My last day of maternity leave is here! How?!
It seems like yesterday we were driving home from the hospital while I stared at the 5 lbs of beautiful we just welcomed into the world.
I’m spending today with all three of my boys. Smiling as my 3-year old sings to the baby. Going slightly crazy, but still laughing as my 2-year old screams with joy as his big brother pulls him around the house on a blanket. Playing puppets with the baby and soaking up his smile. Focusing on the joyous feeling of holding and snuggling my ever growing baby as he eats.
During maternity leave, there were several (SEVERAL!) days I felt like I was losing my mind to a dark abyss and would never get it back. Days I felt so unequipped to be a mother to three little ones. Days I just wanted to escape the house and do something (anything!) for myself or by myself. Days my husband and I spent the last bit of energy we had talking about how easy it was when we just had our our doggie Pugsley.
But I wouldn’t trade this time for anything in the world, because I truly did find joy in each day. Despite the pressure, the stress, the hard moments, I met each day with gratitude for being chosen to be their mommy. Chosen to enjoy Matthew’s happy spirit, contagious smile, and sweet giggle. Chosen to be the person he finds greatest comfort in. Chosen to witness my big boys become the sweetest and most protective big brothers to their baby.
I’m excited and a little nervous about returning to work tomorrow. I’m looking forward to getting back in the swing of analyzing data, preparing budgets, spreadsheets, writing procedures, meetings, and having lunch with my work friends.
But, guys, I’m off the charts on the mom-guilt spectrum. I’m really good at finding all the things I’m doing “wrong”. I’m my worst critic. Oftentimes my sense of self is that I’m never enough at home or at work, so I know this is going to be a very hard transition for me.
So I’m going to give myself a little pep talk to combat my anxiety with truth.
Anxiety: Matthew is going to forget me.
Truth: Nothing and no one can replace the mother-son bond we have. It will always be unique and special. I will be the one he wants most when he doesn’t feel well and the one he gravitates to for his wants and needs. I know this truth well with my relationship with my big boys. If Matthew lights up with joy at seeing Dad at the end of the day, he will surely do the same when he sees me.
Anxiety: It is possible that I will miss Matthew’s “firsts”.
Truth: This one is really, really hard for me. We struggled so long to have Matthew that the thought of missing anything with him truly breaks my heart. I can’t write this section without tears streaming down my face. I missed several firsts with our big boys, too, due to welcoming them at one and two years old. I’ve soaked up every possible first since. I came across an article from another working mother, and I’m stealing her coping method… It isn’t his first unless mommy sees it! 🙂
Anxiety: I’m not going to be as good at my job.
Truth: I’ll be just as good at my job, if not better! I take great pride in my work, in being a boss/manager, and in the role I serve for my organization. When I returned to work after welcoming our big boys, I struggled with not having as much time to work at home in the evenings. Truth is that made me more efficient and effective with my time at work. This time around will be no different.
Anxiety: I’m a bad mother for not devoting all my time to my children.
Truth: I need to also prioritize time for God, my husband, and my own interests to be the best possible mother to my boys. My husband and I are their examples. They need to see multifaceted parents who engage all areas of their life, parents who work hard to provide a better future for their family, parents who challenge themselves mentally, physically, spiritually, personally, and professionally, and parents who care about serving others.
BIG TRUTH: My decision to work outside our home does not define my success as a mother. My relationship with them does. The way I make them feel about themselves and others. The way I help them process their emotions. The way I teach them to apologize to one another, to share, to hug and love. The way I guide them spiritually. The way I encourage them. The way I help them learn from mistakes. The way I apologize to them when I’ve made a mistake.
As our family makes it through this transition, I’m doing my best to hold onto all the evidence I have of these truths.
Preschool Teacher: “I’ve been doing this many, many years, and I’ve never seen two boys more excited to see their mom.”
Husband: “You’re the best mother. I’d want to be your son.”
Parents/Preschool Director: “You’re doing such a great job.”
Cousin: “You are kicking butt at the mom game, but you gotta give yourself some grace.”
If only I were better about seeing myself through others’ eyes… I will work on that, but if you’ll excuse me now, I’m going to get back to feeding my baby and balling my eyes out.