When maternity leave has to end, can I find peace?

The day has come for my last maternity leave to end. The desire to stay home with our children has always been a fleeting thought, as I was ready to make more strides in my career. This time, however, the pull to stay home haunts me.

To be clear, I love my job! I have wanted to teach in higher education for quite some time, and this will be my second year teaching full time. I love to teach and I love going to work. Somehow the maternal side gets me though, now having three children.

We are not immune to time. Our oldest, J, is now in kindergarten six hours a day, five days a week. We keep trying to figure out where the time went. I keep trying to process how we have a kindergartener, and why his baby and toddler years seem like a distant blur.

Last night at the dinner table my husband told our 2 1/2 year old daughter, “I’m going to miss when you have grown out of this phase.” Our spunky, attitude driven, independent toddler is two going on twenty. She is so full of personality and love, and has some amazing quirks that make us smile immensely.

And now B, our youngest, is almost six months old. I got to spend so much more time at home this maternity leave, now that I work at a school where I get summers off. The time was so valuable with our three children. And yet, it went by so fast! And now B is ready to be sitting up, and soon eating solids and crawling. And I don’t want to miss any of it.

But it is time for me to go back to work. To the career I chose. The career I love.

A good friend who I used to have the pleasure to work with, and who has wisdom from raising her own babies, told me shortly after B was born that I should stay home. She said we should talk, and she would tell me all the reasons why I should. That was when B was a newborn, and I still knew I belonged back at work. Now however, her words run through my head daily. I like work, and I love teaching. I need to work to help support our family. But I want to be at home more than anything!

I have no doubt that our amazing sitter has all the care covered. She will give our children valuable knowledge, and a great deal of fun. I am not worried about leaving Benjamin and him developing separation anxiety. I do not have separation anxiety either. My desire to be home does not stem from stress. Rather, it stems from a desire to slow time, to be present more, and to be with these little loves during such a formidable part of their lives.

In the end, my return to work is inevitable. Though I now place a higher value on my time away from home, and am supporting a strong negotiation for increasing nurse faculty wages. In time I will fall back into my role at the college, and be reminded why I love my career.

I also have been trying to focus on what I do have. I am blessed to have weekends, holidays and summers with our family and to be home with the kids. I am so lucky to have a husband who is excellent at practicing presence. And I have been given the gift of awareness, so I can continue to try to learn presence myself, and make as many memories as I can.

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