I started back to work last Monday after an amazing three months of maternity leave (13 weeks, actually) with my two littles, baby Scarlett and my almost-4-year-old, Juliette.
When I had Juliette four years ago, we were only in a position financially for me to take seven weeks off, and although it was definitely hard to go back to work then, this time has proven much more difficult.
We are very lucky that my mom lives two minutes from my office and watches the girls (Juliette the two days a week when she isn’t in preschool and Scarlett four days a week), and that I can go at lunch and nurse the baby- yay less pumping and more baby/toddler love time!!
So I’ve been trying to figure out all week why there has been so much more sadness this time around…
I love my work, and being a physician is absolutely a part of my identity. I could not give that up. But something about the beauty of the past 13 weeks, waking up in the morning with my two beautiful girls, having play dates with mommy friends, getting to make new mommy friends — I got to meet some of the moms of Juliette’s best friends at school because I could actually be there for regular drop-off and pick-up times, not the extended care hours like when I was working — has been much more difficult to reconcile giving up this time.
My husband argues that it’s because I had more “fun” during my leave this time, and I think that is part of it. With Juliette, I spent a lot of time at home snuggling on the couch with her, which was wonderful, but by the end of seven weeks I was a little lonely. This time around, most days we left the house by 8:30 and didn’t come home until dinner time, with activities planned all day. I had many more friends with either toddlers Juliette’s age or newborn babies, so we were hanging out with friends constantly. It was absolutely wonderful to have this time with both my newborn and my toddler and see their growth and change.
I also had a fair amount of time to take care of myself. I went to the gym most days, and of course really enjoyed spending time with friends I don’t get to see very much usually.
As I sat at work Monday, chatting with patients, most of whom I had seen just before departing for maternity leave, it felt like I had never left. In my mind I thought, “Did it really happen? How can it seem like such an amazing, memorable three months wasn’t ever there?” And then, the mommy guilt. And the pumping. And not being the one to take Juliette to gymnastics anymore. Trying to get all of it straight in my head — and Juliette asking me, “Mommy where did you go today? When is mommy-Juliette date day? Can it be now?”
You working mommas know this, that gut-wrenching feeling, trying to explain to your babies why you have to go to work when their sad little eyes look up at you.
But I know my girls will be just fine, and so will I. I’ll get back into a routine, as will the kids, and savor every moment I have with these little treasures as they grow.
And above all else, I’ll never forget these three blissful months together.