We got home on Saturday after a freakish drive through every type of weather imaginable barring a rain of toads and today is my first full day back on my own doing the stay-home-mom-gig and oh my lord I am feeling nearly flattened by tedium. Either I am just out of my routine or I have seen the light in terms of raising kids via the village method or the baby is now in a constantly-needing-entertainment-and-intervention stage (naps? Oh, you mean those 4-minute things that happen before the binky slips out of his mouth or the planet’s alignment changes or a molecule of oxygen taps him on the nose and he wakes up shouting?) or some poisonous combination of all of those things but damn, I have never seen a clock crawl so slowly, and I am counting all those Saturday school detentions I got as a kid which were so mind-numbingly dreary I once tattooed my own hand with a needle and a bottle of India ink just to pass the time.

(Not a good idea, by the way. Also: laser tattoo removal? Surprisingly painful.)

I am scheduled to go back to work on May 5 and I’m swinging wildly between heady anticipation (being around adults! Working on projects that don’t involve removing poop from someone’s testicles! Having a reason to get dressed before 5 PM!) and a lurking dread. I know it will be hard to leave Dylan in someone else’s care, and I know it will be hard to deal with feeling guilty about it — and I also know I will feel bad when I don’t feel guilty about it because aaaaahh shouldn’t I be feeling guilty about it? (Parenthood! It’s like cramming your brain into a smoothie machine! And then dumping the contents into the garbage!)

I know without a doubt I am a better, happier parent for working outside the home — just my own personal situation, one size doesn’t fit all, we are all unique snowflakes, etc etc — but goddamn, it’s still a compromise. I know it will seem crazy to hand my baby over to someone else when the time comes, and yet I also know how much more engaged I will be for having done so. I know how it will hurt to drive away with an empty carseat (carseats!), and I also know how positive daycare has been for Riley overall.

Well, I don’t think there’s any easy way to return from maternity leave, is there? Or, if there is, tell me the secret. I’ve got two weeks to prepare.


43 Responses to “Upcoming returns”

  1. Leah on April 21st, 2008 12:48 pm

    I’ve got two little guys and I hate leaving them to go to work. But it’s a job I LOVE and it pays the bills nicely. NOW get ready for feeling like you’re shouldering the ENTIRE universe while at home. I still struggle with the overwhelming household duties, work, and the kids. I’m the first one up and the last one to bed…and NEVER do I just sit around. If I watch TV it’s just to match socks and fold clothes. No answers here…but plenty of sympathy.

  2. Eric's Mommy on April 21st, 2008 12:58 pm

    Wow, going back to work already, time flies! I totally understand the guilty feeling when you are actually happy to go to work and be around other adults. I still get that feeling all the time and my baby is 6.

  3. H on April 21st, 2008 1:06 pm

    Nope, there’s no easy way. Period.

  4. BethanyWD on April 21st, 2008 1:06 pm

    You know what I hated about going back to work? The fact that everyone and their mother had to pepper me with questions for the first week or so, “how’s the baby?” or “any pictures?” or “getting any sleep?” or “how’s the new mommy doing?” when goddamn it I just wanted to sit in my office with a cup of coffee and surf the internet in peace! =) Oh, and start getting caught up at work.

  5. Sarah Lena on April 21st, 2008 1:08 pm

    I was distraught the weekend prior to my return to work — like, seriously, WOE IS ME and prostrate with grief and whatnot — but then Monday was SO busy and chaotic with now a baby to get ready in the morning as well, that I forgot to be sad that morning.

    Of course, as I fell asleep that Monday night, it struck me with a cold pang that CRAP, I had to do it all again the next day.

    And so is the joy of my life.

  6. tracy on April 21st, 2008 1:10 pm

    I always find the first few days after returning from family to be “knife piercing my eye” type of days. I have NO patience and I find myself wondering why I am so crabby, I just came from essentially a break. That I believe is the problem. I get used to help and conversation and then reality sets back in when I return home. I totally feel your pain

  7. Christina on April 21st, 2008 1:24 pm

    As much as we do not want to believe I swear it is true that it take a village to raise a kiddo! I was amazed by this thought after having my son.

