Monday, April 12th, 2010...8:19 pm

Letter To A Friend At the End of Maternity Leave

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My friend Cara wrote to me this weekend about returning to work this Friday. She is a teacher too and was wondering how she can leave her adorable daughter, Posey, for a classroom of teenagers. This is what I wrote to her:

Friday will be one of the hardest days of your life. I’m not going to lie. It will be like middle school, when you first fell in love and you couldn’t think of anything else and when the teacher called on you, you accidentally responded with his name. Kids will ask you questions about math and you will respond with, “Posey should be napping right now.” There may be a few times during the day when you want to cry (if you’re a crier like me, at least). That’s okay. Wait until you aren’t in front of kids and then let it out. It doesn’t fix it, but it makes you feel better. You can come get a hug and cry with me whenever you’d like.

And it will be like that for a little while. You will ache for her all day. You will run out of school with the bell and go home and grab your bundle of baby fat and hold her tight. And she will give you the best snuggles and smiles and try to let you know in all her adorable baby ways that she will be okay. That’s the hardest part at first, she can’t tell you she’s okay. But she is.

You will feel like you are in some cruel time-warp where you have to merge your pre-baby working self with your totally redefined mom-self. It will feel strange to stand on the supposedly familiar ground of your classroom. You will wonder how you can possibly be good at both jobs at the same time. You will wonder if you will ever find any pleasure at work again. You will wonder how you can possibly be more tired than you were in those initial sleep-deprived days.

The good news is that the initial aching and obsessing about what you are leaving at home will end (probably just in time for summer). You will slowly realize that you are an excellent mother even though you leave her side each day. Some days you might even think that it makes you a better mother. You will notice how she smiles at you all the time, how she wiggles or crawls or runs right over to you when you walk in the door. You won’t doubt that she loves you any less because you work. You will go home and treasure every moment you have with her instead of wishing that you could at least get a few moments of peace in the bathroom. That is one of the benefits of being a working mom. You get to pee all by yourself.

Summer will end and you will have to go through all of this again. And it will hurt, almost as much but not quite. You will mourn the end of summer like you haven’t ever done before. You will walk into that room of other people’s children and wonder for a while what your own is doing. But you will find a balance that works for you. You will realize that being a mom makes you a better teacher even though you can’t dedicate yourself in quite the same way anymore. You will realize that being a teacher makes you a better mom in the lens that it provides you with. You will redefine yourself as a working mom. You will find a routine that helps you and your family to thrive.

And when you make it through that whole first year of working, and you look back at how hard it was and how you figured it all out, you will be proud of yourself. That alone is a huge accomplishment.

And maybe, when Posey is two, and you are still wondering if you working is working for her, she will wake up one Saturday morning, like Nora did this past weekend, and say, “I’m ready for school!”

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  • Lindsey Carmichael
    April 12th, 2010 at 8:29 pm


  • What amazing advice you gave to your friend! Through your words, you can feel the passion and confidence you have in what you’re doing.

    I can’t relate to most of the stories you tell and advice you give (I’m a 22-year-old, kidless, college student) BUT I love reading your writing and experiences.

  • Truly inspiring, touching and moving true stories. Every human being is a bunch of different life stories. Let us keep knowing and learning.

  • I clicked over here from a response you made on moxie about transitions to daycare. I am also a teacher and will be returning to work in August, when my daughter will be 7.5 months old, and I’ve been stressing to the max anticipating it.

    Anyway, this letter was really well written and extremely heartfelt and I appreciate it very much.

  • [...] experience; I can comfort myself through this, recalling from experience the many times Nora has looked forward to her hours away from me, the many times I’ve been grateful for working, the many times I’ve realized that this [...]

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