As a second time mom I thought it would be easier
I am not cut out to be a stay at home mother. I like working, and have a compulsive need to be busy. Much to my husband’s frustration, I find it hard to relax. Even though I adore my daughter, by the time she was six weeks old I was bored and desperate for adult conversation. Ultimately, I took 14 weeks of before returning to work, and while I often longed for more time with her and wished I could work fewer hours, the adjustment was relatively smooth for us both. I enjoyed going back to the office, and I was lucky enough to have my parents watch her, with my husband covering afternoons as his work-from-home schedule permitted.
With my son, I didn’t stress about going back because I had done it before. I nodded at my local PEP group as I listened to new moms talk about their concerns, but I didn’t think to share them.
Until the date began approaching and I realized how much I didn’t want to give him up. I was surprised at how vulnerable and small he still seemed to me. With my daughter, there had been eager arms to hold the first grandchild, first niece, first child. I realized in retrospect how infrequently I had, by contrast, set my son down or handed him off. Everyone was busy with my older daughter, who at two needed plenty of cuddles and attention now that a younger sibling had arrived. As I looked at my son, snuggled in my arms, I surprised myself with how emotional it felt to consider going back — to bring my final maternity leave to a close. It was difficult to place the feeling until I recognized suddenly that it felt like a loss.
Juggling two and adjusting to the life changes also made going back seem more daunting. Basic tasks like running to the grocery store or even just leaving the house required more planning and time. The idea of coordinating two drop offs in the morning seemed like a herculean effort. Getting them both dressed, fed and making it into the car (all while somehow getting myself ready for work) seemed to require a level of mental and physical jujitsu that was beyond my abilities. The mercurial nature of diapers and babies, thrown in with a toddler, drove me to employing elaborate rituals in the hopes of making it to the car on time. If I held him just so, and tip toed past her room on the way to the bathroom in the morning, I could get a quick shower. If I just followed the exact sequence and timing of tasks we would make it on time.
But it wasn’t just the logistics. His fuzzy head called to me, his fat cheeks and soulful eyes looked up at me both vulnerable and hopeful. I felt like mom in a way I never had before — and felt needed in a way that meant I could never fully satisfy. It was hard to leave him — I doubted his ability to make it the few hours until I returned at lunch to collect him. I worried and kept him in my mind as I settled back in at my desk. I felt his absence as a presence weighing on my heart.
When the time came to collect him he was happily smiling at his grandparents, lovingly cradled in their arms and passed between them. I realized then that my worries were more about myself than him. Children are resilient — more so perhaps than their mothers. It’s a tough lesson to learn the first time, but also the second.