    I hear you on the damned if you do, damned if you don’t feelings. I am/was so there. Especially during his 1st year of life when I felt like such a terrible person for wanting to work but also wanting to be a mommy but I could not do both full time (or even part time…) I agree that I am better more social person when I work. Yes the guilt gaw the guilt!

    When I first started back to work someone wise told me that no matter where you are you are always going to be Matthew’s mommy. No one can take your place and as time wore on and I became used to going to work versus being at home I realized it is so true.

    My son loves me (and my husband) more then he can express in words or actions. He is sad to leave us each morning and glad to see us each afternoon. AND at the end of the day, he is happy, well cared for, and all those other great things kids should be at 3 yrs of age (and OMG he seems no different from kids who parents stay home full time!!!)

    I guess keeping that mind as you go back to work is helpful. Otherwise, it is just a grin and bear it thing for the first few weeks.

  8. Becky on April 21st, 2008 1:32 pm

    NO MASCARA….I was a sobbing mess from the moment we got into the car to leave home until well after I got to work…racoon eyes would have been the only thing to make it worse.

  9. Victoria on April 21st, 2008 2:15 pm

    Holy crap you tattooed your own hand? Nooooo.

  10. Victoria on April 21st, 2008 2:17 pm

    Oh, and maybe make a tape of all the screaming and play it to yourself just before you drop him off to remind you of the… er, sanity of work?

  11. Megan on April 21st, 2008 2:29 pm

    I found it easiest to have my husband drop her off at daycare. Way less emmotional to hand her off to Dad then to take her myself to daycare. Although I think it all involves a certain amount of tears.

  12. NancyB on April 21st, 2008 2:38 pm

    I was always happy at work but happy to be home. My son was happy to be playing with other kids where ever he was and happy to see us at the end of the day. And we we together all night and weekend so it was really win-win. It probably helped that I wasn’t a neat freak or anything and my husband did most of the cooking!

  13. nonsoccermom on April 21st, 2008 2:41 pm

    I started back to work in March after my second child’s birth at the end of December. I was able to ease into it with 1/2 days for the first few weeks, and I guess it helped the transition because the first full day back was not bad at all. It is hard to think of my sweet little baby being cared for by someone else, but I know this is what is best for me and our family. And it is wonderful to see her smile at me when I pick her up at 5:00. No words of wisdom, I guess I’m just saying it won’t be as bad as you think…

  14. Katie (The Yap) on April 21st, 2008 2:44 pm

    I HATE returning from visits with grandparents. The next week just positively sucks as my toddler thinks the world revolves solely around her and I seem to think I should have more than 30 seconds to myself, dammit. The world revolves around ME, right? No? Shit. It totally takes a village. Do you know of any villages where we can move? That don’t involve wearing weird prairie dresses and french braids with weird poufs in front?

    I don’t have any words of wisdom about returning from maternity leave, but you’ve done it once before. So, I’m hoping the second time won’t be nearly as hard. Frankly, I’m jealous. It sounds like a relief in many ways.

  15. andi on April 21st, 2008 3:17 pm

    I go back on June 2, so I know of this ambivalence of which you speak. I’m so excited to go back – I really do go out of my mind at home all day, but yes, I love my kids and I know I’ll also miss them like crazy. I’m just so grateful that the daycare I have them in is like an extended family that I trust completely to look after them. My daughter is already asking when she gets to go back and play with her friends.

    If you figure out a way to make it easy-peasy and guilt-free, let me know. Oh, and good luck!

  16. All Adither on April 21st, 2008 3:48 pm

    I often wonder if I’ve chosen wrong by staying home with my kids. There are too many times when I’m STRAINING to be away from them. And I don’t think that’d be the case (so much) if I worked. But then, who the hell would get all the household crap done?

    I do think it takes a village. In a lot of ways, we’ve got it all wrong here in America. But, imagine trying to co-parent with your own family if they didn’t agree with you.

