what little time I could with A, and went to bed.

I tell you, it makes me super nervous for when I go back full time in three short months. I am definitely going to have to plan more. I’ll need my cleaning schedule, gym commitments, meal planning, and more. I’m worried my life will feel like a job.

I found myself on the Sunday just relaxing and watching TV while cuddling with A. I deserved the rest, right? But then the guilt comes in. Would doing the things I was avoiding really be so bad if I enjoyed doing them. I need to learn to find the enjoyment in the daily things in life instead of taking a break from them on the couch and watching my life pass me by.

A Women’s Role

Over a year ago, I had to tell my boss I was pregnant and would be taking a maternity leave. He was shocked. I had always been the type to say I wanted to focus on work and enjoy my single lifestyle. Announcing my pregnancy meant telling him I was a different person than I’d always claimed to be.

I really struggled with how becoming a mom would meld with who I was beforehand. I was my job. I thrived in my ability and passion for the work. I’d happily stay late; I’d come in on my day off; I felt important when I was phoned at home. That day in December when I broke the news to my boss, I held back tears as I explained that I knew I couldn’t always be that person anymore.

I felt guilty for leaving the job. I’d only been back for three months when I announced that I would be needing a mat leave. I had spent so much energy earning back my reputation (I’d left the job for a year before this for what I thought would be a better opportunity). I promised I was there to stay and would do anything to build up the programs and staff underneath me. After all this, I would know let the job and my boss (who I greatly respected) down.

As the months went along, I started to get more comfortable with the pregnancy and excited about becoming a mother. The feelings of excitement enabled the guilt to somewhat subside. I also powered through my remaining months, setting large goals for myself at work and accomplishing them all.

The first month of being a mother and not at work was easier than I thought. However, the regular emails or texts from work helped with the feeling that I was still needed. And then they cut off my email. Which felt like they cut off a part of me. I was personally hurt – even if this was work policy, I thought surely am needed enough that they would ignore policy.

Now fortunately, sleepless nights and days filled with the cutest baby on earth helped me to push these feelings of unimportant aside. I was spending time with my parents out of town and completely out of my regular routine.

Lately, I’ve returned casually to work to supplement my income. I have to constantly calm feelings of anxiety: “have I forgotten everything?”, “am I out of touch?”, “is my temporary replacement better than me, will they want me back?”. Watching my replacement in action revs up the anxiety, while easily falling back into my role (although casual-time) has been calming my anxiety.

But last week I got to feel the opposite side of some of these emotions. My year of maternity leave seems to be zooming by all too fast. I have to return in July. Already I feel the panic of having to leave my little girl. I want to be with her. I don’t want to hand her over to someone else every day. I phoned my boss to ask him for an extension of one month. His response, “will you come back after that? or are you going to want to leave?”. I felt was being dismissed as a mother. I was no longer an equal, I was someone who was going to be more interested in my child and not in her job. Now some (or all) of this might have been my hypersensitive conscious, but I still felt like I was stuck in this awful position.

Pregnancies, maternity leaves, and parenthood are often seen as a inconvenience to work sites. And who is to blame but the mother. Somehow I’d become this same inconvenience. One I’d even mocked myself. I was torn between feeling it was my right to spend time with my daughter to feeling guilty for asking for the time in the first place. 

There are so many definitions of the perfect woman, of the perfect mother. Can you be both the perfect woman and the perfect mother? Does one contradict the other? Are all those views of myself as a strong interdependent woman changing now that I have a daughter and dream of having a complete family? Even today I was told (by a stranger) that I shouldn’t be working, that I should be home cherishing my time with my daughter.

I don’t know that I’ll ever answer myself. I may be defending each side of what a woman’s role is (or at least my role).  I do know that I love my daughter and am happier with her in my life than I ever remember.