Before Kate arrived, Matt wagered that it would only take two weeks at home before I said “I’m bored—I want to go back to work!” Kate will be eight weeks old tomorrow, and I have yet to utter those words. I admit, there are moments I’m not exactly sure how to spend my time, but I have really enjoyed being at home during my maternity leave.
I’ve started to get sad and anxious about going back to work. I love my job, and have been doing some work from home during my leave, but the idea of leaving Kate for ten hours at a time is still very upsetting. While there was a time in my life where I envisioned myself as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve discovered a career path in which I excel and find a lot of personal fulfillment, and even if I hadn’t, I don’t think we could afford for me to stay home at this time anyway.
Still, I keep asking myself, “Would I want to stay home if I could?” I’ve enjoyed having my coffee every morning, feeding Kate while watching the Today show, getting Kate and myself dressed for the day, running errands, etc. We take walks, read books, and play on her tummy time mat. Many days we sit on the front porch while she takes her late afternoon bottle and watch the neighbor kids get off the school bus. While, as I’ve said, I’m not much into housecleaning, I have enjoyed certain elements of enhanced domesticity, like multiple loads of laundry per week, folding said laundry while keeping one eye on a sleeping infant, trying new recipes, and planning meals further in advance than the typical 6pm fridge excavation.
The funny thing is, I feel a little like I’m playing house—like being so domestic is a novel game to play for this limited period of time. In many ways, this lifestyle is desirable. I love being here to nurture my daughter all day. My heart aches at the thought of leaving her each morning. Long term, however, I think that I would really miss editing, and that my sense of satisfaction and self-esteem would suffer if I abandoned my career.
I feel selfish saying that, since my own happiness is certainly not the objective of parenthood. Many working moms say that working makes them a better mom, and that a happy mom makes for a happy baby. Matt says that my professional success makes me a great role model for Kate as we raise her to develop her talents and pursue her dreams. Those things are comforting, and help me feel more confident in my decision to keep working outside the home, but I don’t want them to be excuses I use to justify my own ambitions.
If being a working mother is harmful to Kate in some way, I pray we’ll recognize it and alter our course accordingly. Until then, the laundry will get done in the witching hours while I walk, read, talk, and play with my sweet girl in the precious time we have, praying that the whole of who I am contributes positively to the person she will become.