Returning to work

The return to work was rough, mostly because it coincided with my husband being out of town for like, two months. Sure, he was back for a week here and a few days there, but it was intense. With a five-month old and a three-year old, plus a half-assed plan for childcare, it really sucked. There. I said it. No, wait, I’m not done! It REALLY REALLY SUCKED. But since we’re not planning on having more kids, at least I can say: Well then. I won’t have to do THAT again.

I have the option to bring Story Jane with me to work since Hot Studio has a formal, and awesome, babies-at-work policy for returning parents. It’s a great benefit, and it helped the first few weeks, but I couldn’t swing it any longer. I was a single parent returning to the workforce in a new role. After being off for almost seven (!!) months, I was ready to just get back to work. And frankly, I’m not the most chill mom in the world. More specifically, I freak out when my kids aren’t sleeping. So trying to get Story to take a nap–while meeting new people and setting up new processes at work– was a recipe for a mommy meltdown.

The ongoing identity crisis: I didn’t say “I’m a mother,” but “a mommy.” I also have a full time job and a fancy new title. Transitioning between these two roles is what’s most awkward. I can get so into work, and so fulfilled by it, to be honest, I don’t leave at 5:30 as planned. I probably haven’t pumped at the designated time. My commute home is super stressful, ’cause I know I’ll miss my daughter being awake. My husband, if he’s home, has to cover for me. We haven’t made dinner plans. Even leaving at 6:00, I’m too late. I’ve f’ed it up, and I’m not even home yet.

When I walk in, I’ve got to be on. I want nothing more than to squeeze my boy. Usually Alejandro doesn’t have pants on and he’s doing ninja moves. He desperately wants someone to decapitate action figures with him.

I give him a big hug and many kisses. That’s the best, for both of us. Then I deny his requests to play. I may make dinner, or feed Story, and put her to bed if I’m not too late. That means patting her back and singing and letting her cry. I walk out of the room for five minutes at a time as she screams. I give Ali a Popsicle, then return to pat her back some more. I hear Ali stomping towards their bedroom. “Mommy!?” His Popsicle has dripped all over his privates and the hallway, and as soon as Story hears him, she wakes up and cries louder. She’s frustrated she isn’t part of the violence in the living room.

It’s really fun. No really, it’s not.

I don’t know why I expected it to be “fun.” What Kool-Aid did I drink, way back when I was envisioning myself as a super chill, relaxed, loving and art-inspiring parent? And can I please have some more?

I wouldn’t change anything about my life, of course. It’s my design, rough edges and fuckups included. I wouldn’t trade our two gorgeous babies or their amazing dad who has a creative job at which he excels (but requires him to travel)–not for anything. Or give up my job, for that matter. I love it. I love going to it, and I can’t deny that.

So here I am, a modern parent.

My friend Katrina, who writes the profound workingmom’sbreak blog, told me long ago that she and her husband sometimes said to one another: “There’s just not enough to go around.” It’s a sad state, but a good reminder to avoid the blame game between partners. It doesn’t seem like enough, but it has to be.

Experienced moms tell me that it’ll get much easier when the kids are in elementary school. “It’s just five years away,” my boss and friend Maria told me tonight. Just five years. Only a parent would be crazy enough to say that.

Only a mommy like myself would accept that decree with a bowed head. And then mourn those years’ passing.

What resonates?

7 responses to “Returning to work”

  1. Jay Avatar

    It’s hell. I know, because I was in it. But, I’m SO glad you’re not a “super chill, relaxed, loving and art-inspiring parent,” because (a) I don’t think they exist (or, if they do, it’s only because they are completely detached from their children’s well-being, giving themselves and their children LOTS of chemicals, or both), and (b) if you were, I have to find some stabbity-stabby things and stabbity-stab you. And then I’d go to jail and my children would orphans, and that would suck. You wouldn’t like it either.


  2. Margot Avatar

    Yeah, I’d prefer stumbling through and bitching about it over stabbity-stabbing anytime. No need to worry that my zen-perfection will provoke anyone to such extremes. About those chemicals though: what are they, and do you know any shady doctors who prescribe with abandon?? Only joking.

    Someone just told me there’s no escape hatch from being a parent. We’re in it, and that’s what parenting is. Being there as your own elated or sucky self. Just being there.

  3. Margo Avatar

    Oh Margot, I know it’s rough and so often not fun – not at all. But then it’s the most fullfilling moment imaginable. So, we hang on for those times, days or just fleeting moments – kisses, hugs, smiles, a funny sentence – that make you feel like everything is right. So, since we are literally in the same boat, I’ll share a couple things that have made my worknight evenings a little smoother. 1) electrolux cordless hand vac w/ on board dust buster. A-MAZING! This little doo-dad has saved me so much time and heartache and allows me to fulfill my instinct to clean in no time at all, all the while with Whitney on my hip. 2) I bring home dinner from the City at least 4 nights a week. San Francisco Soup Company LOVES me! All Whitney wants when I get home is her Momma! I can’t bear to hear her screaming which happens if I have to put her down to make dinner, so I just don’t.

    I know you have to find what works for you but those two things have made a huge impact on my day.

    Hang in there – drink wine!!!

  4. […] intersection of middle age and music. And sympathize with my friend Margot, who writes about her first month back at work after maternity leave. No matter how much you love your job, that first month is […]

  5. Margot Avatar

    Can’t talk now, I’m cleaning our LR rug with the hand vac. I couldn’t stop myself. No, Margo, thank you for these reminders! All stories and tricks welcome.

    It ain’t easy, and it ain’t always fun, but for some nutty reason it’s totally worth it.

  6. Mel@MySunshine Avatar

    It’s a tough road. I’m a first time mom and I’ve been back at work for 8 months. Every single day has been tough in some way or another. Yet, when I look at those little eyes and have the little arms hug me, I know everything will be alright. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger……right?

    We’ll miss these times when they are in college.

  7. Maria Giudice Avatar
    Maria Giudice

    Take it from someone who is there now; job intact, marriage intact; and yes I can say, I AM a great, (working) mom. It is hard as hell, but you come out stronger, and 5 years GOES IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE. You are an amazing, wonderful, loving mom, so just you see.