back and gone: life after a maternity leave.


After ten short weeks at home with our third and final child, I made my way back into the classroom this week. I was greeted by hugs and smiles and the most genuine welcome backs, as only a child can give. I love my career. I am passionate about what I do. This is my tenth year in the classroom and each year presents new challenges that help me grow as an educator and a person. I love the challenge and need the growth.

Before we had children and even before I met my spouse, my classroom was my home and my students were my family. When I think about what I am going to do be doing with my life in ten years, being in education is a huge part of that picture. An educator is one word that strongly defines me.

However, now, it is only one of the words that defines me. I now also hold the titles of wife and mother. Being the wife of another educator, the need for balance was not as prevalent. We spoke the same language and have similar work experiences. In fact, our common careers is one of the things that so closely bonded us. Being a mother though, that is a completely different story.


I am gone now for most of my children’s waking hours. Lucky for us, our kids don’t sleep well at night, so I get some mama time then. But really, I am gone now. I see them briefly in the morning as we hustle to get everyone dressed, fed, put together, and out the door. I see them in the evening as we hustle to make dinner, eat, maybe take a bath, have some moment of family time, and then bedtime. Our weekends could be our family time, but also during this time we need to make sure that we are getting laundry done, groceries bought, pick up some things so that I do not completely lose my mind, and maybe clean a toilet.

This is the third time that I have come back from a maternity leave. This will be my last time. Maybe that is why it hurts more? My rational mind knows that we will be okay. I will still have incredible bonds with my children, even though my hours spent with them are few. However, my momma mind hurts and my heart is broken. I am overcome with mama’s guilt and fear that I am missing out on something amazing that I will forever regret.

We have had some extenuating circumstances this time as well, having just brought our little miss home from 4 days in the hospital with with RSV, to me reporting to work one day later. I feel like that trip home rewound time 10 weeks and we were bringing home our brand new baby girl again. All the same emotions flooded in. All the exhaustion overcame me. And this time there would be no time to process it. Add to the mix, two other children who unexpectedly went the longest they ever have without their mom and dad and who also developed the same icky cold, and whelp, we are just one good cry away from a serious melt-down.

I can’t help but feel like the message I am currently sending to my children is that I would rather make money and spend my time with other people, then to be there with them. I know this is not the intended message and really, they are not even capable of ever thinking this, but still, it sits heavy on my heart. I hope one day the message they feel is that their mom cares a lot about all children and wants to help all children feel love and success in being the very best versions of their individual selves.

I also know that we are incredibly blessed to send our children to the most loving of women and open-armed family, to take care of them when we are not there… and yet, my heart says, it should be me. I could list all the things that I feel I should be the one to do, but frankly, it makes me cry to even think of them.

The thing is though, I am not the first woman to have both a loving family and a career they are super passionate about. I am surrounded by incredible women, who, just like me, kiss their own children good-bye and leave them in the very capable hands of someone else, and come to our school, and dedicate their days in the hope that they can make an impact in the life of a child. That they can be the one to make a difference and maybe make a child who feels like they don’t belong, that in our classrooms they matter. I know this is my place. I feel that in my heart too when students who I have spent countless hours supporting and encouraging, experience any successes. I am grateful to be a piece of their childhood and find this to be such a privilege that I take very seriously.

In a recent sermon, our Pastor was talking about how God gives everyone a gift. It is their purpose and everyone has one. One person’s gift is not any better or more important than another, as they all have a role. I know in my heart that I am in the right place for me. I do not know that being a stay at home mom would be the right fit for me and I do not think that it is my gift. I am grateful for the women who have been gifted with the traits that make them wonderful stay at home moms. Many of my friends are incredible stay at home moms. Two of these women are the ones whom which I trust our babies with every day. They have a gift and are doing an amazing job with their purpose and following their hearts. But it is their gift, not mine. It doesn’t hurt any less right now though, you know, admitting that maybe being the one who does all the care taking isn’t your purpose. ouch. mom guilt. You have to become painfully honest with yourself sometimes. It is not that I cannot handle being the one who does all the care taking, its just that I do would also really struggle with leaving my career that I feel also has such a heavy purpose.

This is a working mom stay at home mom mom thing. Moms are always struggling with making sure they are doing what is best for their children and we often feel that we fall short. Have we made the right choice for what our family needs and that best fits who we truly are? That is a lot to grapple with.

I need to find a balance between the roles. I need to find my way in it all to be the wife, mother, teacher, friend, etc. that I want to be. I know there is a balance in it. My husband will feel my love, our children will feel my love, and my students will feel my belief in them. I have not found the balance yet. I know I will.

