For the Benefit of the Working Moms
Editor's note: This article first appeared in Issue 10 of Holl & Lane Magazine.
Words and images by Liz Hunter
I have never been a fan of Sunday nights. Growing up, Sunday night meant the end of the weekend and another week of school ahead. What bothered me wasn’t so much waking up early on Monday or packing up my books and lunch and catching the bus. No, I think deep down it was that Sunday nights were our last moments as a family, sitting together eating our dessert watching America’s Funniest Videos or The Simpsons. Come Monday morning we’d all go our separate ways, and now that I’m older, I can admit that it was, for me, the looming separation from my mom with which I struggled.
Weekends weren’t long enough and I felt cheated out of time with her. She worked nights, so by the time I got home from school, she was heading out the door for work. Some nights I would hear her come home and I’d get out of bed to see the glow of the TV as she watched David Letterman and Conan O’Brien and I’d slowly creep down, completely encroaching on her personal time, and she’d let me watch the show with her. There were days I played hookie from school, partially to watch The Price is Right, but also just to find out what she did all day while the rest of us were gone. From a child’s perspective it’s impossible to fathom your mom being her own person.
I waited as long as possible to have a child. I was driven more by my career than starting my own family. It’s not that I didn’t want to have kids, I just felt that it would be best to delay them until I felt good and ready. I had spent four years and put myself in debt to attend college so there was no way I wasn’t putting my degree to use. And I felt proud to say I had a job in the same field I had studied. My career defined me and not even a baby could make me give it up.
I had my daughter at age 31. I worked until two weeks before my due date and never questioned that I’d be returning after maternity leave. While I am forever grateful for the three months I had at home with her, I sometimes felt like a prisoner, attached to a breast pump every few hours, answering to the whims of a tiny tyrant who spoke in whimpers and screams. Whole days would pass without me saying more than a few words at a time -- and most of those words were directed at my dog. Each night when my husband would get home I would pass off the baby and grab the dog’s leash and get out of the house.
To put it simply: I missed working. I missed the morning chit-chat, the random venting sessions, the ability to go out for lunch, or sit and read at my desk. I didn’t miss the deadlines or stress, but I missed the person I was while at work. Someone who was needed for her mental abilities, not her nurturing skills. Someone who was organized and not scatterbrained. Someone who could be counted on to accomplish tasks and assist team members, not just change a diaper. I was not comfortable with my new job as mom and craved the familiarity of my career.
When I did return to work, of course I struggled with the reality of being away from my baby all day long. But during those nine hours, I could feel my old self coming back. I was back in my element and I could almost hear my brain say “Oh, we’re doing this again? Let’s go!” I wouldn’t say it was easy or that I didn’t get emotional with each pump break, but by the end of the day I couldn’t wait to see my daughter. It was a stark contrast from the days at home with her when by 5 p.m. I had reached my breaking point.
Months have passed and my daughter is 2-years-old now. I have grown increasingly more comfortable as a mother, which time and experience will do, and the older she gets, the more she wants me to do things with her. We are both quite attached to each other. Weekends have that familiar finite feel to them and those Sunday-night-blues sometimes kick in. I get sad thinking about saying goodbye to her the next morning as she goes off to daycare, so I’ll do anything to stretch the time. I know that there won’t be time tomorrow to ride in her wagon or color another picture of Elmo or dance in the kitchen “one more” time. So I’ll do anything she wants just a few more times like she asks. I realize being apart from her makes our time together even more cherished.
Then comes Monday morning and we go our separate ways. She, off becoming her own independent person, learning with her own friends and developing skills I wouldn’t know the first thing about teaching her if I were a stay-at-home-mom (like sign language, for one). While she does that, I get to work. I get to work. I’m thankful for the five days a week when I’m referred to by my first name and not Mommy. I’m thankful that I can sit at my desk without getting up every two minutes. I’m thankful I can occasionally browse Target on my lunch break without a toddler trying to climb out of the cart. Work is a dose of sanity, a break from the constant worry of being a mom, something I’m sure my mom also felt those nights she got to step away from her three kids and just be “Deb” for a few hours.
Until my daughter is old enough to understand that I am more than her mother, I will continue to look forward to the moment I pick her up from daycare and she comes running: “Mommy!!” That’s something we working moms live for.