As a working mama, I feel guilt. Every time I hand my precious baby to one of her grandmas or her aunt and head to work, my heart aches a little bit. The first day I went back to work after maternity leave was the absolute hardest, and every minute I was at work felt infinitely long. Since then, it has gotten easier (especially since I found a job that I am much happier at), but I still miss her. I hate that she is laughing, playing, making her little sounds, and trying new things without me there to experience it.
I am grateful for my sister-in-law, my mom, and my mother-in-law, who are so willing to care for her with love. She couldn't be in better hands, except that I want her in mine. My office will be moving downtown this summer, which means my commute is about to double. I am considering all of the options and figuring out what will be the best for our family. The thought of taking her somewhere else, where she won't have her cousin Andy or other familiar, loving faces makes me feel afraid. But keeping her in her car seat for an extra two hours a day doesn't seem like a welcome alternative.
When I first went back to work, I thought a lot about getting my "pre-baby body" back. Not that I was some kind of model for fitness, but I certainly had gained some weight in pregnancy. I also could never run during pregnancy because of swelling, dehydration, and other ailments, so I was looking forward to getting back to that. I would leave work, pick up Thea from whomever was watching her that day, and go to the gym. Day care workers would care for her for an hour so I could work out, although most of the time, they ended up calling me to come change a diaper or console my crying girl.
My gym membership expired in November, and I decided not to renew. I spent that money on a used elliptical I found on the online classifieds, and Chris and I somehow managed to move it to our new house. Now when I get done with work, I can focus on the moments I get with my sweet baby. She jumps in her bouncer while I make dinner, and I can listen to her talk and babble. I get to give her baths and watch as her tiny body continues to grow and develop. I can get my exercise in after I put her to bed. Before I go to bed, I take a few moments in the quiet darkness of her room to listen to her breathe, and tell her how much I love her.
I am learning. Motherhood is a million things at once: exhausting, terrifying, exciting, magical, wonderful. I always get to be her mom, even if I don't always get to be the one providing her care. But when I get home, I make it about our time. Even in the car on the way home from the babysitter, I talk to her and sing to her, so she always knows the sound of my voice.
I remember my sisters telling me, "it's easier when you are pregnant because the babies get to be with you all of the time." I get that now.