I go back to work on Monday after 3 months at home with my little family. To say that I have mixed feelings is putting it lightly.
I’ve always wanted to have a family, but for a variety of reasons, it didn’t happen in previous relationships. For the last decade, my career was one of those reasons. I could NOT imagine being happy as a stay-at-home parent, and I could NOT imagine giving up the career I’ve worked pretty hard to attain, and I could NOT imagine (or afford) putting my child in daycare. And so in those relationships, we chose to not have children. That changed with this relationship, obviously.
Family leave in this country is ridiculous in comparison to pretty much any other developed nation, so I feel incredibly grateful to have had as much time as I did: 6 weeks paid, 3 weeks cobbled together from vacation, personal, and holiday time, and 4 weeks unpaid. I kept my benefits during this time, and was able to space out the unpaid weeks so as not to break the bank. We are very fortunate.
But I find myself at the end of my 13 weeks at home with a cooing baby on my lap, wondering how to make it all work. It physically pains me to think about leaving him next week to go to the office. I’ve been crying about it every day for weeks. While it’s been very hard at times, I’ve so enjoyed this time at home with my guys, and I can’t imagine what it’s going to feel like being away from them all day, particularly with the baby growing and changing so quickly.
I haven’t suddenly had a change of heart about being a stay-at-home parent, but I have missed work a lot less than I expected. It’s been a wonderful gift to just turn that part off for a few months. I’ve been checking my email, but haven’t had to really think about it for a long time – which has been good because it’s not like I’ve really been able to think all that much. While I’ve been home, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about what we’d like our future to look like, and where we might go next, and I’m excited about the directions we’ve plotted out together, however far off they may be.
On Monday, there will be a new normal, one that doesn’t allow for extended mornings in pajama pants or cuddled up post-nursing naps. No long walks to the park, or mid-afternoon coffees before a trip to the lake or the zoo with a sleeping baby in the carrier on my chest. It will be hard. But it will be OK.