The first night and second morning were the hardest. I returned home after that first day back, and felt so guilty, like I was shirking my motherly duties (which, I suppose, some people would say I am). It was so hard to leave her the next morning. But this "new normal" quickly came to feel, well, normal! I get up at 5:30 each morning to pump, feed Kate, and get ready. Then, I cuddle with Kate a little while longer before I leave, "chatting" with her about her plans for the day, and telling her I can't wait to see her that evening.
If I didn't enjoy my job, this would be a nightmare. If I "had" to work for the money, I would resent every moment. (I'm not saying I don't "have" to work--I probably do, but we've never calculated it, since I do enjoy my job so.)
Matt has been amazing through all of this. He's a fantastic father, and for the time being is Kate's primary caregiver during the day. She will be attending three days a week a brand new day care center that doesn't open til the beginning of June, so in this intermediate time Matt is balancing his pastoral duties and full-time fatherhood. The stereotypes that go into parenthood could be the subject of a whole other post (and hopefully will be soon). To give just a small glimpse into Matt's daily reality now, consider these two conversations he has had while out in public with an infant during the day:
random stranger: "Babysitting today?"
Matt: "No, parenting."
unnamed clergy colleague: "Being Dad today, huh?"
Matt: "I'm Dad every day."
unnamed clergy colleague: "Oh, really?" (thinking he was now permanently a stay-at-home dad)
Matt: "Even if I weren't with her during the day, I'd still be Dad."
Every day, I look so forward to the couple hours I get to snuggle and play with my girl when I get home from work. Tonight, she was cranky and tired (been up past her bedtime three of the past four nights) and went to bed less than an hour after I got home. It's a little sad, but it's also just life. This is our life, and it is full of love and joy. I look around the family room at the toys my baby and her daddy played with during the day, and the lovely days of my maternity leave, in which I was home with her all day long, seem like a distant memory. I honestly have to work to recall that feeling, that memory of the sunny afternoons we spent together, kicking and cuddling and cooing.
How can three months fade so quickly to the back of the mind?
How can three weeks suddenly seem like they've always been?
This is our life. It is different than it was, and it is different from how some people seem to think it should be, but it is happy and it is wonderful.