Before I gave birth to our son Nolan last April, my husband Matt and I planned and saved and determined that I could take maternity leave for nine months. At the start of my leave, nine months sounded like forever. I had the summer to look forward to, the back-to-school whirlwind I wouldn’t be a part of, the holidays – it seemed like so much time. And in many ways, it was so much time – I’m well aware that some women return to work after a few short weeks! That being said, even after taking an extended leave, returning to work was really difficult.
Now that I’ve been back for two months, every day is a mix of emotions. Some days I’m grateful to work and I’m aware of how much more I value the time I’m home. Let’s face it, when you’re entertaining an infant for twelve hours a day, you probably aren’t treasuring every second. In fact, I will admit that there were many days when I desperately eyed the clock and counted down the minutes (or in some cases, hours) until bedtime. Other days, I feel whatever the opposite of feeling grateful to work is. I would go so far as to say I’m angry, resentful as I pump breast milk in a dingy room at work and bitterly jealous of people who can afford to not work. (Sorry, stay at home moms, it’s not you, it’s me!)
The big question for families in which both parents work is who takes care of your children while you’re at work? Long before I headed back, Matt and I decided that we wanted to hire a babysitter to care for Nolan in our home. Being that we are both teachers, we knew getting Nolan up and out of the house so early wasn’t anything we were interested in; it’s hard enough getting myself to school on time. Unsure exactly what we were looking for in a caregiver, we headed to the web and used Care.com and Sittercity.com. The sites are nearly identical and are basically Match.com for babysitters. We couldn’t decide whether we wanted an older person with her own children or someone young without the baggage of, “Well that’s not what I did with my kids, but whatever you want…” Did we want a native English speaker or someone who could potentially teach Nolan another language? After interviewing a handful of candidates (and being stood up by several!), we settled on a lovely recent college graduate.
The emotions aside, it has taken several weeks to find my stride. Playing with Nolan, making dinner, doing schoolwork, cleaning up, prepping his food and bottles for the next day – it’s a lot to do in a very limited window of time. To make life a little easier, we hired a cleaning lady to come twice a month. It’s money well spent and has dramatically improved my quality of life. I also had to let go of some control issues and trust that our babysitter can fend for herself. I don’t need to micromanage every meal, outfit and diaper change. Thankfully, I feel confident that Nolan is safe and that he is being played with and loved. Those comforts have made going back to work infinitely smoother, but it’s still not easy.
What about you, moms and dads? What was returning to work like in your household? What have you done to make it easier on yourselves?