This is my fourth week back at work since the birth of our twins 13 weeks ago. In the weeks leading up to my return, I had many people offer support (sharing their stories of tearful returns to the workplace) and some asking if I was really going to go back. For much of my maternity leave, I felt this looming deadline. I wondered how I would feel once back at work. I’ve nearly always had two jobs since I was 19 years old, and for just as long, have known that I would return to work once I had kids. But, I also knew everything could possibly change once I met their little faces.
Four weeks ago now the deadline was in front of me. I re-entered the office that I left prematurely in June for a month of bed rest. I chuckled a little at the decaf keurig coffee pods in my desk drawer, and my eggless Caesar dressing in the fridge, along with other things I couldn’t ingest while pregnant. I noticed outdated paperwork and a card from my co-workers meant to be handed over in a shower that I missed due to sudden bed rest. But, ultimately, I was shocked by how easily I fell back into the flow of working. Granted, we did have our nanny start a week early, so that I could get to know her a bit. That definitely helped to ease back into the work force.
I always thought that I would feel guilt about returning to work. Instead, I felt guilt about how not guilty I felt. I mentioned this to a close friend, an attorney who is pregnant with her third baby and a working mom. She said, “Katie. I work so that I can afford a cleaning crew and a nanny.” My mom remarked, “Yes, we do need to work to afford these things.” My friend clarified: “No, I mean, I work so that I can justify getting help with my kids and cleaning and don’t have to do it all myself 24/7.” I applaud her honesty. It gave me permission to be more honest about my feelings on this subject.
Let me be clear. I am a feminist who is absolutely in awe and support of ANY moms, whether you are a SAHM, work multiple jobs, or have tons of help while you lie in bed and eat bon bons. I am not here to judge, and believe we need to create a society that celebrates all choices that moms make. I also recognize that I’m blessed that this is a “choice” for me, and that it’s not for many women. Not to mention, I’m aware that working a mile from home, with pretty sane hours make all this far easier of a decision. That said, with all the recent talk about “Leaning In,” and the like, this is one perspective. I already feel like a better mother when I am able to nurture other parts of my identity, in addition to the newest part called “mom.” I’m so grateful to have a job where I can go use the skills I learned in graduate school and in my work experience, and then go home and completely shift gears for the rest of the night. I look more forward to the nights and weekends when I can spend a few hours just staring at our daughter’s face light up or listening to my son coo. I get more excited to meet the needs of our little ones when (as Sadia brilliantly put it in a previous post about working) I’ve already met some of my own needs and am not looking to my babies to meet my needs. The whole oxygen mask on an airplane metaphor, you know.
I wonder if it’s reasonable to hope that someday our society will make space for women to say they want to be a working mom. Period. Without any qualifiers. Because, while I can write this somewhat anonymously for a blog, why is it that I’d still feel guilty sharing this around certain audiences?