  17. Lesley on April 21st, 2008 3:54 pm

    Ah, the guilt about not feeling guilt is like a layer cake made of different shades of sh*t. Different ingredients go into it but it all tastes the same. As long as Baby has a good care giver, someone who really loves him up and tends to him, I don’t see the problem. A long time ago (when I was 18) I was a nanny for a little boy whose mom was a busy film maker. I moved in and for all intents and purposes became mom. He was 4 when I started and while he missed his mother, he and I were became very bonded and I dearly loved and too great responsibility for that child as if he’d been my own. We had a ball together. Kids need love, period. (Today he’s a successful tattoo artist who owns numerous cars and motorcycles. I hope this doesn’t signify failure…heh, I was sort of hippyish at the time!) And believe me, she was absent 24/7 a lot of the time. You’re going to be absent a few days a week at most. If the care is good, and you can rely on it, Dylan will be fine.

  18. Jacqueline on April 21st, 2008 5:01 pm

    My solution was to move to Canada (from Australia). Here I got 12 months of paid (by the fed. gov. & my employer) mat leave. Leaving a 12 month in someone else’s hands is a lot more comfortable to me than a – what 3 month old?

    I can’t believe women have to return to work while their kids are so young there. It is quite inhumane, actually, no matter how much you love your job.

    Incidentally, I hated my 12 month mat leave; reasons of tedium, boredom, etc, as you describe and probably would have been happy going back a lot earlier if not for me wanting to do What Was Best For The Child.

  19. Sundry on April 21st, 2008 5:14 pm

    I saw a 12-month-old go through the worst adjustment period ever (crying for days on end, refusing to eat, etc) when he started going to daycare after being at home for a year. Riley never had that problem, because he started young, and he was in fantastic care the whole time.

    My belief is that if I’m unhappy, I’m not providing the best home environment I would otherwise. I don’t think there’s one definition of What’s Best For the Child.

  20. Nancy on April 21st, 2008 5:45 pm

    I thought for sure I wanted to stay at home when our twins were born. By the time they were 5.5 months old, I was chomping at the bit for my 6 months of maternity leave to be up! It takes a different kind of mom to be a SAHM, and I admire them greatly! But I found out pretty quickly that I do much better working (part time for the time being) and then coming home to babies. I felt a little sick for the first day the sitter watched them (and I sat at her kitchen table trying to do work, yet being available in case she needed me… and felt sicker when she DIDN’T need me, and THEY didn’t need me). But that didn’t last long – I cherish my morning time with them, am happy to drop them off in good hands, and then can’t wait to get them at the end of the day. Then DH and I get a little more time with them to play and cuddle, before baths, bottles and bedtime.

    Now that our sitter is expecting twins of her own (!), I’m looking at daycares — now that may make me cry. But once I’m assured they’re in a good place in good hands, I think I’ll be back to where I am now.

    It’s hard to be a mom — WAHM, WOHM, or SAHM.

  21. nancy on April 21st, 2008 6:11 pm

    Isn’t the grass always greener? I am at home right now but am looking forward to some job action when it comes back my way (love being a nurse and miss it but want to stay at home while breastfeeding and oh, yeah, hubby is deployed for 7 months anyway). YES, sign me up for the village! Also, feel badly that I’m not a “better” SAHM (guilt guilt), i.e. don’t have make believe trips to the zoo with all the stuffed animals or elaborate crafts…frankly, haven’t even read the almost 7 month old a single book yet and I’m quite sure with the 2.5 yr old I was at it by the second or third day at home! Ah, how things change with baby #2…You are absolutely entitled to ALL of your mixed feelings–I totally agree that the best mom to those boys is the mom who likes herself and is happy with what she does!

  22. Emily on April 21st, 2008 6:20 pm

    I don’t know anything about Daycare Anxiety, but I suspect that ice cream will help. Oooh! And also, going shopping for something awesome to wear that first day back. Maybe that will cheer you up the tiniest of bits after you drop them off? Knowing that you look GOOOOOOD walking back in to that office?

    And that concludes the Idiot portion of this comment program. BECAUSE I REALLY HAVE NO IDEA YET I AM STILL TYPING.

