Thursday, 1 August 2013

Back to the Grind

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.

And yet.

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.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Don't Worry, Be Happy

I'll admit it: I'm a worrier. I'm the kind of person who, when something minor happens, mentally jumps ten steps ahead to the worst-case scenario. It's my way of managing expectations: if I imagine the worst, then what actually happens can't be all that bad....

But if I was a worrier before, then having kids opened up a whole new world of worries for me. Especially the first time around, I found I was constantly judging my decisions, questioning my instincts, filling my mind with self-doubt. 

Each new stage brought a fresh wave of worries. 

Infant: Is she gaining enough weight? Is it too early to start solids? Is she going to smother herself if I let her sleep with a stuffed animal?

Toddler: Should we take away her soother? Is she ever going to learn to potty-train? She's coughing a lot...should I take her to the doctor?

Preschooler: How do I deal with these temper tantrums? Why won't she listen? Am I doing the right thing by disciplining her?

Even with my second baby, I found myself worrying. Is she nursing well enough? Should I wake her up to feed her? Is it bad to swaddle her when she's more than three months old?

And then there are the ridiculous worries:

The baby's been sleeping for a long time...what if it's SIDS?
I got really mad at my eldest today—does she think I don't love her? 

Those irrational worries stem from my deepest, darkest fears. Fear of my inadequacy as a mother; fear of a cruel and dangerous world that, despite my best efforts, I can't control.

As a parent, one of the hardest things to do is to trust your instincts and your sound judgment. There's no instruction manual for motherhood, no magic set of rules or strategies that will make your kids turn out perfectly. And as much as you want to protect your children and keep them safe, you also have to give them space to grow and develop on their own.

So I'm trying, really trying, not to worry so much because it's pointless—and it's exhausting. Kids are all different, and there's no one on earth who knows my kids better than I do. That doesn't mean I won't get it wrong sometimes.

But it does mean that, most of the time, I'll get it right.