Countdown to Work
So, there is now just one week left before the girls go to daycare and I go back to work. It is a time of conflicted emotions for me. I am SO excited about heading back to work and getting back to tackling hard problems and being around smart, thoughtful, interesting adults. Seriously, I can’t wait. I even moved my return date up about three weeks. I have been checking work email daily and am trying to limber up my mental muscles so that I can hit the ground- if not running, jogging at least. One reason I am so anxious to be back is because it has been so long- I think I would not be so ready, except for the bedrest I was on before the girls arrived. That was definitely a low point, not only of the last year, but of my life. Being so restricted and sedentary, both physically and mentally, was extremely difficult. Of course, it was so worth it and I would to it 10 times over for these sweet girls, but I can probably say that so easily because I won’t have to. The cats are irretrivably out of the bag, as they say. I am also excited to be back because I enjoy being a part of the work environment- I like solving hard problems, engaging with people, collaborating on issues, and above all- learning. I think life is just a continuous journey of learning and every day is a chance to learn something new or to put something recently learned into practice. I have learned a lot about myself during the last 8 or 9 months and grown significantly as a person, but now I am looking forward to getting back into the larger world where I can put my brain back into high gear.
On the flip side, I am very sad to think of being away from the girls during the day and will miss their beautiful, smiling faces and hilarious antics. It is hard to imagine missing things- even small developments like improved coordination or their huge smiles turning into laughs. But I try to do two things- 1) Not dwell on it and 2) Keep all those changes in perspective. I have an entire lifetime to love, observe, guide, and interact with our lovely daughters. I think one reason it is so hard to head back to work is because I have the theoretical choice to stay at home. For me, it has never been a serious option because I don’t want to stay home, but it is a choice in the sense that we are in an income/lifestyle bracket that we could swing it if we wanted to. Ironically, this may make it harder to adjust because I do have the option to stay at home in a way that many lower income parents or single moms never do. Thinking of it from that perspective, I feel like I have a responsibility to take my return to work in stride and be strong as a mom and as an employee. If my circumstances were different, I wouldn’t have the luury of agonizing over my return- I would be returning because that was what I needed to do to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I take seriously the fact that many thousands of brave women fought for years to break down the barriers for women in the working world and that my freedom and sucess is a direct result of their struggles. No path in life is without trade-offs, sacrifices, and struggle- so I will keep that in mind and remember that the grass is NOT greener on the other side- I’ve got the green grass right here in my pasture, it’s just that occassionally you have to eat a bug as you graze.
Thank you Betty Friedan and Rosie the Riveter.
Thanks to the hard work of Feminists battling for decades before I was even born, I am part of the first generation of girls that had the luxury of knowing that I would be able to join workforce, if that was what I wanted to do. I think there is a danger of forgetting that for generations before- women had nothing to look forward to beyond the hard and often thankless work within the four walls of their homes. I love our daughters deeply and adore being a mother to them, but I also bask in the freedom I have to go out into the world and participate as an intelligent, thoughtful, fully enfranchized member of the community. I am so proud to a valuable member of the working world and to be a contributor to my company’s success. As for returning to work, I take a lot of inspiration from the idea of being a role model for our daughters. I want them to see that they can have full diverse lives where they can have education, impactful careers, AND great families. The world is truly open to them in a way that it never has been before. I hope they grow up to embrace their potential and jump into all experiences- loving, learning, working, striving, and contributing, with their whole selves.
So, this week as I march toward my return to work (and sit here listening to a speech on the radio by the great Martin Luther King jr.), I am determined not to look down at my feet in sadness, but to hold my head high and think of all the positive things that will be happening next week. The girls are going to meet new friends and have care givers who will become warm, caring parts of their early childhood. I will be able to fully engage my brain and use all the skills that I have spent years growning and refining. I will be able to apply my new perspective as a mother to my work- I think I will be subtly different because of my new experiences and the new, larger size of my heart. This week, I will take time to hug and kiss and snuggle the girls and drink in their tiny selves with every fiber of my being- so that next week I can carry them with me in my heart, as tightly held as a strong embrace. I will also try to remember that being a parent is about letting go as much as it is about holding on. The whole point of this journey is to nuture and support them so that one day they can stretch their hearts and minds out to the world with all the confidence that a loved, cherished person has and enjoy their own journeys.