Next week is the end of my maternity leave. Like it or not, I'll be heading back to work.
Our new schedule isn't going to be easy. With a one-year-old who protests every diaper change and an often-uncooperative three-year-old, I can barely fathom how we're going to get everyone out of the house on time in the morning. And with my husband and I both working full time, I have no idea how we'll manage to get dinner on the table before someone melts down (It might be one of the kids, it might be me—it's too soon to tell.)
However, there are many reasons why going back to work is a good idea. It forces me to get out of the same jean shorts I've been wearing all summer. It makes me think beyond what time the baby napped and what we're eating for dinner. It provides an opportunity to interact with people who know more words than "mama", "dada" and "no". It gives me some freedom and personal space—and it will likely give my girls a mother who appreciates them more because of both of those things.
Whatever guilt I might have felt about putting my kids in daycare is mitigated by the fact that my eldest, who's been in daycare for a couple of years now, would rather be there than at home most days. There will be an adjustment period for my second, I'm sure, but she'll be okay.
I know, without a doubt, that going back to work is the right decision for me.
In an earlier post, I wrote about cherishing the "lasts". This "last", for me, is a big one. We don't intend to have any more kids so this is my last maternity leave, the last time I'll experience that bittersweet swelling of pride and sadness as I drop my youngest off at daycare for the first time. Sad at being separated from this little being whose life has been so closely entwined with mine until now, sad that she'll probably have a tough day as she comes to terms with her new reality...but also amazed and proud of how much she's grown and what a smart, gorgeous little girl she's becoming.
I'm ready to go back to work—and she may not realize it, but she's ready, too.
So I'll kiss her goodbye and try not to cry as I let her go. Whatever tears we both shed, I know that, for her, this is just the beginning. There's a whole world out there for her to explore, full of promise and possibility. I just hope she'll let me come along for the ride.