Remember this? I think it's time for a follow-up.
My worst fears about being a working mom in the babies' first year:
I would miss too much of their infancy. The number one thing that helped me with that fear is remembering the first few months I spent at home with Michael and Sophie and how, no matter how much I held them or played with them, no matter how often I kissed them and snuggled them, I never felt what I was reaching for. I learned that this love I have for Michael and Sophie means there just is no ENOUGH. Home or away, that feeling is there.
An hour in the morning, several hours in the afternoon, weekends, and school breaks usually gave us a generous amount of time to play, reach milestones, and just live our lives together as a family. But when I did find that I was feeling a sense of loss or sensed the babies wanted more time with me, I'd take a day off. Spending a day in our jammies, living the daily routine of meals, diapers, play, and naps together always seemed to get us back in sync.
They would be unhappy or unsafe. During a pick-up in their last week at child care before summer, Michael peeked out at me from a big climbing cube that he loves playing inside. He was giggling and clearly wanted to share this treasure with me. I started to feel bad about all he'll miss when he's at home with Sophie and me this summer. How backwards is that? But both he and Sophie have a ton of fun everyday at the center. They learned to play and socialize with other kids in addition to the themed weekly lessons (I recently discovered they picked up more sign language than I realized), eat meals that set a standard of health we struggle to match at home, play on a fancy-schmancy playground, and are loved and known by their caregivers. Obviously Michael and Sophie will be more than happy at home, but that flipside of my mommy guilt says something about how happy I know they have been this school year.
For two days a week my mom has also come to care for Sophie and Michael. They have come to adore their grandma, and I'm comforted knowing there is another adult they feel so close to. I had a similar bond with my own grandma, so I know I've actually given something to Michael and Sophie by providing this time.
As far as safety, I will always find something to worry about, but I know Michael and Sophie have been in the best possible hands.
Our bond would weaken. My favorite moment of a work day was when Michael and Sophie noticed I had returned to them. Often they would spot me kicking off my shoes through their classroom window or would hear me coming in the door at home. But everytime their smiles were huge, typically accompanied by a squeal or two and an attempt to get to me as quickly as possible.
When company comes over or when we go somewhere new, Sophie in particular tends to turn into a spider monkey, clinging all fingers around the sleeves of my shirt and squeezing my sides with her knees, letting me know that holding her is the only option. I don't love her anxiety and actually hoped that being in child care would prevent that, but I do love that I'm often the only person she wants in those moments. Sorry, Mike, but I think that's how it's supposed to be.
These are just moments when I can see our bond is as strong as ever. More importantly, I feel it.
They would be sick all the time. Before going into child care, Michael and Sophie never even had the sniffles. Since September there have been a number of colds and fevers, a case of pink eye, a couple ear infections, and many, many sniffles. Overall, it hasn't been too bad, but there were a couple of rough weeks.
There was one pretty bad bug that had nearly all of the other babies out of the infant room for a few days, but that passed Michael and Sophie by, thank goodness. Perhaps there is something to the antibodies in breastmilk?
It would be too much stress. Speaking of breastmilk, the absolute hardest part of the working mom lifestyle was breastfeeding and pumping. Carting around all the gear, making time at work, getting to Michael and Sophie quickly enough in the afternoon, making sure I produced enough, and cleaning up and restocking for the next day was all pretty tough. But with every dropped feeding it got easier and easier, and it was worth all the trouble.
It would be a financial mistake. Quality child care is crazy expensive, no question about it. Fortunately I make a tad more than child care costs, and that tad came in pretty handy this year. If I had stayed home, our finances would have been extremely tight, and I'm glad we had the flexibility to provide for our family's needs.
I would regret my decision. I don't. This was a great year. I felt connected to my babies, was fully present with them in all of our time together, was able to provide for their needs, and am proud that I did it all as a breastfeeding, working mom. In addition, I enjoyed a fulfilling year as a teacher (all politics and financial difficulties beyond my classrom aside) and look forward to the years like this one to come.