Monday Adelaide and I went to the end of year luncheon at my school. I was nervous beforehand because it was the first time I'd see the whole staff all together at the same time since I left on maternity leave, back in November. And I was worried about how Adelaide would handle so many people all at once. But she handled it like a champ, garnering aww's and lots of kisses on her little toes from other moms who miss having a little baby around.
It was loud and very busy in the library. People were walking around, getting their lunches, talking excitedly about summer plans and the last little bit of stuff they had to take care of before summer could really begin (those last couple of workdays are always so bittersweet). Smells of pickles and the sound of crinkly chip bags in the air.
I walked in to my community of teachers and was hit with mixed emotions.
On one hand, I can't wait to go back to work. I have so many ideas for fun and new projects to do with the kids. I still read all the art blogs and have bookmarked so many things I want to try, and that I'm excited to try. I love knowing that kids like coming to art, that they enjoy seeing me and hearing what we're doing each week. I love hearing from my fellow teachers that the kids miss me and can't wait until I'm back. I love hearing from my fellow teachers that they can't wait until I'm back. I like being in the know, and I have felt very out of touch with the goings-on of my school while I've been out (and oh, my, there have been a LOT of goings-on going on!).
And of course, there's the stability of a paycheck and benefits, though the amount of both are pretty pathetic right now for teachers in North Carolina.
But on the other hand, HOW am I supposed to leave this precious little one in the hands of a stranger for 8 hours every. single. day? I am tearing up thinking about it even now, four months out. I know she will adjust. Everyone always says that. And everyone also says that it's harder on the mom than it is on the baby, especially for your first child.
But I can't help but picture her little cry. The one where she's done crying so hard because it has worn her out, and now she's just calling for mama. She does that cry with Kevin often, when she wants mama. And I try to wait it out hoping that she will realize she is fine and safe and everything is okay, but it breaks my heart. So I go in and scoop her up and she stops crying immediately, though she is still incredibly snotty and raspy and very, very splotchy (just like her mama when she cries). And she looks at her dad and smiles because she wanted me, needed me, and here I am.
HOW am I supposed to ignore that and go to work? Knowing that I can't possibly go in and scoop her up? How am I supposed to go into an empty room and hook myself up to a breastpump twice a day, when I would so much rather be cuddling my baby while she nurses, looking up at me and playing with my shirt or running her hand over my mouth?
I admit, selfishly, that I just want her all to myself. I want to be the one to teach her the ABCs, the one to see her walk (oh god, what if she walks for the first time at daycare and I miss it?), the one to help her make friends.
I am just going to miss her. so. bad. Like my chest aches with the thought of it. Like my eyes are overflowing because this love is so much more than I ever, ever thought it would be. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but damn this is hard. Having to make this decision, or rather, not having the choice but to go back to work is so very difficult. But the fact is, we need the money, and so much of it that this is the only option right now.
I know this is just a season of my life that will pass, and before I know it I will be the lucky one who gets to drive my daughter to school every day, see her at lunch, have her come to my art class every week, be able to volunteer in her classroom when I can, have her hang out in my room after school and get that darn homework out of the way so we can drive home together to dad and have wonderful family time, making memories together that will greatly outweigh the sadness that consumes me now. I know that time will come. I know this will pass. I know once we get the routine down and I figure out how to cope with not being with my daughter 24/7 that I will enjoy being at work, she will make friends and she'll begin to love her teachers.
And I will look forward to that summer vacation and buzz around with all my fellow colleagues during those last couple of workdays, talking about summer plans I have for my family, those two months alive with possibilities and endless snuggles with my daughter.
(Mamas, feel free to share any thoughts you have about being a working mom. I would love to hear any and all you have to say on the matter.)