I remember the first morning that I went back to work after the birth of our oldest son. I packed his diaper bag just so. I dressed him in the cutest outfit, one of my favorites. As I walked through door of our babysitter's house and handed him to a woman I had interviewed meticulously, I felt as though she was taking my heart out of my body instead of just taking my baby from my arms. I didn't cry, mostly because I felt shocked that I had just handed over my baby to someone else for nine hours.
By the time I got to work, tears found their ways to my eyes. A coworker who also sent her children to the same childcare provider, put her arm around my shoulders and said, "Oh, it's not that bad. Just think of all these hours you get to relax away from him!" I will give her this: At least her words were so jarring, so far from what I was thinking, that I forgot to cry for the rest of the day. You know, until pick-up when I cried tears of sheer relief when I held him in my arms again. That evening, I spent all evening cuddling my chubby little one. He liked it, and so did I.
During the time that our oldest son went to the babysitter while I worked, I never really got used to leaving him there -- or used to the off-the-wall, strange, supposedly comforting things people would say to me. I assume these things were meant to make me feel better, but they usually just confused me and sometimes made me feel worse. I really think it comes down to people wanting to help, not knowing what to say, and therefore saying something completely ridiculous. I eventually learned to chalk it up to good intentions gone bad, but sometimes... their words stung and hit right at the core of my insecurities about being a working mom in the first place.
1. It will get easier.
Umm, no it really won’t. Nothing about leaving my babies at daycare for 8 hours a day is easy. It’s just as hard to leave my 4-year-old now then it was when he was 12 weeks old. The only difference now is that he can now tell me, “Mommy, I don’t want to go to daycare. I want to stay home with you.”. *knife in the heart.*
Did it get easier for me? No, not really. It actually got harder as he got older, more interactive, and more attached to me, his mama. The whole crying and reaching for me as I turned my back and walked out the door felt like a death walk, every single day. Though picking him up became a true joy, because his face would light up as soon as I walked in the door. That whole recognition and pure love at the end of a busy workday made whatever stresses I had just endured melt away. My baby? Loved me. And that was all I needed.
Of course, people said things to me out of their own places of insecurity as well, projecting their own fears and worries on me. I was too young in my motherhood to realize that, and so I took their words to heart. I worried that "someone else" was "raising my baby." I worried that my child wouldn't "attach" to me. I worried that he would be neglected or abused or anything else the news reported, because only babies left in the care of others are harmed, these other mothers would whisper in my ear -- online and off. I struggled to make heads or tails of what to worry about, what to let slide, what to take seriously. Eventually, I chose to listen to my mother-in-law on this one: "He is fine. You are fine. You will both survive this time." And we did. She's pretty smart, my mother-in-law.
Maybe we should all listen to my mother-in-law, whether we're working outside the home or staying home or some variation thereof: Your baby is fine. You are fine. You will both survive this time. Take those words to heart... and you're welcome to cry on my shoulder if you need to, mama.
What about you? Have people said stupid things to you about the return to work or daycare in general? What's the worst offense?
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