back and gone: life after a maternity leave.

Back.

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.

Gone. 

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.

 

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