A day on the calendar that got crossed off not too long ago marked the three month mark of my return to work. I even got a “Congrats on making it 90 days!” email from my the job I started once my maternity leave was over. The need to celebrate feels appropriate as this hasn’t been the easiest or smoothest transition.
Compared to other developed nations, the maternity leave standards in the United States are pretty barbaric. Just as I was settling into a good routine and starting to enjoy the mom life, I had to figure out how my career fit into the picture. I had a brand new, very promising, job opportunity that I was grateful for…but I was also nervous and a little guilty over the reality that I would be throwing my energy into an entity other than the home.
I lamented for many days over how women were forced to choose between their family and their career…and about how vicious the judgement is whether a woman stays home with the kids, or works full time, or tries to balance both. I hear it everywhere,
“She could have been something. At least now she has it easy at home.”
“She can’t possibly give her kids the kind of attention they need with that job.”
The lip pursing. The head shaking.
I will be the first to admit I’m guilty.
There is no perfect lifestyle that all mothers must aspire to. Yet we are consumed by a social media culture that tells us otherwise.
I’ve spoken with great, false, confidence about my life choices – all the while looking for affirmation from my peers. And when another’s were so very different, I could not help but feel threatened.
Sigh. It’s exhausting.
All of these thoughts were constantly spinning in my head as I trekked to and from work, pumped in treatment rooms, washed bottles and made new ones for the next day upon returning home when I just really wanted to collapse on the couch. In the beginning, I missed my old job a lot – not necessarily because it was so great, but because it was so familiar, like a second home. I also freaked out constantly over Things I Could Not Get Done (this has now become an official running list and therefore deserves the status of a proper noun). I worried over how Z was doing with my parents and got a little sad every time I came home too late to put her to bed. Everything around me seemed too, too new and unfamiliar.
I read a lot of articles and heard people tell me that the sense of mourning was normal during big life transitions. The sense of loss I felt over all that had passed and my slowness to warm to my new circumstances were not unique. Validation was sweet. It was nice to know I was not the only one with misgivings about the working-new-mom life chapter.
Yet there was so much more to this season. It really feels wrong to write it off as simply a transition period, to focus on only the sad parts. Or the parts in which I felt like a total, unglued mess. In all honesty, there were a lot of really, really wonderful parts.
Vlad and I am blessed with an amazing childcare arrangement with my parents, so much so that I never truly have to wonder if Z is OK. She’s better than OK with them.
My new job has led to an incredible expansion of my skillset as a nurse over the past months and has also allowed me to meet some phenomenal people. I am challenged with the work I do, look forward to my days there, all while simultaneously still working “normal” hours and not coming home totally wrung out as I did when I was with the Emergency Department.
I have been challenged by the lack of free time that is suddenly present in my life and am therefore learning to be very intentional with the hours I am given. Having Zoya has opened my eyes to how precious time is and how quickly it passes. I consider this a blessing because it is definitely possible to go through all of life and not have this realization until its very end.
There is a very fine line between acknowledging a season of mourning and wallowing in self-pity.
It is easy to move from being real to being real bitter.
I confess that I have enjoyed a good wallow on more than one occassion. Now I want to choose joy. I want to savor it all, even the not-so-sweet parts. I certainly want to find better ways to spend my time than playing endless comparison games or agonizing over my life choices.
This season has been a kind of non-stop merry go round but looking back at it via this post, I can confidently say that I’m not mad about it. Some days have left me entirely exhausted…but also in awe of the wonder that Z is, of the strong teamwork that Vlad and I have developed over the past months and how it has strengthened our marriage, and also of just how much I can handle when earnestly drawing on strength from the Lord. A poor attitude can contribute to exhaustion just as much as a busy day can, if not more, so I am learning to let go of the little stuff and take the crazy in stride.
So when people ask me how being a working mom is going, I’m going to be honest and say that it’s really freaking hard. And there are days I want to quit it all (not just the working part). But hard is not synonymous with bad, or wrong or remorse. Going back to work has been far from a regrettable choice. Assuming the title of both Mom and Registered Nurse simultaneously has been the catalyst to professional and personal growth that I would not have seen otherwise. I am very interested to see what is in store for the family as Zoya gets older and I establish myself with my current company.
As I am writing this, I am laughing out loud over picturing myself as the Disney cartoon Pocahontas in her canoe, having braved the rapids and waterfall, majestically waiting to see what’s around the river bend. Except in real life I am probably closer to Meeko the raccoon…dark circles around the eyes, constantly looking for snacks, and always getting into some sort of situation. Oh well.
More calendar days will get crossed off. I don’t know what’s next but I’m sort of eagerly anticipating whatever it is while also relishing the now. It’s a pretty sweet little spot.