  23. Joanne on April 21st, 2008 6:20 pm

    I agree with you Linda, it is different for every family. I am an unhappy SAHM, to a certain extent anyway. The SAHM job sucks a lot of the time, imo, but I am hoping that the sacrifice will pay off for our family in the long run. I don’t think that SAHM’s are really built to be SAHM’s any more than WOHM’s or any other kind fit perfectly into their situation. The fact is, it is a hard freaking job, harder than being a dad, because there are societal pressures on us to … do something – stay home, go to work, bring home the bacon, never let him forget he’s a man, etc. I struggle with it all the time but it gets easier for me when I stop thinking of everyone else’s expectations and situations. I just try and think about MY family and MY kids and go from there.

    And I feel you on the naps with the baby – my girl takes like 10 naps a day, I feel like that’s all that I do!

    Good luck in the next two weeks – I’m sure it will work out well. I am sometimes jealous of how well Riley has done in daycare. He is close to my son’s age and he has separation anxiety that is not to be believed!

  24. Lesley on April 21st, 2008 6:53 pm

    Hey Linda, you are bang on about it being harder for kids to adjust to alternate care when they are older. If kids are exposed early to various care givers whether they are family members or not, they get used to other people and learn to bond and trust others. The most important thing is having someone you trust to provide the care that should be given. I imagine Dylan will be fine (and who could resist that little face? If I were his caregiver he’d be punching me to leave him alone for five seconds!)

    I can also attest to this as a good friend of mine once left her two year old in my care when she needed a night off (and this kid had never been in anyone else’s care ever from the time she’d been born). Thankfully I had the skills to handle her fury and her anguish. She tried to bang her head against a window and threatened to throw herself out of another one. She yelled “I hate you” over and over and what I ended up having to do was a) tell her I would never leave her alone or let her hurt herself even if she hated me and b) that I remembered what it was like to be 2 and have mommy go out and how bad I felt. In seconds all of her rage melted and she asked me for details about being two and being mad at my mom. So I made up a long story that echoed her own and after that I told her she could keep crying if she wanted because I knew how hard it was OR we could have ice cream and read a story. She picked the latter. I also told her it was OK to be mad at her mom sometimes, that it didn’t mean she didn’t love her (something children that young don’t know).

    That kid should have had exposure to other people well in advance. (Incidentally, she never forgot the story and every time I saw her she’d bring it up and whisper “I still get mad at my mom sometimes AND I love her.”

  25. kristylynne on April 21st, 2008 6:55 pm

    It does take a village. Or at least a grandparent you get along with and who lives nearby, combined with a Mother’s Day Out program 2-3 days a week. Works for me, anyway.

    I’m lucky, I guess, since I freelance and work from home. Now, people seem to think that means I work while my CHILD is also home, but, uh, no. He’s 2 1/2 and a ball of fire. No work gets done when he’s around. So I’ve had to farm him out a bit.

    As much as I know that I’m lucky to have a good-paying, at-home, part-time job, I hate that I never seem to have time for anything other than work and full-contact parenting. It would be nice to also have a clean house, home-cooked meals, etc. but I seem to suck at all that.

    It’s been suggested that maybe I could fit more into the day if I’d give up my evening martini in front of NBC Nightly News? No can do.

    Good luck to you, Linda. I am sure the first day will be simultaneously blissful and incredibly hard. But it will get better once you get back into your groove.

  26. Annie on April 21st, 2008 7:30 pm

    I work, and I like it. I think it makes me appreciate my time with my daughter more. What seems strange to me is the societal pressure to hate working and be a mom. Why not enjoy both? Why do people assume that you hate being at work just because you have a child? I wasn’t taking care of myself when I was on maternity leave. I never left the house, and I rarely washed my face. I was a wreck. Now that I’m back at work, I’m me again, with the added benefit of having a cute little girl and a new appreciation for life. Just like we all make different decisions about where to shop, what color to paint our walls, and what to make for dinner, we all make different decisions for our families. We all do our best. But for some reason, we judge each other when it comes to parenting decisions. Shame on us!

