12 weeks of maternity leave went by quicker than I could have imagined – I had yet to find time to even think about going back to work so I decided that I would give myself one more month to get my bearings. The thought of working again was terrifying after 12 weeks but at 16 weeks, the idea of not going back was even more terrifying. Probably because after 4 months of nursing, hourly, and only leaving the house for doctor appointments – I was going nuts. I just had to be out of the house doing non-mommy stuff for at least part of the day.
I made the choice to go back to work because I wanted to…I needed to. The desire to be out of the house and spending time with adults was my main reason to go back to work but I was also scared that by staying home the most interesting thing about me would become my child. I wanted my son to be out in the world, not attached to my hip, and I didn’t want to lose my identity as a woman with a career. I had so many things I wanted to try and achieve still in my field.
Working Mom Guilt
The transition to balancing work with an infant in one hand and a pump in another took some time, but once I had a schedule down, I finally had time to think. The thinking led to worrying over anything and everything, which carried with it a strong belief that I just wasn’t good enough. I was consumed by the guilt of not being with my son every day but I was also consumed by my need to not lose myself in parenthood.
Soon enough, I realized I was constantly worried about everything.
It seemed as if every other mother out there really could ‘do it all’ and their success amplified my insecurities. Soon enough I was questioning my choice to go back to work, even though I knew I needed it as much as I wanted it. Then I started doubting myself, which slowly gave into pervasive feelings of inadequacy. I wish I understood then that other mothers’ successes said nothing about my capabilities as a mom.
I also wish I had asked for help sooner. I wish I realized that asking for help wouldn’t insult all the people who had already helped me so much. I wish I knew that I would figure it out and my son would be fine.
Learning the importance of taking care of myself was a lesson I learned the hard way. After months of pushing myself too hard and not listening to my mind and body, I finally broke down. That day, our daycare provider looked frightened as I sobbed while dropping my son off. I was numb inside and lost all ability to pretend that I wasn’t falling apart. My psychiatrist, Dr Ronald, was my savior in that moment; he realized my existing mental health diagnosis had changed and he assured me all we needed was the right mix of medication to manage it.
Sometimes we need more than what a loving spouse and family can provide – and that is OK. I was fortunate enough to have an incredible husband who didn’t hesitate to do whatever was needed but it was also painful when things I struggled with came so easily for him. He has been crucial in helping me learn that my shortcomings do not define who I am and that I am still an amazing mom. He has always been my biggest cheerleader and without that, I would be lost. I also owe a lot of credit to my amazing psychiatrist who has same day appointments for patients in crisis.
I have found my peace again and am able to successfully manage my diagnosis and my life with the right medication and a little self-love. It really does take a village, and in my case a good dose of Prozac.