I went back to work.
It took over a year from my baby’s birth to go back and then another few months for my practice to hit its stride, but now I am officially working.
I love it.
I love getting dressed in actual outfits. I love putting on makeup and blow-drying my hair. I love using my brain and knowing that I am really and truly good at what I do. It feels effortless and smooth and I have no doubt about my role or my identity. Basically, I missed it. It’s good for me.
It started with one day of work and built to two. Now I’m looking at two and a half days. Two and a half days he spends with a nanny.
I’ve also started horseback riding again. The one thing I’ve always done that is completely impractical and expensive and unnecessary but oh-so-much for me, all me. And I feel SO damn good afterwards. So every Monday morning I drag myself out of bed before my baby wakes and go ride a horse. Then I go to work. I don’t get home that day until dinner time. He is always so happy to see me. Not upset, not traumatized, just more like “Hey mom! Want to sit down and have dinner with me?”
But then the other day I had to schedule a dentist appointment. And I started to freak out about the damn dentist appointment. But when should I schedule it? Should I take time away from work so I don’t miss more time away from O? Or should I schedule it on a non-work day so I don’t have to rearrange work scheduling? But then that’s another day I will miss time with him and then… Well you get it.
I sit and I count the hours away from him and I agonize about what each one traces into my identity as a mother. The guilt pierces into me and I feel it in my side when I am proud of my work or happy on the back of a horse. As I was driving home the other day, guilty because I stayed a few extra minutes to write a case note instead of rushing home, I realized…all of these hours away from him – the appointments, the activities, the job – all of them are hours that I spending building up an identity that does not involve my son.
Let me say that again. Those hours contribute to my identity away from my son.
In this land of attachment parenting and Pinterst mothering, that sentence might give you pause. But, as I was driving along the road, realizing that these hours away are literally and emotionally separating me from my baby, I suddenly didn’t feel guilty or sad, but instead I felt happy. I mean, isn’t that the point? At some point, all of us have to choose to start rebuilding another identity that is not “Mother.” So, with hair appointments, dentist appointments, exercise routines, hobbies, even having occasional sex with your husband….whatever it is…isn’t it only expected that at some point we take back some of our selves that doesn’t Belong to the Baby?
I’m not saying anything shocking here. In fact, I sound a bit like a feminist supporter of formula feeding in the ‘50s. But I think somehow, when I quit my job and moved to this land of upper-middle-class Suburbia, I also moved into a circle of women who happily put their own Identities in a box for safe keeping. I have met so many Women Who Used To Be. This Woman Used to Be a Scientist. This Woman Used to Be a Zoologist. This Woman Used to Be…a Psychologist.
After quitting my job, I embraced this. I saw it as a privilege. A privilege to stay home and be with my son. Which it IS. It is for me because it’s a choice. But I always was quick to say “I’m on an extended maternity leave from life,” because I wasn’t quite comfortable with my job as “just” a Stay at Home Mom.
Truth is, I’m not very good at being a Stay at Home Mom. Even on days when I do alright, I’m still pretty shitty at it. Today? Today I managed to do laundry, reorganize the bathroom, meet with a potential petsitter, read books with O, have a dance party with O, make lunch for all three of us, make dinner from scratch, clean the kitchen AND water the flowers. But. But I also found a washing machine full of molding laundry. Ignored the baby clothes needing to be put away. Didn’t take O on any “fun outings” or plan any “educational activities.” And honestly? I was bored out of my mind. I hate hate hate housework. I couldn’t wait for B to get off work so I could have a beer and sit and read a book.
So, yeah. I guess what I’m saying is, rebuilding a bit of Me that is outside of Mother is…..you know, even as I write this, I feel compelled to stop and write a long paragraph about how much I love O and about how it’s not that I want time away from him it’s just…but stop. Really stop. Why do I have to rationalize this or explain it? It’s 100% acceptable to want to have a part of me that is not about him.
And so, here I am, almost a year and a half after giving birth, start to reshape Me. Allowing myself to be someone separate from him. And trying my hardest to embrace that and not feel the stupid Pinterst-coated guilt.
And trying not to erase these words before I hit Publish.