Last week, on Wednesday, I did something strange.
I woke up and brushed my teeth. I fed Olive, got dressed and then, then friends I went to work.
That’s right, I’m back.
After thirteen months of living by the baby instead of by the clock, wearing clothes that could stretch and be spat up on, shirts that would feel soft against Olive’s cheek; after thirteen months of pushing all of my giant dangly earrings to the back of my jewelry box and listening to my heart, my instincts and my intuition instead of my head, I’m back.
It feels good.
Strangely, thirteen months ago me returning to work was a sort of worst case scenario. I was crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t happen, I was looking forward to spending my days with my baby and dreading the inevitable- I was even half-heartedly investigating all of those strange, sheisty little “make money at home!” gigs/shams/scams (one of them had to be legit, right?) and wracking my brain for any life that wouldn’t involve me leaving Olive.
What changed? Five things. Here we go.
- I missed thinking. I missed that high-powered rush of brain activity that signals firing synpapses and new forays into cognitive development. I missed feeling that stretch and release, the pushing growth as you absorb and adapt new knowledge. I missed that deeply in a way that I almost couldn’t articulate because I felt as though my language skills, vocabulary, and ability to identify and describe my own life experiences had decreased to a one year old’s comprehension level.
By saying this I don’t mean to demean or underestimate the work-intellectual, physical, emotional and otherwise- involved in parenting, but I have found that it’s different work.
So much of becoming a mother involves turning off that old analytical self and turning your ear instead towards heartbeats and rosy cheeks, to learning your baby instead of a book. And I have loved that. It has been a departure for me, to immerse myself so fully, for so long. It has been the sweetest experience of my life.
But lord did I miss the thinking.
- Adam needs to be a dad. I mean, he is a dad. A fantastic one. But he’s a dad with a mom hanging over his shoulder suggesting and helping and encouraging and um, critiquing, occasionally (a lot) (almost always).
I said I wasn’t going to be that mom, the one who barges in and takes over instead of letting him figure it out, muddle through and make mistakes as I did. But I am. Oh, guys, I am. So, despite my best intentions sometimes the best way to help Adam parent is so get the hell out of the way so he CAN parent. On his own.
Whatever that looks like. Even when it looks like mismatched socks and feeding her coldcuts from Subway and just generally doings things in a way that is completely and utterly
wrongdifferent from how I do them. I can’t let him parent unless I get out of the way, and I can’t get out of the way unless I am forced to. Work accomplishes this goal quite nicely.
- I like to wear nice-ish clothes sometimes. Real clothes. Clothes chosen for form over function, clothes that make me look good and feel good, and clothes I wouldn’t be embarassed to run into an ex-boyfriend wearing. Clothes that don’t scream, “I spent twenty minutes this morning singing nursery rhymes to a crazy-haired toddler as she sat on the potty”.
I mean, I’ll still be doing that. And in fact, I adore our early morning potty singalongs, but I also enjoy looking like a real person sometimes and now I get to do both.
A real, live, PERSON y’all!
- It’s only twenty-one hours a week. Somehow I managed to luck into finding a position for just twenty-one hours a week.
Even better, those hours are fairly flexible and can change from week to week – some may be more, some less. And sometimes in part-time positions you end up sacrificing challenge for convenience, you miss out on work that is rewarding and stimulating in order to find work that fits your life, but this position doesn’t ask for that sacrifice. The learning curve is steep, the opportunities are wide open and my mind hasn’t stopped working since I hit the ground running last week. It’s been an adjustment, but I’m surprised how thoroughly immersed I am already, and how much I’m enjoying myself.
- It terrifies me. And that’s a good thing.
There’s a pithy quote, one that’s been repeated so often now that it seems trite: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
I’ve been thinking of that one a lot. Oh, and also, “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” (Oh, Eleanor. Thank you for your words, they are so apt and so perceptive, and I’m sorry I called them trite and pithy just now.)
Leaving Olive terrifies me, and every day I feel I can not do it. It breaks my heart.
I don’t want to miss a thing, I don’t want to be absent. I hate to think of her crying without being able to soothe her, or laughing her exuberant giggle without knowing why. More than that, I question myself and I question my abilities, my intelligence and ambition. I am scared and every day I feel I cannot do it so I know that I must
I was at my old, pre-pregnancy job for over five years. I found working with at-risk teens challenging, exasperating and immensely entertaining. No two days were quite the same but all the same, after five years I think I was burnt out, and as is often the case I didn’t realize just how burnt out I was until I had a year’s distance for reflection.
I’m not working directly with teens anymore but I’d like to return in that direction someday. In the meantime I am stretching my skills and growing my confidence and watching my fear ebb and flow with each passing day.
Internets, I’m back.