A Huge Decision
As you can tell from the title of this post, my husband and I recently made a decision that will bring huge changes for us in the coming weeks. I debated about whether or not to write this post. I’m not one to share a whole lot about my personal life, unless I think it will be of some value to you, my readers. I share tips about pumping or recipes to try, so why would I write a post about a personal decision for my family? Because maybe reading about my struggle with returning to work, and ultimately my decision to stay home will be just the encouragement you need to make the decision that is right for your family too.
Let’s Start at the Beginning
Almost immediately after returning home from the hospital with my daughter, the anxiety set in. I was over-the-moon happy and so in love with our perfect little girl, but there was also a big fat gray cloud looming over me, a countdown of my days left with her, before I’d have to return to work. I knew that I was lucky. Lucky to have 12 weeks of maternity leave, lucky that she’d be in the care of family members when I had to go back. But there was just part of me that was miserable knowing that I was not ever going to really be ready to return. Part of me wanted to burst into tears whenever thinking about it, and part of me sometimes did burst into tears when thinking about it (thanks postpartum hormones!) The practical side of me was saying “You haven’t prepared financially to stay at home!” and “You can’t not go back in the middle of the school year!” So, after the 12 weeks were up, I returned to my job as an elementary school teacher.
Like many moms returning from maternity leave, I was just in survival mode. Get through the day so that I could get home to my baby…and then do it all over again. Every day. People told me “It will get easier!” So, I gave it a week, then a month. Still miserable. I felt like nobody understood, and I was angry. Angry that I felt like I was being forced to be away from my baby, who I so desperately wanted and needed to be with. In some ways, it finally did get easier. I no longer felt the urge to bawl my eyes out on my drive to work each day, but I wasn’t happy. Constantly anxious, stressed, and not to mention just plain exhausted from life with a newborn. I was constantly trying to downplay the emotions I was feeling. People were telling me how if other people could do it, I could too, and that I’d survive. But, this wasn’t working for me, my baby or my family.
After many long conversations with my husband (and myself) we came to the decision that I’d take “family leave” from my teaching job come summer break. This means that I have up to three years to stay at home with the option of going back to work for the same county, should I decide to do so. The moment we came to this decision a huge weight was lifted off of me. When I told the principal at my school about my decision and it was really “official” an even bigger weight was lifted. I didn’t expect the overwhelmingly positive response and support from coworkers and friends who told me I would never regret it and that they knew I’d be so happy with my choice. It was the confirmation I needed to know I’d made the right choice.
Things will be changing soon. Our lives will definitely look very different financially, and we are still trying to figure that out. I am going to need to do something part-time at least for a bit, in order to ease the financial shock. However, fancy things will never ever provide me the joy I get from spending time with my daughter. I will be there when she takes her first step, says her first words and so much more. I will not spend my days wishing I was with her and counting down the minutes until I can leave work. Being a working mom has been the most challenging thing I have ever had to do in my life and I am grateful for my job, which I do love, but I know that years from now, I will never regret any time spent with my daughter. After all, our babies are only babies for such a short while.