When my baby’s nanny told me that I’m the only new mom she’s EVER known who cry on day one back at the office following maternity leave, part of me felt a tinge of pride. But a MUCH bigger part of me secretly wondered if I loved my daughter enough.
Walking to the subway on day two as a working mom, I pictured a black heart emoji Pinned to my person, lingering above my head at all times as I went about the business of achieving some semblance of work-life balance.
Certainly, something must be wrong with me if I was able to skip the crying portion of returning to work after giving birth. Why the fuck didn’t I break down as I bid my little love bug good-bye? Why wasn’t I moved to tears by her clueless coos in response to my explanation that mama would be back in about 10 hours? Why didn’t it disturb me that this would be the longest stretch we’d EVER spent apart? That I would have to pump in place of feeding her from my breast for the next several hours? That I wouldn’t know how many times she’d pooped until the nanny told me later on? That I wouldn’t know if she’d finally figured out how to suck her thumb unless I received a text telling me as much?
The truth is, three months into motherhood, I was already eager to reclaim a slice of my former life.
In fact, my decision to return to work involved less than zero internal torment. While the time I’d spent nurturing my daughter around the clock during her first few weeks of life were filled with countless treasured memories, if anything, maternity leave confirmed that being a stay-at-home mom was not the right path for me.
As my official start date approached, I grew more and more excited about the prospect of an 8 to 10 hour stretch five days a week to do the work that fulfills me. Also exciting? The idea of engaging regularly with other potty-trained humans fluent in English, peeing without cradling a baby simultaneously, and feeding myself whenever the hell I pleased! I knew that my daughter was in good hands with the nanny I’d hired after interviewing a slew of candidates. And I knew that working—and maintaining a sliver of my pre-baby identity—was the best possible choice for my mental wellbeing.
Of course I miss my little girl at certain points throughout the workday. I long to hold her and to stare at her smiley, toothless face at least hourly. But I definitely haven’t experienced anything close to emotional trauma while away from her, and I haven’t shed a single tear.
And guess what? That’s okay!
I am not a black heart emoji simply because I happen to relish my time away from home. Without a doubt, I love my job AND my baby. I’m the fucking pink heart with the gold sparkles dancing around it, even if I have to keep reminding myself that there’s no “right” way to be a mom.
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