I left for the office on Monday morning, and I felt a wave of relief.
I had spent an extended weekend with my toddler and I was exhausted. One-year-olds have energy that is next level. Cabinet doors are open, drawers are ajar, toys are strewn throughout the house. One minute they are laughing hysterically as they listen to We Will Rock You by Queen (our son has diverse taste in music), and the next they are having a meltdown because you clapped in what you felt was solidarity. By the end of the day, you feel as though you have just survived a natural disaster. Everything that was once tucked safely in a basket is now on your floor, your body aches from being utilized as a human jungle gym, and you cannot for the life of you figure out what that wet spot is on your couch. (Please, Lord, let it be water and not pee.)
The office that morning felt like a retreat—a nice, calm vacation from motherhood.
I drank an entire cup of coffee without the assistance of a microwave. I spoke to grown-ups, and my vocabulary expanded beyond the rhythmic stylings of “Patty Cake.” I wore items from my closet that did not have macaroni and cheese stains on them. It was a refreshing break, and I loved it.
And then, the guilt came.
I felt so content, so at peace designing marketing materials and writing emails that I almost felt defective as a parent. Don’t most moms long to be with their babes? Shouldn’t I want to spend every second with him, to be at home with him? Wasn’t I supposed to feel a sense of dread leaving for the office, walking out the door in the morning?
Suddenly, I felt inadequate–undeserving almost. Did I not love my baby enough? Was motherhood not fulfilling for me? Was I missing the “stay-at-home” gene?
And then I realized–going to work makes me happy.
I love having a career, having a purpose beyond my home. It gives me an identity other than “mama” and allows me to use the skills I worked so hard to cultivate prior to motherhood.
Going to the office Monday through Friday gives me the opportunity to hit the reset button and makes the time I spend with my son even more valuable. When I come home, I am refreshed and ready to give him my undivided attention. I am able to spend quality time with him–without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.
My career makes me happy, and my son deserves that version of myself. I want my son to grow up with a mom who feels fulfilled both in her career and at home. I want him to witness this version of a strong work ethic, to see the workplace as rewarding. I want him to recognize that finding a career he loves is not only possible–it’s important. I want him to understand work-life and home-life can coexist and feel balanced.
Today, I will wave goodbye to my one-year-old and walk into the office feeling completely at peace. Because I know the sweet smile that will be waiting when I return, ready to cherish time with the mama who loves him enough to go to the office.