    Enough ranting – Linda, my advice is to remind yourself of the reasons that you want to work. Think about what value it adds to your life, even if it something simple like time for your back to recover or time to use the ladies’ room by yourself. Definitely focus on the positive.

    P.S. I love your blog!

  27. Laura on April 21st, 2008 7:52 pm

    Can I just say that you’re an amazing mom (and no, I’m not trying to blow sunshine up your a*s!) and it sounds like you know exactly what you want – not that it’s always going to be easy, but remind yourself that you are being true to you – that’s all that matters. And in a weird sort of way, you’re teaching your boys that they need to be true to themselves too.

    Oh, and when you start to feel guilty about not feeling guilty, serve up a big ‘ol piece of Lesley’s “Different Shades of Sh*t” layercake :)

  28. Meagan on April 21st, 2008 8:15 pm

    That tattoo story is the coolest (in a kind of messed up way) school days story I’ve ever heard.

  29. sooboo on April 21st, 2008 9:08 pm

    So what was the tattoo? Anarchy sign? Teardrop? Smile Surfer Style?

  30. Anonymous on April 22nd, 2008 4:34 am

    I am going to delurk for a moment.
    I live in Canada, and here the Government pays Unemployment Benefits (along with your employer) for ONE YEAR of maternity leave. Also your employer MUST hold your job for one year…I am always surprised to hear that in the U.S. there are NO maternity/paternity benefits for mothers and fathers…Good luck with daycare…I’m sure you are doing what you have to do, and things will work out OK.

  31. Melissa on April 22nd, 2008 4:51 am

    You are doing what’s best for you & your family…you are a better momma for it. No matter what you do, you question it but that’s the drill, right? I’m about to give birth to my 2nd and I’ve got all that anxiety you had a few months ago. But you already jumped over that hurdle – just keep up the good work. And think of the explosive diapers you will miss while enjoying a little coffee break at work! ;)

  32. Ang on April 22nd, 2008 6:14 am

    What was the tattoo? I had a peace sign on my ankle (done with a bottle of india ink and a needle) What WERE we thinking?

    Also, on the whole going back to work issue? I went back when my girl was 6 weeks old. I had to, my boss wouldn’t hold my job any longer. It sucked and I cried, but my girl is now 10 years old and when I pick her up from daycare, I still can smile and honestly tell her I missed her.

    BTW-having a child care provider you already know and trust already knocks half the misery out of the park!

  33. Amy M. on April 22nd, 2008 6:46 am

    Good luck with the return to work. After my 12 weeks, my hubby’s taking 12, so the transition will be easier on me, knowing Squidlet will be with Daddy when I return to work. (Or maybe it should worry me more – ha!) With my 1st, I remember being horrendously bored around 6 weeks & wanting to go back to work, but at 11 weeks, desperately wanting more time. And I hear you on the guilt! I think US maternity/paternity benefits are some of the worst of the “developed” world (based solely on ancedote, no research), but if we want to stay in the house we love, I must trudge on!

  34. Chris on April 22nd, 2008 7:32 am

    I went back to work and felt guilty for leaving my son. I’m home now with 2 more kids and feel guilty because I think I ‘should be doing more’ with them since I’m home now. The guilt is always there. So be happy. They’ll be great. Good luck!

  35. Audrey on April 22nd, 2008 8:44 am

    I totally agree about the ease of a child who has been in daycare for a long time – in our case, since she was nearly four months old – versus starting them at an older age. Who cried the first few times she was dropped off at daycare? Mommy, that’s who! My daughter is now 13.5 months old and we’ve never had issues with dropping her off – she’s excited to see her friends at daycare and excited to see me when I go to pick her up. We have friends who have not used daycare and while he’s fine with one other baby/toddler around, he is totally overwhelmed otherwise – and they are thinking of doing daycare a few times a week just to alleviate this. It’s strange: there are days when I can’t wait to get to work and there are days when I can hardly wait to pick my daughter up. I don’t think I could be a SAHM 100% – I would need some time to be childless and chatting with other adults, too. Good luck, Linda!!

