It was written exactly one week before I went back to work. Funny that.
Going back to work after maternity leave for our second baby was infinitely harder than for the first. Part of it may have been because now I know I can do this whole kid-raising thing — I’m actually kind of good at it — and I know if it were economically feasible, I’d make a hell of a full-time mom.
The logistical side of how hard it was to go back to work this time stems from exactly where I work. I teach at a staggeringly rigorous high school — number one in our state — and I went back to work at the apex of college application season, with a courseload of almost all seniors. I was instantly swamped with recommendation letter requests, application essay crises, and even a frantic series of phone calls and emails from a parent during the school day, asking if I could please locate an essay her daughter wrote for my class TWO YEARS AGO, because a certain east coast school needs a writing sample. Yes. I’ll get right on that.
And just when I want to collapse in a small pile of self-pity, there are a few awesome and perhaps mildly embarrassing truths I should admit:
- My baby has been sleeping through the night since he was five weeks old. We used the same approach as we did with our older son, who slept through the night at eight weeks. We rule. So I can’t complain about sleepless nights. He doesn’t even wake up until 7 or 8.
- My husband only works roughly two days a week. He’s a firefighter. So while that means 24-hour shifts, and thus days of learning a heightened respect for single moms, the rest of the week he is home raising our boys, planning our meals, and being generally freaking awesome. He is also good looking. Which doesn’t hurt.
- I love my job. Love it. The average burnout rate for teachers is seven years, and this year is lucky thirteen. I love my job a little more each year, as it turns out. Even the days that exhaust me are overwhelmingly good. I don’t know if I could leave everybody at home for a job I hated, and I know people who face this prospect every day. I’m lucky.
- This year, our babysitter — who lives all of NEXT DOOR — added to her repertoire of awesomeness that she’ll start her days with the boys by coming to my house fifteen minutes before I leave the house, and taking over from wherever we happen to be in our morning. Sometimes this means she comes over and reads the paper, and other days she steps into a typhoon. Mornings are easier with two kids and a babysitter who comes to me than they were with one kid and having to walk a whole fifty feet to her back porch. I acknowledge that I struck childcare gold. So there’s that, too.
- Each of my jobs makes me better at the other. Being a teacher has made me a more reflective mom — with an arsenal of knowledge and tricks for when the teen years come raining down. And being a mom has made me a stronger, more empathetic teacher. Each of the 200 kids I work with each week? They’re somebody else’s kids, and that rings true at a greater depth for me since my own kids were born.
I hope that every mom or dad who has to go back to work after bringing a little one home can admit to similar truths — even the sleeping part. I hope I’m not the exception to the rule with this stuff. I hope if you’ve been as busy as me, it’s because you’ve been dividing your time among people and jobs you love and are genuinely invested in. It’s what gets me through the exhausting parts. That, and coffee. By the bucketload.
Two more months will not go by before I post again, because I already have another two or three things half-written in my head. (Plenty of space up there.) There is our baby boy’s finalization (which happened), there are CRAZY adoptive parents (who are most definitely out there), and there is a book that has been recommended to me — Motherless Mothers — and I’m interested to see if there is any alignment between mother loss, as the book calls it, and what is often described as adoption loss. These are all on deck. Hope everybody’s been well. Drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) or post a comment if anybody has seen progress toward building your families; I’d love to hear how everything’s going.