I’ve started writing this post about ten times and have never finished it. (Hopefully tonight’s the night.) Partly because I can never really decide what I think or feel abut the topic and partly because I Just Never Have the Time. You see, 3 months ago I rejoined the workforce. I Am Exhausted! I’ve been through many difficult times in my life, but there have been very few occasions on which I have felt so physically and emotionally drained.
I thought I was prepared for how difficult it would be to go back to work, but as usual I was living in La La Land.
I expected it to be hard for the entire family. I expected E to need an adjustment period to get used to Mommy not being at home all day, dedicated to meeting his every need. I explained to him that I was going back to work and discussed how he felt about it. I spent extra quality time with him and told him that, even though I was going back to work, I would still make sure that I spent time with him. I spoke to his teacher so that she knew to expect a few rough weeks because that’s how long I thought it would take for him to settle. Two months at most. I thought I had all the bases covered. Wrong!
It turns out that what I should have expected was for my usually sweet and gentle child to be replaced by a fire-breathing, tantrum-throwing, non-sleeping, never-eating doppelgänger. (Ok, so the sleep thing isn’t really new. It just got much worse.) Seriously, there have been days where I haven’t recognised my child At All. And that just feels awful, because I miss my baby boy.
I miss him more than words can express. I miss being there for every high-and low in his day, the big and the small events that are important to him. I feel disconnected from his life and this is soul destroying. I miss knowing, without a shadow of doubt, how he is doing and what he is feeling. I know that he is in good hands, as I’ve hired someone to be with him during the day and because we are lucky enough that – because he works from home – J can spend a fair amount of time with him.
But this is just another thing for me to feel guilty about. J has had to seriously adjust his work patterns and habits to accommodate the fact that I can no longer be the one to drive E to and from school, take him to play dates or to his weekly visit with his gran. This has been hard for J, and he has soldiered through with a calm that I didn’t always manage as a stay at home mom. I am so proud of both of them. Of J. But that doesn’t make it any easier to walk out the door every morning and leave my child behind.
When I am with him, I try to make the most of it, but I am so tired and going through my own stuff. Trying to settle into a new job after 3 years off the market is hard hard hard. I doubt myself and my abilities professionally and now I doubt my parenting abilities because my child seems to be deeply traumatised. Sometimes I think it would have been better if I had gone back to work when he was just a baby and this would all be normal for him.
I predicted that I would need time to adjust to working and to feeling a fair amount of guilt about leaving my precious child in the care of another. But nothing, Nothing could have prepared me for the waves of maternal guilt that have sometimes brought me to my knees. My child has been beyond difficult and I have just been too exhausted to cope with it. I had completely forgotten how draining it can be to work.
I went into this thinking of all the wonderful things that I had missed about work for so long – the adult interaction, the intellectual stimulation, the validation, the self-esteem that comes from doing a job and doing it well. Of course, what I forgot to factor in was the fact that I had never been a working mother. A working girlfriend, a working wife, but not a working Mom. And let me tell you, its a whole different ball game.
There have been times when my child has begged and pleaded with me to stay home with him. And nothing on Earth can compare to how incredibly crap that makes me feel. There have been times when I have walked in the door after a long, hard day of work and all I wanted to do is crawl into a hot bath followed by bed. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t an option because there’s a little man that has been waiting all day to tell me what he did at school, at great length. And even though I really do want to hear about it, sometimes I just can’t summon up the energy to get excited about his news. Oh the guilt!
I wish I had been more realistic with myself. I wish that I had foreseen how difficult it would be for Me to adjust and get used to being back in the working world. But I didn’t and man alive has it been hard.
There have also been things that just came at me out of left field. Like the fact that when you’re a working mum you have pretty much zero time for yourself. Because there is always someone making demands on your time. At work, its your boss and clients; at home its your child, husband and friends. So you never, ever get time to be alone and do the things that are important to you (like update your blog).
And the dear old hubby presents a whole host of issues that I never would have expected. From the minute I said that I wanted to go back to work, J has been amazingly supportive. And he has followed through on that support in the most incredible way. He has taken over the bulk of the child care,and I know that it is really hard for him because E wants to be with him all the time since I’m not home; which is making His work so much harder. He makes sure he’s cared for and manages the nanny. All while doing a full day’s work and starting a business. This cannot be easy and I am enormously grateful for all of his efforts.
Unfortunately, me going back to work has taken a serious toll on our marriage. Because as supportive as J is, he also has needs. Needs that it had been really easy and simple for me to meet for the last three years, because I was a stay-at-home mum. Taking care of my family was my main and only priority. These days, I can’t just drop what I’m doing and meet him for lunch. I have to work. Most days I can’t even take the time to have a real conversation with him, because I am attending to a child that has missed me and that I have missed just as much. And by the time I’m done with being mommy for the evening I am just too exhausted to do anything but fall into bed. And even if I do manage to stay awake, I’m stressed out and grumpy and all I want to do is watch an episode of Glee before passing out.
Plus, in many ways I am having to play referee to two stubborn males who want All of my attention. There are days when I walk in the front door and both of them start speaking at me at the same time. And both of them deserve to be heard. I Want to hear both of them. But I really can’t split myself in two, as much as I would like to. I never expected this to be so hard on my relationship. Which is crazy, when I think about it, because I should have expected J to need as much time as E and I to adjust. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that.
When I was a stay-at-home mom, I was the first to lament how difficult it is and how hard it is to handle the judgement from many working moms who think that stay-at-home mothers have it easy. I’d get really angry when I heard that opinion voiced and I still do to a large extent because it Isn’t easy. But I’m really starting to think that being a working mom is just that little bit harder. Because you have to deal with all the same stuff as a stay-at-home mother, with the added stress of work. And yes, the pay is better, but you really do work for that money. At home and at the office.
I wish I knew whether I’ve made the right decision in going back to work but I really don’t. Sometimes things go really well and I feel so fulfilled – I am doing what I love and regaining much of the confidence and self-respect that I had lost during my journey through post-natal depression and as an at-home mom. At other times, I feel like the worst mother and wife in the world – I have abandoned my husband and child and am the most selfish person around.
I wish I knew how to find a balance so that I felt content with my choices but I’m really starting to think that it may not be possible. And that scares the crap out of me.