In Defense of Work

After my son was born, I had a rough time. Sore, depressed, and exhausted, the only clear, distinct thought I remember having in the first few weeks after my son was born was, “My life is over.” I thought being a mother would fullfill me. I thought it would make my life complete. It made me miserable. The irony was, I had help. Parents, in-laws, an amazing husband. I had more help postpartum than probably any new mom in history. And I couldn’t appreciate it. I loved my son, but I wanted to sleep again. I wanted to wake up without some part of my body hurting. I wanted out, and my out was my job.

I could not wait to get back to work. I would check my email in the hope that there was some pressing question that only I could answer (there wasn’t). I started several emails to my boss, requesting to start back early, before seeing my son’s smiling face and deleting them before I could hit “send”. I felt terrible, but I couldn’t shake that restlessness. It wasn’t enough that I was basically the sole provider of comfort and nourishment to the newest, most important person in my life. I wanted to be recognized. I wanted to be appreciated. Most of all, I wanted time for myself, outside the home.

Once I actually did go back to work, I did regret not seeing my son so often. And it’s not like it was easy – pumping breast milk at work is a HUGE pain, especially on days when the phone was ringing off the hook. I would come home bone tired, and formed a serious coffee habit. On top of that, I still felt guilty for leaving my son at daycare all day, but, even so, mentally, I got a break. I got to have adult conversations. I got to think about something besides how to kill the time between now and the next dirty diaper/feeding/nap. I enjoyed having something that was only me, that I didn’t have to share with my husband or my son or my in-laws. I still do.

Also, I feel like, in some ways, working has helped me be a better mom. The time I spend with my son on nights and weekends is that much more precious. I’m more likely to be patient. My husband and I can more equally share the housework, because we’re there the exact same amount of time, which means we don’t fight about who works harder or who is responsible for what chore.

I still sometimes feel guilty about choosing to work. I once calculated the time he spends with his daycare teachers vs the time he spends with me, and it just about breaks even. But I have never once regretted my decision to go back. It isn’t about the money. It’s about my sanity. Maybe it’s selfish, or maybe I’m a bad mommy. But I won’t be giving up my job anytime soon.