This morning, I kissed my husband and son goodbye at 7:45 a.m. I checked my phone for a bit with no guilt and ate breakfast in a clean, quiet house. Then I leisurely got into my car (with a shoulder bag in place of a diaper bag and no fiddling with the car seat), turned up the music, and drove across town to my favorite coffee shop. “Are you heading to work?” the barista asked, to which I excitedly responded, “I AM!” Who could be that excited to go to a meeting (especially before caffeine)? A former stay-at-home mom recently turned part-time-working mom, that’s who.
I’m only a month into this new gig, and I know it won’t always feel so exciting and idyllic. I cried the first morning my son left for school. That clean, quiet house I mentioned earlier felt sterile and lonely. I think of him often while I’m away and wonder what he’s doing. I had a real moment of doubt as I was driving in on my first day back. “Why am I doing this?” I asked myself, as the new-job anxiety started to surface. Starting something new is hard. Being away from your child is hard. But so many hard things are worth it.
To answer my own question, I’m doing this because I’m passionate about my job. Being a social worker is part of my identity – a part that hasn’t been as salient over these past few years, but a part that makes me me. There are moments in my work that are sad and stressful and draining, but there is also so much hope and a sense of purpose. It feels good to be connected to that again and to play a role in the world outside my family.
Before I go further, let me acknowledge that my situation is unique and I feel incredibly lucky that my circumstances have worked out this way. I was able to stay home with my son for the first year and a half of his life, and now I’m able to work part-time in a job that I love. I chose to go back, and I was ready. I didn’t deal with having to be presentable after weeks (months) of sleepless newborn nights, or have to develop an intimate relationship with my breast pump. I know this isn’t true of everyone’s experience and that there aren’t enough supports in place for most parents, particularly early on in their children’s lives. I could go on, but that’s a post for another day.
Not only was the timing right for me, but my son was ready for this step, too. I think of the quote framed in his bedroom: “There are two gifts we give our children; one is roots, and the other is wings.” I’m good at the roots part. The nurturing and the closeness come easily to me. But my sweet, chubby baby is transforming before my eyes into an increasingly independent and determined toddler who is only beginning to stretch his wings. Last week when I went into his classroom to pick him up, I paused for a minute in the doorway unannounced to watch how he was doing. There he was, sitting quietly in Circle Time with the other children, attentively listening to a story, and it hit me: he’s ready for this. I love seeing the art projects he brings home and hearing his teachers tell me about a new skill he has developed or how interested he is in learning. Aside from the ego boost (because let’s be real, don’t we all love to hear about how wonderful our children are?), it’s reassuring to know that there are more people who care for him and that he’s beginning to care for, too.
And lastly, it brings me a lot of pride to know my son will grow up watching me do what I love and have something that is my own. Remember the roots and wings quote? After eighteen months of strengthening roots, now my son can see his mama working on her wings.