I sat outside with Truly in my arms watching my three older children play a mash up game of soccer in our cul-de-sac. Tennyson kept rushing the big kids’ set up, but they didn’t seem to mind (oh, their sweet hearts.) The sun was finally out after a week of clouds, rain and head colds. It felt good just being. But I was dressed up, my bags were packed. I was about to leave my 6-day-old baby for a 9+ hour work day. And I was really struggling inside.
There were two camps. The one camp’s war cry was of injustice. “How unfair it is that you have to go back to work and leave your newborn. You deserve to be snuggled up and focused 100% on bonding and breastfeeding and taking care of yourself and your little one. It’s just not right, how can people expect you to be up and running at a time like this. And, by the way, you’re a bad mom for doing this -just so you know.” Tissue boxes come standard in every cabin in this camp. Lots of tissue boxes -and tylenol for the crying headache.
The other camp said, “You are so lucky Truly came when she did and your body is healing with such speed so you could go do this job without complications. Your milk is coming in great, you’ve pumped a bunch so she has it, and you know what? This is the occupation you chose -you accepted this job. You are 100% responsible for it. You’re providing for your family and you’re body is able to do it -and look at how everything has fallen into place so you can perform at the level you need to? It’s only the day, you’ll be back with her at bedtime. You’re not a bad mom, and this is your choice.” This camp comes with big girl panties and you put ’em on.
We each have our own set of circumstances and leaving your baby for the first time is always a tear jerker. I admit, I usually hang out in the first camp. At least I used to. That was when I felt so out of control of my life. Things happened to me. I complained a lot. I did little to fix or change my situations.
But this summer something changed. I realized how sovereign I was over my personhood. All the invisible expectations, the people I was trying to please, the external pressure I felt from not wanting to hurt people’s feelings or disappoint them or -heaven forbid- do anything to make people not like me- all of that dropped. The proverbial room fell silent and there I was standing at the helm of my own life. Responsible for myself -the good, the bad and the ugly.
When I take responsibility (because it’s a daily choice) for my life I give myself power and also have to live in honesty. Sitting in that porch chair holding my newborn, watching my children play, I realized that I want to be in the second camp. Grateful for the blessings, owning my choices, and looking squarely at the situation with honesty -not like a petulant child. “Waaaah, UNFAAAAIR!”
“I’m grateful. And look at what’s possible.”
Granted, it’s pretty ridiculous in our culture to go back to such an active occupation less than a week after giving birth, but there are plenty of other cultures where they’ve never heard of maternity leave. Life goes on. You do what you can and you do what you must. But it’s a choice you make -and only you can make it for yourself. So do what resonates in your heart; do what works best for you and your family. Don’t let other people’s expectations or status quo dictate how you live.
You are enough. And you are a good mama, Honey.
A Prayer for Returning to Work
I am grateful for this job that allows me to provide for my new baby. I am grateful for the bond I feel with my little one and that I am given the chance to feel love with such tremendous strength. For the parts of my job I enjoy doing, I am so grateful. When I return to my baby, I’ll be able to shower them with my love and snuggles and kisses. I am thankful for my motherhood and this new season of life and I trust that as I do what I feel is best in my heart for me and my family we will all be taken care of. Amen.