I go back to work next month. First of all let’s get the giggles out of the way, yes I’ve had a year off to raise my little guy. No I’ve not been on ‘a vacation,’ you wouldn’t call having a major operation, shit up your arm and sleepless nights (and not for the fun reason) a vacation. Ok, maybe it does sound like a stag. You got me.
I’ve been helping Freddie grow into a tiny person all year long. And this tiny person will one day be a big person who can make his own decisions and run his own life. But for this past year, it has been mostly just us bumming around, crying, giggling and pulling faces. Every little trick is a milestone and I didn’t want to miss any of it. And I love him, and I love this, but as he becomes less dependent on me and ventures out into the big wide world, I also need to keep a foot in my own grownup world. For my own happiness and sense of self.
So what will my first week be like? I am sure there will be guilt, there will be tears, there will be wine. I will not be the same person I was at work before Freddie. I can’t be. I see the world completely differently since having him, every emotion is so much stronger. I love harder. I cry harder. I am more political and easily moved by risky events. Movies I watched before having Freddie that meant nothing, all of a sudden have me in floods of tears. I am more confident in myself and need to have a voice so I can speak up for Freddie. This is motherhood and nothing can prepare you for it.
Luckily for me, I find real value in my work and my studying. Both things make me a better mother. A more sane mother. But this thing called mom guilt is real, and society has a way of making us think that if we aren’t staying at home making little fairy cakes with our children we are bad moms and if we aren’t back at work making money to buy our children i-pads we are bad moms. Basically, you’re selfish and have always made the wrong choice if you are a mother in the West.
I have always been ambitious and hard on myself. Basically that just means I am female. The whole thing though about having a baby is that while you may be just as ambitious and more productive, doors close, you are a sitting duck between babies and your male and non-pregnant colleagues have continued to race up that career ladder while you reproduce and rear offspring. I’m watching my friends and myself struggle with this. The balance between career and family is so tough and one that every family makes differently.
One thing I know is that the ‘baby brain’ thing is legit- but not in the way everyone thinks. You can’t finish a sentence for months after having a baby, not because you’ve lost half your brain, but because you are learning to think for yourself and your baby. You are learning a new language and tuning in to someone else full time. That shit is hard and takes lots of concentration in the beginning, soon though it becomes second nature. What I don’t know is how that works when you are away from your little one. Will baby brain make me easily distracted and feel guilty because I am not with him? Will not having baby brain, or enjoying my time at work away from him make me a bad mother?
I have been obsessing over how it will be when I go back, how many hours I want to work, how will it affect Freddie, what I want to do while away from him for months. And I guess like everything so far with motherhood, you can’t guess how you will feel until you experience it. Oh the feelings you feel as a Mum. If you could bottle this much emotion and just release it every once in a while before major decisions are made in the world, there would be no such thing as war, genocide or Miley Cyrus.