I work for a nonprofit, and most of the people we deal with on a day-to-day basis are teachers, so my office is closed for the week between Christmas and the New Year. It’s always tough coming back to work and getting into the swing of things after a break, but coming back in 2017 was especially hard. I had spent an entire week hanging out at home with R, and I loved every minute. Seriously, I did. It was awesome.
And then I had to drop her off at daycare on January 3, and I cried all day at work. At one point, one of my coworkers came up to ask me something, and I was all puffy and red-eyed, and when he asked me if I was okay, all I could choke out was, “I miss R,” like an idiot.
I have not been shy about the fact that being at work and away from R so much is hard for me. If I’m honest, I’ve actually probably beat that nail into the ground a little too much. For a while I was angry and bitter, and then it just turned into kind of a dull ache that constantly surrounded me. I thought about it a lot, and I talked about it a lot. Coming back to work in the new year felt like ripping off the scab of a wound that was finally starting to heal. Now I was bleeding all over again.
I know that not every mom feels like this. Some love working, and that has absolutely nothing to do with how much they love their kid, but they are fulfilled being at work and feel like they are a better parent because of it. I’ve always tried to be clear on this point: I do not hate working. I do not hate my job. I've hated jobs before, and this is not what that feels like. I like going to work, and I like my coworkers, and I like what I do.
But I love being at home with R more. I love our weekends together. I love my days off that we spend with each other. I loved my week-long break in December. I wasn’t ready to go back to work. I wasn’t ready to run to my quiet office and eat breakfast in peace. I really wasn’t.
So the beginning of January was hard. I kept trying to focus on being thankful and praying for peace and contentedness, and I didn’t feel like any of it was working. God wasn’t listening.
At some point right around the middle of January, I realized that maybe continuing to focus on the fact that I have a terrible time leaving R to go to work every day was part of my problem. I was seeing things on social media that “triggered” me, I was talking about it to Jordan and my friends, and just in general I was thinking about it a lot. Maybe I was part of my own problem.
God can do work on our hearts, but we have to be open to letting him, and I do believe that sometimes we have to take action toward something we are praying about. Not all the time, but sometimes I think we can be too passive when we are praying about something in our lives that we want to change.
There’s been a lot of talk about “self-care” this year. I see this mostly regarding the November election in terms of things you can to when you get depressed that the country is going to crap. And I’m not going to comment on whether it is or it isn’t, but the point is, I think the concept of self-care can be useful for lots of other situations too. I decided to think about what self-care meant for me when it came to being a working mom.
One thing I immediately stopped doing was talking about it so much. It’s not that I don’t think you should share when something is bothering you, but in my case it felt like work and missing R and guilt and the fact that I felt jealous of moms who stayed at home was starting to dominate all of my conversations. It was also affecting my marriage in a subtle way because when I talked to Jordan about how much I missed R and how I wished I could stay at home with her, I was also (unintentionally) making him feel bad about not being able to provide for us in that way with just his job. So I stopped bringing it up as much.
I also stopped looking at social media during the day. (And really I should do this anyway because, hello, I’m at work.) When I’m sitting at my desk feeling sad that I’m not with R, seeing five pictures in a row on Facebook or Instagram of moms snuggling their cute babies or hanging out at Target or at the park in the middle of the afternoon is the last thing I need. It puts me into a spiral that ends with me texting Jordan six crying faces and staring blankly at my keyboard. Similarly, I realized that reading blog posts written by a stay-at-home mom where she either details a day in her life or talks about what she’s been up to currently tend to always make me jealous, so I’ve intentionally stopped reading those.
I hope I don’t sound like a total jerk here; it’s not that I don’t like SAHMs or don’t want to be friends, but I was trying to make an intentional change in my attitude about working, and these were the things I thought would help the most. I also continued to pray about my attitude, focus on being thankful, and make sure to be intentional about the time I do get to spend with R.
So that was all happening around the middle of January. We are now settled into March, and as I was driving to work a week or so ago, I was thinking about life and being introspective and stuff (as one does during their commute; you mean you listen to podcasts instead?), and I realized something: I think I’m okay.
Now, of course okay is a relative term. Do I miss R? Absolutely, I do. Do I struggle with feelings of jealousy toward moms who don’t have to work? Yes. Am I hopeful that maybe one day I might be able to have more flexibility with our income to either be able to stay at home full time or even just work part time? I am.
But I feel okay. I am doing okay.
And even more than that, I feel happy and thankful and joyful about the life I am living.
It’s not glamorous. It’s not always pretty. It doesn’t involve lots of new things or new places. By any real definition of the word, the life I live is honestly very boring. It’s hard and messy, and I’m just trying to do the best I can with what I have been given. I love my daughter, and I love the time we have together, but I also value my ability to work and do something I am passionate about, and I feel confident and thankful that R has fun and is loved during the day when I’m not with her.
It took longer than I wanted to truly be able to say that and mean it, and I’m still not all the way there. I don’t honestly know if I will ever be. And I still have hard days where I struggle with this more than other days.
But what I'm saying right now is that (finally) I really can honestly tell you that I think I’m doing okay.
Related: How to Support Working Moms
Related: How to Support Working Moms