I am just not there yet.

My posts typically have a positive ending. I use writing and this blog as a way to process my thoughts, reflect on moments, and put things in perspective. This one is not going to end quite that way. I am not in the silver lining of it all yet. I am still heartbroken to leave my babies every day. I am still fighting back the tears and losing that battle. I know I will get to a good place with it all.

I am just not there yet.


A smack of reality to put things in perspective


Want to make God laugh?

Tell him your plans. -unknown

Two weeks ago I was planning my return to work, as my maternity leave was coming to an end.  I had been fortunate enough to have been home with our sweet little miss for 10 weeks… bonding and loving and caring and snuggling. I had created multiple to-do lists, nesting all over again, preparing for the moment when I would once again add the title of 1st grade teacher, to my already heavy load of responsibilities. I felt the pressure of the countdown and tried to make sure all our meals were healthy and planned, all the kids clothes were organized as they had changed sizes, my closet organized giving me some selection for my post-partum work attire, all while also trying to maintain a clean and organized home, adorned with freshly printed pictures of our three beautiful children.

I was getting myself worked up trying to plan everything to make for what I thought would be a smooth transition into our life with two working parents and three children.

 Then reality smacked our family in the face. 

January 12-Nate’s lively and beautifully spirited Aunt Bernie suffered a massive stroke.

January 13– Nate injured his foot in basketball practice, putting him on crutches.

January 18– Nate’s funny, loving, family oriented Aunt Bernie passed away. She was an incredible person, with loads of personality, and will be greatly missed by many. We immediately started to plan how we would orchestrate supporting the extended family without having our children take away from what support we would be offering. We decided that Nate would go with his parents on Friday to support the family during the visitation and funeral, while I stayed home with our young children.

January 19– Will and Collette go into the doctor as we notice a cough in Collette and a fever for Will. They are both given antibiotics to cover some bases, as Will’s ears were starting to look red. We were told the symptoms to look for in Collette that would warrant a trip to the ER.

January 20– Collette goes to the ER in the morning. She is put on oxygen and will have to be admitted. Being that we live in a rural community and only have a small hospital, the doctors have to decide whether to admit her to our hospital or transport her to a larger hospital over an hour away. After making a few calls and discussing staffing, the doctor decided to keep her in our town, as she will only need oxygen and monitoring. I was warned that if she did not show improvement or seemed to need more, we would have to be transported.

January 21– This is the day that I am supposed to be returning to work. My maternity leave is over. However, I did not return to work. I continued to hold our sweet girl. While still in the hospital, the doctors noticed that Collette was still having quite a bit of trouble with her breathing and that a bigger facility with more resources would be better for her. Nate immediately left work, packing bags for all 5 of our family members. Collette and I had our first ambulance ride, with Nate driving behind. My mom jumped on a plane, then shuttle, then car, to come help take care of Adeline and Will, so that we could focus on Collette. In the meantime, our amazing friend/daycare/nanny/super-hero kept the big kids overnight.

Upon arriving to the much larger hospital, we were taken to the pediatric wing, and there an even stronger dose of reality hit. Yes, our sweet girl is on oxygen and has cords hanging off her, and we are being escorted by EMTs, but we are grateful for where we are and that only this is our story. The rooms around us are dealing with much bigger issues.

Our sweet girl is given a full run down of tests and the support here is wonderful. The idea of her having Pertussis is presented, along with RSV (which had already been ruled out), and many other cold viruses. She is put on a liter of oxygen, after having another one of her bad coughing fits and breathing so hard that her chest is having large retractions.  We lay on makeshift chair/beds and listen for her wheezes and the sounds of the monitors. And then we wait.

January 22now. Our sweet girl is still having coughing fits, but she also has great periods of sleep, like this one.  She still isn’t drinking her milk, but slams her Pediolyte. This means she still does not need an IV. This is a success. The doctors say we will probably be here for a couple more days, until she does not need any oxygen at all. She gets nebulizer treatments about every 2 hours to help her feel more comfortable. The test results came back and it is not Pertussis, another success.

The rest of our Lindner side of the family is heading to Wisconsin to honor Bernie and her life. We will be here, in our girl’s hospital room. Everything is on pause right now, while we wait for our girl to breath smoothly on her own again.

So, we wait and we listen and now, I reflect. Our room is right next to the doctors’ desks. There is a medical student and a few residents, so they are often talking about different cases and how to best support anonymous patients. Their conversations are another reminder that we have it very easy here. Very.

As a baby size NICU bed goes rolling by, I am reminded that we can hold our sweet girl and she is sleeping in a very basic hospital crib, without a need for places to hook large monitors to and hang bags from.