  36. McCashew on April 22nd, 2008 9:00 am

    Already??? Try to plan a special last day together. I really enjoyed taking Caroline to the zoo on our last official day together. I don’t think there is anything that will make it easier, except maybe the support of all us strangers out here. I’ve only done it with one, so I cannot relate completely to what you are going through, but I imagine that having done it once before is both a blessing and a curse. No matter what you do you will feel guilty because the instant babies are born the guilt switch is automatically switched to on and I don’t think it ever gets turned off. GOOD LUCK! We’re here.

  37. Andrea on April 22nd, 2008 11:21 am

    I cried the first day back at work. I have complete and utter faith in my babysitters (especially after yesterday when they literally saved my 3 month old daughter from choking to death on strangely thick spit-up the consistency of glue and we ended up at the hospital with no explanation for what caused the problem, only a specialist referral and some antibiotics to decrease the mucous in her airways) and I know they take good care of the kids in their home.

    It still hurt to walk away, empty pumpkin seat base in the backseat mocking me as I backed out of their driveway.

    After about a week, it got lots easier, and has become routine. I am thankful for them every day that they do take such good care of my kids, so I can do my job and get the paycheck that my family needs to make ends meet.

    Every family is different. This one is mine. I work to make ends meet, but I think I’d like working anyway if I were rich beyond measure. I am a much more patient mommy when I can have a few hours to think stuff other than kid stuff. I’m not cut out for staying home with the kids, though that doesn’t stop me from wishing I could give it a try without the bank foreclosing on our house.

  38. K on April 22nd, 2008 11:26 am

    I go back to work after having #2 about a week after you do. My plan is to spend the week before with both babies hime alone, which may be enough to drive me back into the office.

  39. K on April 22nd, 2008 11:26 am

    I go back to work after having #2 about a week after you do. My plan is to spend the week before with both babies home alone, which may be enough to drive me back into the office.

  40. Wendy on April 22nd, 2008 1:50 pm

    I go back tomorrow after having my first child and I’m dreading it. All I have to say is…I should’ve moved to Canada!

  41. Dawn on April 22nd, 2008 2:26 pm

    The worst thing for me about going back to work when my daughter was 3 months old was all the people sticking their heads into my office asking how I was dooooooing (“you pooooor thing” was implied), because, honestly? I was FINE. I trusted the daycare (which has turned out to be a wise choice, since WOW does she ever love that place, and they love her) from the first, so the fact that I got to talk to adults and eat at least one hot meal and do crazy sh*t like oh, ANSWER EMAILS and SURF THE NET during an actual LUNCH BREAK? Heaven!!

    I’m sure there are people here at my office that think I’m an absolute ogre for not being more bothered about not staying home with the kiddo, but that whole return-to-work period just reassured me that I’d be a terrible SAHM, so I honestly don’t lose any sleep over what they may think. And kiddo’s daycare has turned out to be such an incredible experience for her that even if I *were* to become a SAHM, she’d most likely continue to go there. Yes, seriously.

    Weaning her while I was back at work (because honestly? Thinking I could continue to pump when my job requires random travel? PAAAHAhAHAHAha.) blew, but I was able to do it pretty quickly, so not a huge deal. And you’ve already got that part taken care of, so bonus!

  42. Jacqueline on April 22nd, 2008 6:14 pm


    I was not saying there is only one “What Is Best For Child”. I was merely stating that I gritted my teeth and bared it for 12 months of mat. leave because I wanted the chance to get to know my baby. At 3 months old, my baby just seemed too fragile to leave with a caregiver who has to care for several at once. I did have him minded twice a week for several hours (one on one) so I could do housework etc. So he had been away from me. He had no problem beginning daycare at 12 months. I had no problem saying goodbye.

    One added point (not relevant in your situation, though)In my case, I breastfed until my son was 9 months and so for me that would have been a huge pain to go back to work before that. I feel for working women in the US who have to pump. Ack!

  43. Lori O on April 23rd, 2008 1:56 pm

    Feeling guilty for not feeling guilty about returning to work? THAT’S ME! I love my baby but I love my work. And I think I’m a better mom because of it. It makes me cherish every moment that I’m home with her.

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