When I returned to work after maternity leave, I cried. I cried when we dropped him off, I cried when we picked him up and they told me my 3-month-old had only eaten an ounce in eight hours, I cried when I realized I’d forgotten his lovey at home. However, I did not cry when I went to work and realized that I had just consumed an entire cup of coffee, in its entirety, while it was still hot. I did not cry when I had conversations with people who did not poop their pants on the regular. I did not cry when I was able to competently pick up the old, familiar rhythms of my job after a few months at home.
Fast forward, and my son is now 2 years old. He has been in daycare five days a week since he was 3 months old, and now? HE cries when I pick him up at the end of the day because he is having so much fun.
He’s come a long way since those first few days, and so have I. I’ll admit that it was a tough transition back to the office, plagued by a whole lot of daycare crud-variety illnesses – but week by week, it got better. And you know what nobody ever tells you? We thrived — both of us.
I’m not stay-at-home-mom material. My figurative hat is off to those who are — but on my maternity leave, I was bored, and isolated, and watched far too many episodes of the terrifically terrible “Long Island Medium.” I love the ritual of going to work — the morning trips through the Starbucks drive-through, the business trips to weird corners of America, the same phone calls over and over. I love the actual meat and potatoes of what I do every day, even though it might bore other people to tears.
Similarly … my son is happy there, too. He adores being around gobs of other children and activity. At 2, he has a better social life than I do. He spouts off things like his colors, in Spanish (what?), that I’m pretty sure I never would have even thought to teach him. He loves taking weekly gymnastics classes, and hugging his friends and teachers every morning. He loves saying goodbye to Nigel the pet chinchilla every night and pointing out his artwork on the wall.
So here’s my message to you, the new mom on maternity leave that aches at the thought of leaving her baby to head back to the office: give it a chance. Prepare yourself for what might be a rocky transition rife with boogers and sideways comments from total strangers. But remember: it takes a village to raise a child — let daycare be your village. Ask the teachers with years of experience for advice, make friends with the other moms and dads at pickup, learn the names of the other kids, stay and chat with the director whenever you have a chance. Embrace your new family and grow with them.
It’ll be okay. I promise. 🙂