Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On being a mom and an impending return to the office

I don't know that I have any eloquent or life-altering thoughts on motherhood as a whole, but I want to remember some of the thoughts and feelings I have been having as a new mom, kind of like how I do a monthly post about Clara's growth and milestones.

I should probably start out by stating the obvious:  I love being Clara's mom.  I am happy and fulfilled and even challenged despite the fact that she is an easy-going babe.  I find myself loving the loose structure that has filled my life, not just for her but for me as well.  I like eating breakfast at the kitchen table instead of in my car.  When Clara wakes up, I love being there to cuddle her and brush her long bangs out of her eyes and clip them back with a barette and see her smile at me while she is touching my face in her "good morning" gesture.  I enjoy going for a run at the gym in the mornings (even if I haven't been in the last few weeks).  If Clara is taking good naps, I like using the time to develop photos, blog, read scriptures, scrapbook or sew, or even catch up on a TV show that Paul doesn't watch like ANTM (which I know I should give up but it is one of those guilty pleasures that I keep recording).  Sometimes I will even clean, and that isn't even the worst thing in the world.  Having a tidy kitchen makes me happy and satisfied.  I don't clean my whole house every day, but I feel good if I get through a couple of loads of laundry, the dishes, and straightening things up so I don't feel like I'm living in clutter.

Often I find that I have forgotten to eat lunch because Clara woke up earlier than I expected and after changing her diaper and giving her a bottle she is just so playful that I don't notice I am hungry until 2:30 and then I just have a PB&J or something to tide me over until dinner.  I love my midday walks with Clara around our neighborhood where I point out flowers and rocks and cars and trees and clouds, naming different objects and their colors and sounds.  I really like reading books to Clara even if all she cares about right now is grabbing at pages so she can chew on them.  (I don't let her chew on books.  Should I?  Will that help her want to read more now and when she gets older?  Is this a ridiculous question?  She has a vaguely disappointed look every time I tug a page out of her little fingers just before it touches her mouth until I turn to the next page and she waves her arms like a maniac and starts grabbing again.)  All of the above just feels so simple and true and right. 

I love that when Paul gets home each day he has kisses for his girls and that he can tell me about what work at his firm is like and I know exactly what he is talking about because I have experienced the same things in my legal practice.  I find joy in getting Clara ready for bed by watching her splash around in a warm tub, rubbing lotion on her arms and legs and chest while she squirms and smiles, and dressing her in warm jammies.  My heart melts into a puddle as I sing bedtime songs to her and Paul and I say prayers then kiss her precious pink cheeks before laying her in her crib and flicking on her nightlight for the night.

Last week I went by my firm for a little while before Paul's firm's annual Fall Festival.  My secretary loves it when I bring Clara in, and I enjoy taking her around and saying hi to my co-workers.  At one point, a friend (who happens to be a partner with kids of her own) asked "Aren't you excited to come back?" in a tone so enthusiastic that I knew she wasn't joking. 

I didn't know how to really answer her, and I feel a lot of conflict on that issue right now.  I have about a month of maternity leave left and it feels like the sand grains are slipping through the neck of the hour glass faster and faster these days.  "No," was the answer that immediately jumped into my head, but not out of my mouth.  I tried to give a non-committal half-smile but I am certain that she saw right through me as she explained that she actually looked forward to returning to work from leave because it is "so hard" to be at home with the kids every day.  In no way do I feel like that is a bad thing to feel, and in fact, I am pretty sure that more women have that feeling more often than they might admit to it.  I could go into theory and personal perspective about this issu, but all I really care to say right now is that I don't feel that way.  It is not hard for me to be at home with Clara all day, every day.  I don't feel lonely, I don't feel unstimulated, I don't feel that my *considerable talents are being underutilized.  (*I believe in humility but not in downplaying the fact that I have a JD and am a pretty bright cookie who has and can accomplish quite a lot.  Sorry for the conceit but this was also an attempt at interjecting humor at a time when I feel some distress about the future.)

