by Lela Demeter
I am a working mom – 10 months out of the year. Yes, I am an educator and I do look forward to June, July and August. This summer vacation was especially poignant, because it would be the first summer I spent with my son, and the longest duration of time we had together since his birth and my subsequent maternity leave.
The anticipation for summer built from the moment I went back to work. Admittedly, I had been looking forward to going back – there were a lot of things I needed to do at work and I missed the pace of the workday. As a new mother, my day had a structure all its own, a seemingly endless cycle of waking, sleeping, feeding, and changing diapers. After I had recovered from my son’s birth (an experience we were very fortunate to come through with flying colors), I missed talking to someone who could answer, and I would anxiously await my husband’s arrival home. I did a majority of the night feedings – my logic was that he worked all day – and I would be at home to sleep. I want to make it clear that I did not and do not resent either of my boys (married or birthed), but I was just ready to go back. I love my son more than life, but I just felt like I was missing out.
When I did go back in January, my son was in the midst of a two week (thankfully) bout of colic. However, one can only imagine how I felt that week. However, with lots of coffee and an iron will, I was able to complete a graduate degree and work AND take care of my family in the six months until summer break.
So, when my job responsibilities came to a close with the end of the school year, I was ready to be a full time mom for a little while. However, it wasn’t the idyllic time that I thought it would be.
My son, now eight months old, was a different person from the helpless infant of my maternity leave. A blissfully mellow baby, he has become his own little person, complete with opinions and demands. Immediately, I was back on the baby schedule of waking and sleeping, feedings and changing diapers. But, this time was different as the “happy blob” stage of infancy was OVER. Now, my day was spent tackling a moving land shark of a child. A child, may I add, that weighed over twice what he did during my maternity leave.
I began to become quietly desperate. Forget sleeping in and enjoying a leisurely morning – I was on as soon as he was, and I wasn’t leaving for a job. I started to hide out in my bedroom when my husband got home. Twelve straight hours of an infant began to wear on me – I wasn’t as patient with my son as I was when I worked. I didn’t treasure the time with my boy, as I felt constricted. I literally never had a moment without him. I couldn’t focus on anything but him. My house wasn’t any cleaner and I spent more money as I would go shopping just to escape the same four walls.
But, the benefits to me being around all day were obvious. I was the first person to see my son crawl and the emergence of his first baby teeth. Instead of reaching for his grandfather (his daily caregiver), he reached for me. He began to recognize his name when I said it to him. I love this kid more than anything and these small things were the balm of my desperate heart.
Now, as summer begins to swing into twilight, I am looking forward to going back to work. Why? Believe me, I am not in a rush to feel the mommy guilt of leaving my baby for eight hours a day. I will miss playing with him. I will miss being the alpha and omega of his daily existance. But, for me at least, the eight hours a day I work at a job are my vacation from parenting. When I hit the door of my car to go home, I am in mommy mode. I get the twenty minutes from work to home to decompress and switch gears. When I get home, I am all for my son, with a focus. This is probably the second reason I work (the first being money), I feel like I personally am a better parent because I work, because I get to be away and come home and be completely focused. As hard as it is to be a working mom, it is incredibly hard to be a SAHM. Some people may disagree with me, but this experiment made me feel that working is the right choice for me.