It has been one year since I went back to work after having our sweet little Finnegan. I have to say, I think Canada and the other countries who offer one-year paid maternity leave really have it right. It wasn't until Finn turned one that I really felt fully adjusted to being a mom. It's truly life-altering being in charge of a little human every single day!
I use the term "working" lightly here... I have a job that I go to which is outside of the home, in a quiet office, with my very own desk where I can sit and drink as much coffee as I want. My responsibilities at home are always primary and my days at home are far more physically exhausting than my days at the office. They're also much more fun. (No offense if any of my co-workers are reading this... you guys are great, I mean it, but you don't waddle around in mustache-print, footie pajamas falling over every few steps and saying "uh oh" over and over again.) So since it's my one year anniversary of being back at the office, I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane.
Months 1-3 (baby=3-5 months)
Horrible. There is no other word to describe these first three months. Sleep was still intermittent and trying to figure out how to discretely sneak away to pump at work was so awkward. It's just heartbreaking to leave a three-month-old (even if you're leaving them with your husband) because you're so delirious, hungry and tired everything makes you cry. I can't give you any stories from this phase because I barely remember it.
Months 4-6 (baby=6-8 months)
Sanity begins to return. You might actually remember what you did at work that day when your husband asks you. You start to figure out a routine for the mornings and evenings and maybe even find a little time for yourself again (four to five minutes). Your child is now starting to try cereal, and maybe even food, which is hilarious. It was at this point when I realized maybe working the same hours as I worked prior to children wasn't the best fit for our family anymore. I started doing a modified schedule of three days in the office and two days working from home in an attempt to find the ever-elusive work-life balance.
Months 7-9 (baby=9-11 months)
The newborn stage has ended. You're likely getting a full night's sleep again. Your baby is no longer fragile and immobile and is getting very curious about the world. They giggle and smile and get excited to see you, they actually know who you are! Daycare drop-off begins to be a struggle. Separation anxiety is setting in and you only see the worst of it. You don't get to see the almost instant recovery that likely happens six seconds after you walk out the door. Now you're in tears and to top it off there will always be a sad song on the radio as soon as you get into the car. It also turns out the work-from-home thing isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's difficult to get work done when your baby no longer sleeps all day. On the bright side, as already mentioned, you're probably getting sleep at night, which is totally worth it.
Months 10-12 (baby=12-14 months)
Walking, babbling, and so much more self-sufficient. This age is such a joy. The separation anxiety has subsided and in fact, the opposite has happened, they're happy to see you go so they can play with their friends. Your routines are predictable and you're done with the messy baby stuff like jars of food. They're so busy that you might start to enjoy your commute because it's quiet. You also know your office will look exactly how you left it yesterday, which cannot be said for any of the other area of your life right now. Working from home is entirely impossible now, except during nap times, which you're now trying to condense to one. It's at about this point that you might consider adding another one to the mix because you've pretty much got this parenting thing figured out, right?
Each of these phases has brought its own set of joys and challenges. I am excited to be entering into a new phase of work over the next month...part-time. A new position and a new schedule. Having kids means constantly rearranging schedules to find one that works. It also means accepting the fact that the new schedule might only work for a short period of time. Being flexible is not one of my strong suits, but I am learning. Whether you work in the home, outside of the home, modified hours, part-time hours, or anything in-between, you are where you are for a reason. Keep being flexible and trying new things, it will help prevent the stress of life from robbing you of your joy.
"Whatever work you do, do it with all your heart.
Do it for the Lord and not for men."