Recently I decided to go back to work part-time ... ok, wait, hold that thought ... reading this back, I just realized something. All of us parents, we need to stop using this phrase immediately - going back to work. I feel like it always rolls off of my lips laden with something to prove, as if working isn't something that I've been doing morning to night and then some - insert really big and bold eye roll here.
Let's assess - what has this time I’ve had ‘before going back to work’ looked like for me?: full-time Mama-ing to Sav (which right there fills up ones schedule to a 24/7 minus nap time kind of place), keeping a respectable household of some description, along with launching a tiny art business, working during said nap times on website design for my pre-mat leave employer (Domaine Furnishings ... to all of you furniture and design lovers out there - I urge you to check them out if you haven’t already), and taking on a few residential interior design projects of my own - ok, can we just start this blog over?
And before we do so, please don’t get me wrong, side note: I am absolutely grateful that I have had all of these wonderful things to juggle.
I know that so many of us parents can relate. Doing it all.
Ok, commence blog: when I decided to continue working, but just in a different format - going into the office and spending a few entire days on a workload I had been so enjoying - but had continued to find myself unable to focus on - there were a number of things that I anticipated:
Firstly - that it was going to feel so damn good inside my soul to get back at it. To have seven uninterrupted hours a day to spend on the career I spent 6 years in school and 8 years in the field building. I'm not going to lie - I’ve been longing for what I used to have when it comes to this: my career.
And secondly, that I was going to find that piece of me that I felt had been missing these past two years since having Sav ... that piece that I had back then. Fabric swatches in hand. Clients calling. Floor plans to create. And working with a team ... coming into the office everyday and knowing that there were going to be a handful of like-minded individuals there to converse with, create with, laugh with, be challenged with. And that ol’ elephant ... bringing in my own ... well, bacon. All of this - I missed and full on anticipated feeling incredible bliss upon having back in my life on the regular.
And lastly, I anticipated that as much as I adore my one-on-one time with Sav, that this new step would bring forth a new chapter for each of us that was going to feel really, really great ... having some time apart a few days a week. Time to grow. Time to learn. Time to build relationships outside of our Mama/Daughter world. I anticipated it would be a good step for not just me, but also for her ... as an only child I knew that these few days a week in daycare would provide some much needed regular social interaction for her. An opportunity to learn that yes, Sav, there are other children out there that might want to use the same toy as you. And that, yes, you are going to have to share. With all of this in mind I knew we were stepping towards an important change in our lives. And at the very same time I had some hesitation. After being joined at the hips for the past two years, what was this regular time apart really going to feel like?
And then, the day came.
The day that meant I had to just do it, swallow the worry, the nerves and pack her up to drop her off with people I knew only through research and drive freely into the sunrise with an empty car seat behind me... and silence. So much absurd silence. I arrived at the office. Sat at my desk. Took a deep breath, and as I always had in the past, got to work.
And as I began to tackle the list of tasks I had written down in my fresh, new notebook with my fresh, new pen I started to feel some of these feelings that I had anticipated: the sense of relief that I had a full day ahead of me to complete these said tasks and that I didn't have to worry about being interrupted by a "Mama!" from upstairs when nap time ended. And as I turned my desk chair around to speak to a colleague, in person, I felt the loneliness and isolation of working from home, always speaking over email, fade. And what brought me the most inspiration was getting out on the showroom floor, positioning beautiful pieces of furniture, hanging art and harnessing the design skills I felt I had left somewhere far behind me. It all felt amazing.
And then it started, slowly at first, creeping from deep down inside me, this unexpected realization that, as great as everything was going, this return to this other part of me, my career life, that even with all of the assumptions I had, had before getting started, as much as I was so overwhelmingly excited to begin to feel, I don't know, more like how I used to feel back in my career days ... that actually, no matter what, no matter how hard I tried, it never would.
No matter what. No matter how long. During the day in and day out of my career work, as hard as I work. As much as I get back into it. As much as I so enjoy it. It will never be exactly as it was. Somewhere in the back of my mind, always, sits...
Wondering ... at first, how is she right now? Is she happy? Is she eating? Is she sleeping? Please, for the love, tell me she’s still not standing at that window gazing longingly out at me, like she was this morning, one single tear tracing a line down her plump, little cheek.
Are the other kids being kind to her, and is she being kind in return? And if not, is her daycare leader disciplining her the way I would, or at least with fairness and grace.
These questions consumed my mind for the first few weeks. And then they began to become less frequent. The tightly held fist that I had around the Motherly part of my heart began to lose its grip. And then there was the day I picked her up after work and the most calming thought entered my mind. I walked down the hall of the daycare looking for her and she was in the classroom at the end with one of the leaders I hadn't met yet. She had the most amazing energy and along with it a strong and beautiful accent. It hit me right there, instead of feeling fearful and judgemental (which sometimes, these days, it feels like we always are towards people we do not know closely) I thought, how lucky am I, how lucky is Sav, to have the opportunity to learn from other people, other cultures, other ways of life? It felt amazing to just, let go and find peace in anothers ability to nurture and teach my child.
And as with everything since having Sav, as I calmed down, I learned again, for the 115,000th time, that the hardest emotions: they always fade in time. It felt big at first because it was new and because she’s small and because we just spent the last two years, well, I said it before, the joined at the hip thing.
But ... all of this being said. Even though these feelings fade, and it gets easier, and both of us have, I guess, settled, what It makes me realize in the end, is this: there will always be another, larger priority in my mind and in my heart every single working day. No matter how hard I work, and no matter how much I adore my work, and no matter how settled I feel ... Sav will always be my number one.
All of this made me think back to a time before Sav. To the beautiful face of one of my girlfriends whom I used to work with. She is also a Mama, she has two kids. Back then she worked part time, I worked full. A lot of things went down back then. And in saying everything I just did, mostly I would just like to apologize. Again. For not getting it. For being a part of any rhetoric or thought or hint that her priorities weren’t in the right place. I get it now, they were. 100%. 150 million%. I didn’t understand it back then. I didn’t have children.
And to confirm all of this even further, as always, the ever wise voice of reason in my life, my Mom spoke the following words to me recently.
“Michelle, you will never be alone again.”
Terrifying right? Overwhelming?
Well, it all depends on how you look at it. There have been many times since having Sav that I have let this statement, this massive realization fill me with fear. But, what has been the most amazing part of this new chapter where we are learning what it is like to spend days apart is that I have been able to allow this sobering fact to, this time, fill me with joy ... knowing that I will always be needed, that I will always care about someone else more than myself, and that I will never be alone.
Which leads me to another feeling that I did not anticipate this chapter would bring, and that is this: gratitude.