As you can guess from the title of this article, this is not going to be me reminiscing about the beautiful year I spent at home with my daughter, in fact it’s about going back to work a mere 2 short months after she was born, dealing with the separation and the very active and very real mom guilt felt on a daily basis.
So a little bit of background here – I am a first time mom, I’m 28 years old, my daughter Lily was born in December 2019 and my partner Chris and I are still very much in the thick of it when it comes to the new parent/new baby game. Every day as soon as we think we are just crushing it as parents, Lily develops some new skill to test our abilities, currently it’s crawling and pulling herself up (yes our nerves are shattered at this point).
Before going back to work 4 months ago I was very brazenly excited because after being confined in a house with a newborn for 3 months I honestly missed feeling like my own person and not just a giant walking milk sack.
The Sunday before I was going back to work I was packing my bag and getting my outfit ready when the reality hit me. It was over. Spending every day enjoying all the snuggles and beautiful moments with my baby was now a thing of the past and we would be resigned to evenings and weekends. Of course as any sleep deprived anxious new mom would, I proceeded to spiral down a viciously emotional tirade of screaming at Chris because I didn’t have even one item of clothing to wear tomorrow (I in fact, had many). After many tears and screams from my side, the always-annoying-cracking-jokes Chris worked his charm again to break the tension and make me realize how psychotic I was being.
At 5:30am Monday morning my alarm went off. There was no time to laze around – this was gonna be an intense day. My first day of full time pumping, first day back at work, feeling like an emotional wreck running on about 3 hours of sleep, and no idea if I even knew how to do my job anymore…I couldn’t even remember the password to my computer… Luckily we had Lily’s grandpa to babysit as both Chris and I had jobs to attend and she was still too small for any kind of daycare service.
So this was the first of many days, where I followed this schedule:
5:30AM – Wake up and pump
6AM – Shower and get ready
7:30AM – Breastfeed the baby while I stare at her and question how I could leave her
8AM – Start work
10AM – Rush to pump out in the office bathroom
12PM – Sit in my car and cry because I am a horrible mom for not being with my baby
2PM – Rush to pump out in the office bathroom (again)
5PM – Drive home like a maniac because she obviously missed me as much as I missed her
5 – 7PM – Breastfeed the baby to make up for the day we missed together
7PM – Bath the baby
7:15 – 8PM – Breastfeed baby to sleep
8PM – Have a few bites of food and pass out in bed
Wake up anywhere between 2 – 6 times at night. Then start the fun all over again.
Looking back at those first few weeks, they all blurred together in this repetitive cycle of chastising myself for being a working mom, feeling inferior that I wasn’t able to get more done in a day (some days a shower was my biggest accomplishment), feeling insecure because my body had decided to wait till now to grow stretch marks and just some general exhaustion with a little dash of postpartum depression for fun.
Then COVID-19 entered the mix. A global pandemic, horrible news across the globe, fear, anxiety… and then there was me, supremely excited because this meant being able to work from home and spend more time with Lily and the added bonus of not having to pump every few hours…score!
I was lucky enough to be able to work from home and Chris was now going to be a stay-at- home dad for the time that we were in lockdown so he would watch the baby while I sat working away at my laptop with intermittent feeding breaks. We spent a month like this, confined to our home unable to go out anywhere or have visitors…honestly a new parent’s dream.
Things I learned during that month:
- Working at home with a 3 month old – would not recommend
- Confined to a house with a 3 month old – ensure adequate wine levels
- Babies do not care if you are in a meeting – hunger needs to be satisfied
- Sleep deprivation and postpartum hit double as hard when in lockdown
- Be careful what you wish for…
We settled into our new normal after that first month. Due to the new economic climate, Chris didn’t have a job to go back to so it was official he was now going to be a stay- at-home dad. I was thrilled because of course we were the only two people on earth who could look after our daughter in the way we felt she deserved, and I could stay focused at work because I knew she was in the best hands possible.
Now here’s something google doesn’t tell you about the working mom vs stay-at-home dad relationship…. jealousy rears it’s very ugly head about absolutely anything. The first few days were great, we settled into a nice routine day-to-day, I got cute pictures and updates and everything was just sunshine and roses for a while. Then one day I came home, picked Lily up in the middle of a crying spell that was just inconsolable…until her dad picked her up and she was instantly calmed. I could have ripped his eyes out! How dare he be the one that now had the magic touch of calming her down! I was her mother, her creator, I endured labour to bring her into this world and she calmed down for him?? What labour had he endured that I had missed? * Insert another emotional breakdown*
I often found myself feeling jealous of him in the following months even for the smallest things…she would now be taking her daily naps in his arms, he would be the first to see her newest little quirk each day, he would be the one to kiss the boo-boo’s away. He was becoming the favourite, and I was just fading into the background as the milk-producer, the part time mama, now number 2 in her eyes. As we can see, postpartum can come in all shapes and sizes.
One day as I sat contemplating ways as to how I could quit my job so I could calm my never-ending mom guilt, I stumbled on an Instagram post of a single mom raising twins. I can’t remember exactly what that post said, but I remember thinking to myself “Jeez – could you be more ungrateful for what you have?” And then it was like my jealousy goggles fell off and all the negativity just melted away and I saw the situation for what it really was.
As much as I was jealous of Chris for all my reasons, he was envious of me for others. I got to go out into society and have a productive day where his successes were long naps or meals finished. I had the freedom to go and make a cup of coffee and actually drink it while it was still hot where his world was determined by the distance from which he could still see the baby. I got to see and talk to other people whilst he got incoherent screams and diaper blow-outs.
As the old saying goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side” – which should actually say “the grass is greener where you water it.”
Being a parent is hard, and there really is no guide book to prepare you for some of the emotions you will feel, but it is also single handedly one of the most rewarding, fulfilling and beautiful experiences you can have in life.
What I know now is that I couldn’t be the mom or even the person I am today, without Chris’s support, for the sacrifice he is willing to make by putting his wants and needs second to that of our daughter and for loving me enough to never once make me feel like I had to choose between a career I loved or my family – he gave me both. I admire him in that he faces each game of peek-a-boo with equal excitement even if it is the 27th round of the day.
I am jealous of my partner and the bond he has with our beautiful girl, but damn it what a privileged position that is to be in. I am okay with being the second favourite knowing that he is number 1 – because he deserves it.