Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Emotional Pendulum of Returning to Work

My emotions with returning back to work full time after being home with my children so much for the past five months are all over the place. I was really hoping I'd start to get bored from being home so much and be sick of my kids that I'd be more than ready for the break from them that working offers.

They definitely have their moments where they drive me crazy but I'm not sick of them or dying for a break from them. With three kids and my own agenda with working out and enjoying my personal hobbies like reading, writing, and (digital) scrap booking there's been little time for boredom. To say being home with this has been enjoyable would be an understatement.

I know my older two need to get back to our "normal" with their school, activities, and routines. But even though this is my third time it's still so hard to face leaving a baby when you go back to work. I loved my job last year. I'm super excited for new things I have coming up this school year. It's the knowing I'll be leaving him for ten hours a day that kills me. This is where that hour commute each way hits me. I love the school I've been at the past two years but it takes me away from him for at least an extra hour or so a day. But then I remind myself with the other two, more so my first  I had a second PT job 5-10 hours a week (my second was a year old before I went back to doing PT work after school) so at least I don't have that making going back to work harder for me this time.

Of course I always ask myself what about staying home. First it's always never been a possibility because I bring in half of our financial needs and with going into thirteen years on the salary scale with a Masters +30 degree as well as the extra stipends I get for other school projects I do I make too much money to not work. I've done the math. Even with a part time job that paid at $30 or so an hour and with no daycare costs we'd still lose half our income. Plus it'd setback my retirement goals, and those are kind of important to me.

Obviously money is the first thing I consider when it comes to my choice but the other is knowing myself. I need productivity in my life on an almost daily basis. I also crave to feel a part of something and feel like a contributor. At seven years into this working mom gig I know flaws and mistakes and all, I'm still a good mom. I'm not perfect by any means but I've also learned I don't have to be. I know now that I can be a good mom and a working contributor on different levels. Being a working mom makes me feel like I contribute productively on many levels. I'm contributing as an employer but also due to my job on a larger societal level. As I stated before being able to equally financially contribute on a family level is important to me. I understand in homes where one parent stays home they work out a contribution balance that works for them, but as someone who's had to pay for her own things the majority of her life having to depend on someone else financially would kill my perception of my own self worth. Whereas other girls/women may struggle with self image and worth due to appearance or weight for me it's more linked to my contributions and the productivity I accomplish. I need to be busy; I need to be doing. Modeling the balance of motherhood with a career and my own personal goals/ambitions to my girls is important to me. The world is so different today for women than it use to be generations ago, and I want them to know they can pursue their own ambitions one day too.

God knows I've considered other ways to be home more and still financially contribute and feel productive and a part of something, but I've invested 16 years (counting undergrad studies) into my career. Right now I'm happy in it again which is HUGE. I can't just abandon everything I've put in to get here where I am. However, I have to have a good year career wise this year because I already know from experience if I have a bad year that is when the guilt of not being home with my baby will consume me. If it's a good year and I'm happy I can manage the guilt. I know all too well the first two years away from your baby is when the guilt is at its worst ( after that I feel they benefit from my absence at work). The good news is this time our life is more together than it was when we brought the other two into our family. I won't have to pick up extra work throughout the school year, and I should be able to enjoy my summers home with them again.

I'm headed into this school year with mixed emotions. Excitement because I'm excited for what I'll be doing in and out of the classroom at work. Sad because it's always hard to leave your baby, and I'm going to be leaving him as he hits that seperation anxiety stage (at least I'm not the one dropping him off). And anxious because I worry about balancing it all and not feeling overwhelmed, and I want it to be great a year professionally and personally but worry I'll get in my own way at times.

Working is important to me. As much as teaching has drained me at times, whether it's the workload with the grading or at times the behavior of the kids or even their sometimes crazy parents, I take a lot of pride in my chosen profession. I, just like every teacher I know, really can make a difference whether it's through one child that just needs to connect with that one adult or through the lessons we pass on how to go out there and make our world a better place.

But I am also incredibly grateful for these past few months to be home with my children. Maybe that's why I didn't burn out of it like I kind of hoped I would. I knew it was a rare opportunity to thoroughly enjoy them in a way I haven't been able to in years, possibly ever. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't burn out because I can go back knowing I made the most of my time with them.


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