As I hear about a child whose face hit the glass in a car accident, covered in stitches, and broken bones, I am reminded that our little girl will leave here with no trace of this stay.

While each person who enters our room has to dress up in a yellow gown and a face mask, I am reminded that they are protecting another child down the hall, who is battling Cancer and receiving chemotherapy, from the simple cold virus our child has.

As I hear the patient care coordinator discuss the transition back to home-care for another child and what will be needed for his trach, I am reminded that our little miss will breathe on her own in just a few days, without ever needing such drastic interventions.

Our sweet little girl will be fine. We are fine.  And all those things that I wanted to get done and was frantically stressing to do, will not get done before I return to work, and that will be just fine.

We have an incredible “village” helping us raise our family. People dropped everything to support us:

  • The friend who brought Collette a sleep sack that I thought would help her sleep when we were still in town.
  • The friend/family who kept our children overnight, loving them, cleaning up Will’s throw up from coughing and staying up all night with him as he battled the same cold our sweet girl has. Then took our sweet boy to the doctor, helped him through his first chest x-ray, picked up his medicine, and loved him like her own.
  • The doctor who called while we were in the ambulance to check on us and has been continuously checking on us to make sure we are ok.
  • The mom who flew across country, rode a shuttle for 3 hours, and rented a car to watch our children, so that we can stay with our girl. (And the brother who told her to and the dad who didn’t hesitate to help make it happen.)
  • The sister-in-law who watched videos of our girly, letting us know it was time to go to the ER.
  • The other family, who still continued their plans to go to the funeral that we had been planning to have Nate attend, as we would not want our situation to change the chance for the family to love and support one another through the loss of an amazing woman.
  • The co-workers who stepped right in so that Nate could leave work to follow the ambulance.
  • The endless number of family and friends who called, texted, emailed, prayed, and offered their love and support.
  • The nurses, nurses aids, doctors, custodial staff, EMTs, cafeteria staff, respiratory therapist, child life staff, and nutritionist who have gone above and beyond to make sure our little miss is supported in the best of ways.

It truly does take a “village” to get through this life and wow, did ours show up when we needed them to.

In just a few days, we will return home and life will continue. The same cannot be said for all the other families here. Many of the families’ visit to this hospital was either as a result of a terrifying, life altering diagnosis, or a tragic accident. Perspective.

We have learned so much in these past two weeks, but three things strongly resinate:

  1. We are stronger than we think we are and can get through a lot more than we think
  2. We need a strong support system and we are very blessed to have one
  3.  We have gained a new perspective for what rough/challenges/struggles really are

and maybe learning these lessons was the plan.

When everything seems to be falling apart, it is God putting things together just the way He wants it.

Hand prints on the windows…

“Enjoy all these moments.

You will miss these moments one day.”

You hear this, you feel this, your heart hurts because you know it is true, and yet you just cannot take hearing it anymore. It makes you feel unbearably guilty that you aren’t soaking in every single second that your children are little. You know, like the time they pooped in the tub and then continued to poop when you removed them from the tub, and then as they ran to their sister’s room and put their poopy hands on the bedspread. Shouldn’t you be soaking that in!?

The truth is, you will miss that. A lot. You see the truth in the older generations’ eyes when they warn you about how much you will miss it. It hurts because you can see they hurt and you get fearsome of that pain. I get so much anxiety about this because I know that with each day that goes by so does a day of my children being this young.

I thought more about this today and then I looked around my house and saw all the evidence that they live here. I saw all the things that make this home their home too. I also saw all the things that are out of place or messes and saw them in a different light. I decided that today I would start trying to capture these crumbs of their childhood so that one day, when I do miss it, I can return to the moments, even if only in a picture.

I plan on making this a series, challenging myself to take a group of pictures each month of all the random things my children leave around the house, or other proof that they are growing up in our home, so that I know I am doing my best to soak it all in, even the poop on the bedspread.

Crumb #1- Crayons on the floor.


I seem to have this great idea often of letting my 3 and 1 year old color….Which 100% of the time ends with my 1 year old throwing the crayons everywhere. We then pick them up and without fail, always miss one. The 1 year old later found this crayon and used it to write on the window. Fantastic.

Crumb # 2-  Partially eaten fruit, randomly placed. Everywhere.


This apple found its way to our unfinished stairs. It took a break here, half eaten, until my son later found it and continued his snack. Later, I found another apple under the couch. Having a 3 year old who can access the fruit drawer in the fridge has its benefits and its short -comings. But hey, they are eating fruit! We will call that a win.

