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The Inevitable Return To Work

Updated: May 1, 2022

As the weeks pass by, the struggle to leave my little bundle of joy to return to work becomes stronger with each passing moment - and so does the uncertainty of what working life will look like.

It has been 12 weeks since my maternity leave officially began and I embarked on the greatest adventure of my life to date. I now find myself standing in my kitchen staring at a whiteboard calendar displaying only one short week before my impending return to work. I purchased the calendar in an attempt to align both my and my husband's schedules. Let's face it, it was mostly to prompt my husband to give me some sort of insight into his busy schedule as mine is usually consistent with caring for our new baby. I found that my efforts for alignment ultimately did not succeed as I had hoped and I only ever occasionally receive any indication of what his work schedule looks like on a weekly basis.

Although all I really need to do is assert the need for some time, I find it nearly impossible to do so for some reason and continue to get sucked into an endless routine of breastfeeding, laundry, dishes, and what I so lovingly like to call "dummy time", which is a very unhealthy combination of droning into whatever new television series I find interesting enough to binge-watch and eating chocolate ice cream. ("Dummy time" is of course not to be mistaken for "tummy time", of which I also incorporate into my very systematic and repetitive daily activities. I understand the sheer contradictory notion of both of these activities as one is crucial to the strength and development of my baby boy and the other is a complete, self-inflicted decay of my own personal growth and development. I digress.)

I was instructed and recommended to do myself a favor and nap when my son naps by just about every parent I know, but that too was lost in my newfound daily activities and I instead went into what was commonly known as "survival mode". This meant that I was using the time not spent with my boy to clean the house, groom the dog, organize the nursery, or plan the next creative project among other things. That last item was, of course, my favorite out of all of it, however, it seemed to be an afterthought to the list of chores that required doing so it was rare that I ever actually got the chance to complete a project or really take my time perfecting anything creative before the baby woke up.

And now here I am. Standing on a cold laminate floor staring at a whiteboard decorated with mostly my own markings counting down the days until this world I have created for myself comes to a shocking end and I once again need to learn a new system of doing things.

The emotions that I feel are confusing at best. On one hand, I feel as though I have handled all of my pregnancy emotions (pre and post) with surprising vigor. So many times have I been confronted with conversations from mothers who spill tea riddled with tears and tales of colicky babies, breastmilk-stained shirts, chapped nipples, sleepless nights, and body image scrutiny. As they gently wipe their eyes and dabble snot from their columella, they usually invite me to follow up with my own tales of woe - to which I hesitantly respond with "actually, my experience hasn't been that bad". I try to scrounge up some story of angst to appease their ever-judging ears. In some ways I find myself feeling bad that I have been so fortunate - a concept that, when I say it out loud, sounds absolutely ludicrous. What audacity I have that I would deny myself any positive emotions spawning from a situation as unique to each individual as pregnancy, labor, and child-rearing for the sake of others.

On the other hand, in the comfort of my own solitude and when I am sure that no one will be around to see the redness in my eyes after a solid outburst of cry, I do occasionally find myself breaking down in small fits of panic and self-loathing for seemingly no reason at all. I have no explanation. I have no physical cause. I am just as confused by my outburst as I'm sure any onlooker would be provided they were granted the invitation (this of course excludes the occasional passing vehicle as I sometimes find these moments to strike while driving, to which I do acquire the occasional onlooker who has gained admittance to this shit show without a ticket). The lack of explanation almost seems to make these moments worse and I find myself draining my eyes in headache-inducing sobs.

So how the hell am I going to keep my shit together at work? Is this even a good idea? Maybe I can afford to just be a stay-at-home mom and care for the little guy without the need to return to the office. Maybe I can be that trophy wife whose sole purpose is to maintain the home, care for the babies, and service the husband. Perhaps that is my purpose. Perhaps that is what is meant to be.

As these thoughts ooze from my mind like a homemade putty that has been rolled on the floor and is ripe with the debris of a very lived-in domicile, I realize that I have no fucking idea what I am saying and that the very thought of being this domesticated Suzie-homemaker type is absolutely preposterous and very unlike myself (not to mention the unrealistic financial expectations).

I, my friends, am not that girl.

I am a person who desires independence in my life. I am an artist who desires and requires time to create in order to maintain sanity. I am a muse of my own making and I have to satisfy my need for comradery in order to generate the song that will lure me to the shoreline of my own choppy psyche.

So then, the only thing left to do here is to boss up and prepare myself for this inevitable change. I am going to have to trust my village, who has been reliably stepping up to the plate even before this game began to lend their expertise and assistance for a winning chance and leave the one thing that has become more precious to me than any valuable I once thought that I couldn't live without in their capable hands. We are grateful to have friends and family that will be providing care for the few days per week that I plan to work so that we don't have to leave our babe with a complete stranger in a facility that he is unfamiliar with (a decision that I am both proud of and also uncertain about). I repeat "it's only for eight hours, it's only for eight hours..." as I complete a play-by-play of what a working day may look like while fighting back tears of overwhelming fear and apprehension.

Only time will tell now. Only time…

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