I know we have a lifetime together, but this moment feels like the end of an era. This week, I returned to work, and our early days as a duo have officially ended. I’ve experienced this before, after the 3 months home with your brother, but, my dear girl, this time you reaped the benefit of being the second born. This time I loved every waking minute and sleepless moment of being home with you, and there is not a bone in my body that has wanted that to end. This time, you made me realize how fleeting this time really is, and this time I am painfully aware we will never get it back. But you now get to spend your days with your brother in a way you have not yet, and now you get to be “one of the kids,” with daily routines and activities that I’ll get to hear about each afternoon. Now your life will be set on a new track, with your morning rush and night time grind being another part of ours. For you it’s a small part of growing up, and for me it’s a return to a glimpse of my life before. “Real Life” can be a rude awakening, and I am so thankful for the quiet and fresh innocence you bring everyday – continue to be that ray of sunshine. I cannot let this time slip away unnoticed, and I already miss this moment. Thank you for a magical first 3 months, and thank you for making me fall in love with the gift of motherhood all over again. Please don’t grow too fast – let’s just ease into this future together.
I love you forever and ever and ever.
As Mamas, we will always face the challenge of finding that perfect balance between being moms to our kids and having jobs or careers, hobbies, and identities of our own that take us outside the home. There is no right answer or right way, and for everybody and every family that juggle looks different. One woman may find the happy in going to work each day and having some independence and time away from her kids, while another woman will be content managing her household like a business and being the rock that allows her kids to thrive. One thing I am sure of is that every mom will question her decision, regardless of what it is. But there is a gift in every family configuration, always a silver lining, and we just have to focus on finding how to do what we want for the best interest of our family. Of course, I know it’s not that easy. There is money, lifestyle, identity, marriage & relationships, passions & goals, and, lets face it, sanity, to consider when looking at your “life” looks like after kids. These decisions and choices may never be easy, and what the future holds will be forever changing. So let’s hold on to the constants that we have in this moment in time. And as a new mother, whether it’s your first baby, or your second or beyond, there is no time more precious than the time we dedicate to our young ones. It’s enough to make us question ever leaving their side.
This week I went back to work after my 3-month maternity leave – the second one I’ve had in two years. And this time, it’s a much stranger feeling than before. For as long as I have been an independent adult, I’ve enjoyed the pursuit of a career, in all the various shapes and directions it has taken. Becoming pregnant did not change that – and as much as I looked forward to becoming a mother, there was no question in my mind that I would return to the workforce once my expected term of “recovery and bonding” had concluded. I’ve had the privilege over the last four years of loving where I work, and the amazing women with whom I spend those workdays. It is a team that has always expressed the utmost love and support, and a team that allowed me to have 2 kids in 2 years without ever thinking twice. And as emotional as it is to return from a leave of bonding after having a baby, there is no team I would rather come back to.
When my son was born, I spent most of my maternity leave acclimating to my new life, the way most first-time moms probably do. I was raw, sore, and tired for most of it, and spent most of my days napping, nursing, eating and repeating with my new little bundle. I was in a deep hibernation, and kept my baby to myself as long as I could before sharing him with the world. The time flew by, but felt endless while I was in its midst, and I was just starting to get comfortable in my motherhood when my leave came to an end. Once I eased back into work, I eventually began to appreciate my baby-free days in the office, and my short pumping breaks became my moments to reconnect with my son. But during this time, I also began to understand that as much as I was able to be present at work without the “mom guilt,” this theoretical work/life balance was now the ultimate dream I would forever chase. This is what everybody talks about when they talk about the “working mom,” and I knew this would now be my reality. But this is not about the struggles of the work/life balance… this is about that beautifully precious time “working moms” get with our newborn babies. A time that is far too short, and far too special to waste.
Some women say the newborn days spent with the 2nd baby are vastly different than the first, because the first gets the benefit of being the only, and, in many cases, carries the biggest emotional punch to a new mom or dad. I’ve also heard many women say they were ready to return to work and normal activity much sooner with the second because the acclimation and recovery periods happen much faster when you know what to expect. Of course, one never really knows what to expect – and just as each pregnancy and birth are different, so are each kid, each relationship, and each mother’s experience with each newborn. But in nearing the end of my 2nd pregnancy (which was emotionally very different from my first), and in preparing for my long awaited maternity leave, I knew myself well enough to know I would soak up every moment of it that I could – I actually could not wait to be in that “maternity leave” bubble once again. I went into it excited to meet my baby girl, and excited (yet nervous) to settle into our life as a family of four. What I didn’t expect was to find myself more in love with this time the second time around – for myself, my daughter, and my whole family.
This time, in fact, I did find myself ready to face the world much sooner than I did with my first – in part out of necessity (as my toddler wasn’t going to wait around), and in part because I simply found my rhythm sooner. I had my own plans and dreams for this period of maternity leave beyond the expected resting, recovering and bonding. I already knew what being a mom felt like, so I was relaxed and ready to explore this new motherhood in its purest form. The challenges of this time were driven by the forgotten pains and difficulties of postpartum recovery, or whatever challenging phase my 2-year-old was exhibiting. (And the challenges of having 2 young kids should never be ignored or belittled). But what I had on my side was that the newborn care was easy. I had long naps with my new baby girl perfectly nuzzled against my skin; I took walks, watched films, did housework and chores, all with my baby right by my side; I got to be a truly present mom of 2, and fell more deeply in love with both my kids in new and different ways. And I got the opportunity to spend time with my 2-year-old son in ways I hadn’t been able to for quite some time. I had thoughts and feelings and observations about all of these adjustments, and so I started this blog. I got to reclaim my body and begin to think about my self as a woman again – not just as a human incubator. And while we are still very much in the throws of the newborn craze, my husband and I began to understand our marriage and relationship as parents of 2, and explore what we want our new family dynamic to look like. Every expectation I had of this time was wildly fulfilled, and in many ways, surpassed – even on the days I didn’t do anything at all, or those that proved especially challenging (and there were plenty).
Understanding the importance of these fleeting first few months with my baby, and not taking them for granted, is something I could have only known with my second, and not with my first. I am eternally thankful to have had this time again, and I hope this is not the last. But this week I return to work, once again, a changed woman. I return to some form of “real life” that doesn’t feel entirely like my own. And I transition back into life as a “working” mom with an eye towards the future, my heart in the past, and a search for what I want motherhood to mean for me and my family.
One thought on “A Letter to my Daughter: It’s The End of an Era”
[…] Needless to say, my focuses felt stretched in every direction, especially once I felt this “rebirth” (so to speak) into motherhood when my daughter was […]