I always knew that I would most likely return to work after having kids. When I was working at a big media agency in Chicago, I was surrounded by these amazing women who became my mentors as they were professionals I looked up to and aspired to be. They were extremely motivating and always pushed me to be better and try harder. They were moms. In fact, they were first and foremost moms, and often described themselves that way. So I really owe it to them for making me believe I could have the best of both worlds.
That was the emotional side of my decision to go back to work. The practical one being that my husband and I both make very similar incomes and we definitely couldn’t maintain our lifestyle if we were down one income. Nice dinners, wine clubs, $6.99 to get more lives in candy crush (I’m sadly not kidding), vacations just the two of us, cute clothes for William, etc. would all go out the window and I think that would have been really hard for me. It would be a big adjustment and additional stress on how we could afford to do all that we wanted. However, we both said that if I ultimately decided that I wanted to stay home with William, we would figure out a way to make it work. No one knows how becoming on a mom will change you, so I definitely wanted to keep an open mind.
I took a full 12 weeks to stay at home and I really cherished that time with William as a newborn. I felt like I was able to give him everything he needed when no one else could. I got in all the snuggles and took a thousand photos. But I also struggled with feeling very alone. In the middle of winter, getting out of the house with a 1 month old was a challenge and I found myself digging deeper and deeper into an unrealistic existence. I rarely drove with William in the car, and when I did, I went down the street. I felt like I couldn’t shower without being able to see him, let alone allow him to sleep in his own crib without me nearby. I didn’t interact or see many people, so when I did, I felt awkward and unsure of myself. I was so obsessed with his breathing and eating and sleeping and movements that it completely consumed me. Alex would take William for an hour or so in the mornings before he left for work and I tell people that for 1 hour, I had the best sleep of my life. It is the only time I can remember not feeling like I had to be “on”.
I quickly realized how much I missed working in an office surrounded by adults. Not just to get away from the anxiety of a newborn, but I missed the positive reinforcement, the challenges and industry excitement. I realized that I thrive in a team environment and I need that daily interaction to be the best that I can be so I can be the best for my baby. After going back to work, I actually realize that it makes me a better mom. When I was at home with William, I felt like I was constantly chasing his next nap or figuring out where I could set him down for 10 minutes so I could clean up a bedroom or make a quick meal. When I pick him up now after work, I really feel like it’s me and William time. We go on walks, we play with toys, read books, antagonize Maisy, dance to music etc. I’m fully present. I don’t feel like I need to have the TV on, be on my phone or computer…and I feel like I can give him my undivided attention.
I have close family and friends whose life calling is to be a mom and they truly thrive staying home with their baby. In a way, I am jealous of their natural instinct and ability to be always present for their children. I love William with all my heart, but I honestly think if I was at home with him every single day, we would both go insane and I can’t put that on my child 🙂 Maybe one day things will change, but for now, I’m focusing on balancing the life I have with work and the decision to have a baby who also needs me. The two worlds often collide and I have to thank the support I receive from the professionals in my life for making it happen for me. I know many are not so lucky and I feel good knowing that others have my back. And Alex. He and I split parenting responsibilities 50/50 and he is always there to jump in with whatever is needed. Not one of our jobs is more important than the other and William always comes first. We consistently say that we have no idea how single parents do it because we would truly be lost without the other.