I don't feel ready to go back yet.  I'm busy doing the stay-at-home-mom thing right now.  I am happy doing what I am doing.  And my stomach clenches and my throat tightens each time I think about dropping Clara off at daycare and heading into the office.  I worry about how much I will miss her.  I worry that she will miss me (although I know that she won't ever remember it and I also know that she probably will take the separation much better than I will).  I worry about gaining weight.  I worry about the inevitable cold sores.  I worry about what we are going to eat for dinner every night and not having a single minute to call my own and being a stressed-out fruit basket.

So why am I going back to work?  There are a myriad of reasons, and not all of them need to be shared on this blog.  But as I interacted with my co-workers and talked about what their caseloads are currently like, I remembered that I actually truly enjoy a LOT about my job.  Despite its drawbacks, my job at the law firm, in a lot of ways, is fun.  Not always, and there are certainly things that I, and most young associate, really dislike about working at a big law firm, but by and large, I felt happy while I was there.  The people I work with are great, the work itself is usually interesting, there are those great paninis at the cafe...  I feel valued there.  Not that I don't feel valued doing what I am doing now, but in a different and important way that I also enjoy.

In all seriousness, I want to have it all.  There just isn't a way of doing it.  Not really.  Not without letting something slide somewhere.  I don't want to give up one second of my time with Clara.  But the idea of giving up on a career that I enjoy and that has provided so well for our little family is also appalling.  Every woman in my position faces these decisions and so I don't feel particularly unique for sharing these thoughts, but in case anybody who reads this blog wonders, it should be known that I am conflicted and I have come to the conclusion that it is okay to feel that way.  It is not comfortable or fun feeling conflicted, but it is O.K.  Going back to work is the right thing for me, and so that is what I am planning on doing.

In the meantime, I have another month of maternity leave and I am thanking my lucky stars for it.  That is one more month for Clara to figure out how awesome it is to sleep through the night, for me to log some miles on the treadmill, for us to enjoy walks in the fall weather, and to finish all of the Christmas shopping so I don't have that to worry about when I go back to work. 

Anyway, I'm such a dorky mom already.   I try to coordinate Clara's outfits with mine (and vice versa) as much as possible, but especially on Sundays.  I only have so long before she figures that one out and puts her wee foot down so I have to make these days count.  I have matching Halloween costumes planned out for all of us for the next two years already.  I sing Oldies and dance around the backyard with Clara and I don't care if the neighbors can hear.  I am trying to do sign language with a baby who hasn't even mastered matching her forefinger and opposable thumb to pick up a cheerio and stick it in her mouth yet.  I would rather go to Gymboree than to Banana Republic these days.

Well, this has been very therapeutic for me.  And Clara is down for the night and Paul is working late, so I guess I should post this and go wash bottles now.  I'm glad I'm a mom.


  1. I loved it all Amy. You are such a good mom, Clara is lucky to have you. Being away is hard, but it just makes you love and appreciate the time you do have even more. I have no doubt that you can do it all!!

  2. amy - it's erin goodsell. i love your blog but i've never commented, but i wanted you to know i've been thinking about you because i was figuring your maternity leave was coming to an end. i know how you feel. i've gone back to work after baby twice, and will a third time in january. anyway, if you ever need to talk about it let me know! my email address is eringoodsell at gmail dot com. would love to catch up sometime.

  3. I love this post. Thank you for writing it. It was an answer to prayer and I don't mean that lightly at all.
    As Tom and I prepare to start our adoption paper work this January, we have experienced every emotion about me being a working mom. I have one master's degree and will have my second masters this April. The pay and benefits are great at my job. My job is enough to support a family, so we even discussed Tom staying at home. We've revised budgets, created spreadsheets, fasted, visited with our financial advisor, etc. Talk about analysis paralysis. We have been wrestling hard with this for the past 3 years.
    We recently concluded that we can live on my salary. But to deny Tom the opportunity to work would undermine the talents, abilities, and desires of Tom to contribute as a provider for our family. We also concluded that the time, sacrifice, and energy invested in my career was too great to have me stop working, sort of the same way you feel about what you invested in your law degree and career. I really do feel positively about finding good child care providers, and every time I read something positive about working women, it just reaffirms what I feel and helps me go forward with confidence.
    Thank you for your honest and sincere feelings, this post was just what I needed. Sometimes I feel so alone. Infertility has at times caused me to feel isolated, misunderstood, and upset, and sometimes I feel criticized for "choosing" my career and "choosing" to be a parent- some people just don't think we can do both, even though I know many other women have. It's the desire to parent that matters, and if you love your job and love being a mom, you will be successful at both. Your post was a great reminder for me. Thank you for allowing me to follow your blog. I hope that I can write something someday to affect people, the way your blog has positively affected me.

