I could feel it sneaking up on me Monday morning.
It doesn’t really have a name, but I think we should give it one. That horrible, awful feeling at the end of maternity leave when the return to work is imminent, and we working moms are torn between excitement at being back in the world of professionals, accomplishment, and the fulfillment we get from our work… and the equally strong pull of being with our impossibly tiny babies. The babies who need us, who can’t possibly be understood and cared for by anyone else, who will know we have abandoned them and hold it against us forever (including when they sit in their jail cells post-felony, cursing us and reminding us it’s ALL OUR FAULT).
How could we POSSIBLY endure this dread, this inner turmoil, this horrible awful feeling?
Underneath it all, it’s pure anger. Anger that we have to go back. Anger that we, in some small ways (and some days, in big ways) want to go back.
Anger that this choice exists at all… or sometimes, anger that it’s not a choice. That without our return to work, the family would have no health insurance, the mortgage wouldn’t get paid, and our trusty automobiles would be repossessed.
Thursday — tomorrow — is my first ‘official’ day back at work. Since Monday, I’ve been tearful, emotional, and have carried around a dull anger that I couldn’t fully explain. My husband is beside himself, and has no idea what to do, or what to say, to his certifiably insane wife.
He’ll never be able to understand what this feels like. I’m fighting biology here. We moms are programmed to be with our babies, to miss them viscerally when we’re away from them. Our bodies provide their food, for f**k’s sake! The message from nature is pretty clear: Mommy, you should be with your baby. Full stop.
But that is not the world we live in. Or at least, it’s not the world I live in.
I live in Primary Breadwinner World. Health Insurance Provider World. And if I’m honest with myself, I live in Mommy Needs to Feel Smart World (where I have a job that brings me fulfillment and confidence).
So I endure this awful feeling. Days of emotional instability that borders on insanity. Profound sadness and fear. And guilt. My god, the guilt. That alone is enough to do me in.
As I steel myself for tomorrow, and remember how awful this felt with Peanut, I try to remember that this gets easier. It’s never going to be “easy.” But it does get easier.