Crumb #3- Roar.roar

Meet Roar, our 1 year old’s nighttime favorite cuddle animal. Roar sleeps with him and comes with him when he joins us in the morning. Our son loves coming into our bed in the morning, rubs our faces, and curls up to watch a morning show while my husband showers. Our 3 year old daughter joins him, or is already there, and she asks him how his night was and if he slept well. He grunts his “yup” or says his sweetest “okay.” It is pretty much the sweetest good morning conversation ever.

This is Roar, still laying in our bed, after a morning cuddle session. I will most definitely miss when he joins us in in our bed for morning cuddles.

Crumb #4- Safety corners. Ugh. Safety. Corners.


We made it until we had a 3 1/2 year old and an almost 2 year old without these ugly things on our coffee table. But, we had a few super close calls to losing some eyes, so these suckers got gorilla glued to the coffee table. That’s right, we gorilla glued them to the table. They wouldn’t stay on without the glue. I would much rather look at an ugly table for a few years than have to see our child bleeding from their head because I didn’t like the idea of ugly safety corners. Now they can chase each other around the table without me having a heart attack.

Crumb # 5- Cups. All varieties of cups. 

cup     juice

I am constantly finding cups around our house. Our 3 year old has gotten good about putting her cup in the fridge when she is done with it, or at least on the table until she gets up to put it in the fridge. Our 1 year old (almost 2) is working on the skill of not throwing his cups everywhere. His cup was found on the counter, which was rather an impressive feat! I can guarantee there is at least 1 of these cups under our couch or our bed right now.

Crumb # 6- Nuks. Pacifiers. Binks.


Our home is littered with these. They are everywhere. The irony is that when we really need one, one cannot be found! We may or may not have had a late night run to Target to buy one before during a time of nuk crisis. This nuk, still spit covered, landed this way on our floor. Later, our son found it when he was ready for bedtime. He often has 2 or 3 in his hands to rotate when he is settling down. We find them in his trucks, in his farm, under couches, in our van, etc. These are truly crumbs from our son.

Crumb # 7- Snacks.

cheese sticks

Snacks are also everywhere. Try as we might, we still find a rouge wrapper or snack. Just be happy I don’t have a picture of the pear that we found in a toy bucket. By the time we found it, it looked more like a half-eaten chicken wing. Tonight our daughter helped herself and her brother to a cheese stick. We had given her permission and are really trying to help her grow in her independence. Somehow there was some sort of miscommunication between her, our 1 year old, my husband, and myself and she grabbed 3 cheese sticks. All of which were opened by either myself or my husband, as we were in different rooms. Our son is notorious for half eating snacks and then leaving them. Hence, 3 half-eaten cheese sticks that made their way to the end table. We are just grateful for having found them all. We hope.

Crumb # 8- Toy cars.


Our son is obsessed with these. He plays with them all the time. They make him ridiculously happy. We have many of these types of cars and I find them in all places of our home. One made its way to the toilet even. As I write this, I see one under our end table and under our entertainment center. We pick them up each night and yet one always seems to get away.

Crumb # 9- Toothpaste and tooth brushes. But, mostly the toothpaste.

tooth brush

We are really working on supporting our 3 year old in doing things by herself and she is doing rather well with it when it comes to certain tasks. She recently became very driven to brush her teeth, “all by myself.” This of course leads to toothpaste messes. There is toothpaste on the counter, in the sink, on the wall, and on the step stool. I hope some found its way to her teeth. I know that one day she will figure out how to pick up after herself, but for now, I am so proud of her for trying to do things on her own.

Crumb # 10- Hand prints on our windows.


We have these giant 8 feet wide sliding glass doors in our dining room, which is the center of our home. The doors stay clean for approximately 10 seconds before our children touch them with their snack, snot, toothpaste,  dirt covered hands. Little traces of them. I know that one day they will not stand at the window in fascination of the bunnies hopping by, or the incoming storm, or wait for daddy to come home. One day, these windows will be spotless, and I will miss the hand prints on our windows.


So there you have my first 10 crumbs of my children’s childhood. In searching for the crumbs today, it made me look at the messes with such a different perspective. It made me appreciate the clutter, the smudges, the pieces of my children, and even if just for the moment, soak it all in. The fruit and snacks need to be thrown away and toys picked up, but before doing that, I allowed myself to soak up our environment and appreciate each of the pieces that make it our home. I challenge you to do the same. Find the pieces that make your home, yours with your family. Collect them. Share them. Or hold them close.

The parents who have been in the toddler trenches before us, are right.

We will miss these moments.

We can only soak so much in, but we can be intentional about it.


Continue reading