  4. Okay, Clara is just TOO cute. Is she ever NOT smiling??? She seems like such a sweetie!!

    I love the stay-at-home life that you describe--it's obvious that you've made the most of it (which doesn't surprise me a bit with your go-getter personality). Do you think that you've savored every moment more because you knew that it would eventually come to an end? I think so many stay-at-home moms complain about being home because they know that they always will be. I don't think I have learned to love it yet, but each day gets a little more fun. It helps me to read your blog and to see/hear about what Clara is doing. It reminds me that in just a few months, Noah will have more personality, and we will be able to play together more.

    I think it is awesome that your firm gives six months maternity leave. You will treasure this time with each of your kids. And I know what you mean about fulfillment at work. I was a good teacher, and I miss that. I also miss my colleagues and students.

    This is totally off topic, but where do you live? We will be visiting friends in CA in January. We fly into the Oakland airport.

  5. Love the post! I'm always grateful for women who post about this because I think sometimes people have inaccurate ideas about why women work.

    We're not exactly in the same situation as you and Paul since I just have part-time jobs and Eric's still in school, but just based on our experience I can say yes, it will be very very stressful when you go back to work. If you can at all afford it I'd recommend a nanny instead of daycare (unless it's on-site or something), and at the least find someone to help with anything that can be outsourced (cleaning, maybe cooking). We've just started bringing someone in to help with Elliott when we're working from home, but before that *everything* was sliding. Like you said, we can't do everything - so the more we can get outside help, the less stress and tension there will be.

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  7. Amy, you look so beautiful in all of those pictures... and it is very apparent to me that Clara loves her momma! You are truly an amazing mother. We are both so happy for you and Paul.

  8. Amy, I will write you an email in more detail...

    All other readers: I am Clara's birth mother. I knew when I was looking at choosing Paul and Amy that Amy wanted to go back to work after her maternity leave. It was something I struggled with. It was a matter of prayer and much thought. I know WITHOUT A DOUBT that Clara is where she needs to be. I know that Paul and Amy are doing what is right for their family and I have such peace. I don't worry at all that Amy will be returning to work - I am happy for it. We have talked about it in more depth together and I value her decision so much (and the reasoning behind the decision). Clara is so blessed. I love seeing how incredibly much you do with do my family, friends, and even coworkers:)

  9. Amy, it's Meagan...your cousin. I've done it both ways over the past 7 years with my kids. I feel conflicted about this all the time. I have loved being a stay-at-home mom when that worked for myself, my career, and our family, but I have equally loved being a working mother. You'll find a balance that works for you and Clara and Paul and love both your time at home and your time at work. And you're right, she won't remember this time. But, if she does, she'll love you all the more for the sacrifices you make, for the value that you place in education, and for teaching her by example that she can be anything she wants to be.

    Also, I haven't been to Banana in a few years. I have been to Gymboree 4 times this month...

  10. Amy, I love your post. Thank you for being real and sharing your true feelings. I was very touched and as I get older I realize more and more that it's not for any of us to judge each other, not when it comes to these things. Someone above commented and said you would figure out a balance and I think that's true. If you want this to work out well, it will. I'm glad you are so proud of your accomplishments even if it was in jest, I'm right behind you thinking, "yeah she's awesome." Take care, Shauna

  11. Amy, you are so awesome! I am so glad I read this post. And I'm so glad we're friends. - Dorothy

  12. Loved this, Amy. You are always so honest and candid--with yourself and everyone else. I've always loved that about you. Great post.



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