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Mourning the end of maternity leave

I can’t believe I’m at the end. I do have three more weeks to go, but at this point, I’m already thinking about/dreaming about/planning for life in 5th grade, so it might as well already be here. It’s pretty pathetic that our country’s maternity/paternity policy sucks, and I find it somewhat infuriating that mothers who want to be with their young babies can’t. For some mothers, that may mean not being able to breastfeed. For others, a return to work may be as soon as 6 weeks, if they can’t afford to be out longer. I truly can’t imagine leaving a 6 week old baby to go to work. That said, some mothers WANT to go back to work right away, which is absolutely fine. But at least we could have the choice. I’ve been so, so lucky. It hasn’t gotten past me how very lucky I am. I got to stay home for a long time. Baby I will be 5.5 months old when I return in a few weeks, and that’s a lot longer than some people have. I’ve used that time wisely, knowing I will never have this opportunity again. I’m also incredibly lucky that my nanny, J,  stayed on in our house while I was home. She needed the full time income and we’re always happy to have her here. I didn’t know how it would go, with both of us being in this small house. I didn’t want to step in her way. But it worked out wonderfully – better than I thought it would.

While I was on maternity leave, I was able to:

-First and foremost, breastfeed. That was the main goal anyway, and it’s a lot easier to do when you’re home with an infant all the time. Baby I had a tongue tie that we had revised at 8 weeks, and about a month after that, his latch was totally fixed. He nurses easily, and other than a few plugged ducts and a dairy sensitivity issue, breastfeeding has gone SO smoothly and I absolutely love doing it!

-Take the twins for some social interactions. I signed them up for a weekly “preschool”-type class in which I hang out in the background. Given that they’ve never been to a daycare, they’ve never been in a place that’s not our home without us. They’ll be going off to preschool next fall, so this class was a good way of introducing school and listening to a teacher, while still having me there for support. It’s a tiny class (6 kids), and it’s been lovely for them to receive directions from a teacher who isn’t me, my husband, or J. And it’s been fascinating to watch them in this new environment. B is there every step of the way. C is SUPER shy, constantly coming back to me and checking in. But she loves it, even if she’s still averting her eyes every time she’s spoken to. This is so good for them.

I also took them to a weekly playgroup with a maternity leave friend, and that’s been awesome too. Just getting out of the house, playing with other toys in a new space. I’ve been able to do this while leaving Baby I with our nanny. We’re gone for less than 2 hours.

-Get Baby I to take a bottle from J. She now gives him two bottles a week, for those two classes I mentioned. Obviously, when I go back to work it’ll all change. Luckily, that transition has been smooth as well.

-Get some things done around the house. I did some purging of cabinets, some organizing, and in the next few weeks, will be cleaning out the playroom to turn it into Baby I’s room. I’ve also done some fun things, like make photo books.

-Run errands. I typically have gone during nap, but with J here, I could go whenever.

One of the main takeaways from this leave was spending time with the twins. It’s one thing to be present for a baby on leave, and it’s another to spend quality time with 3 year olds. We went for ice cream, we went shopping, we went to the library, apple picking…I would NEVER have been able to do these things on a whim otherwise. Given all of this time spent with them, the transition is going to be hard on them. Especially B, who threw a fit when I went into the basement this morning. And this weekend, when I pumped in my bedroom and shut the door. And it’s going to be hard on me, too. Because not only am I leaving all 3 of my babies, I’m leaving them for a job that is 100% STRESSFUL. I haven’t met an elementary school teacher who says that teaching hasn’t changed in the last 5-10 years, that it’s just as rewarding as it used to be, and that it’s not stressful. I hope, someday, the job returns to the way it was when I first became a teacher. The demands (not directly teaching-related) keep piling up with no extra time to achieve them. And everyone is on edge, everyone is stressed. I’m leaving my children to return to that! Why?

Because I need the money. Because being with children (hello) is something I enjoy. Because I still want to be a teacher. One with much less stress.

I’ve got some challenges ahead, work-wise. I’m coming into a classroom with students who’ve been established since September, but for me it’ll be like the first day of school. I’ve got my own systems to set up, while quickly getting to know the kids and their needs. I’m going to be pumping at work. That alone is a challenge. I just bought a nice dress. How am I going to pump in it? And on the home front, Baby I wakes up anywhere between like 4 and 8 am. When it’s super early, he goes back to sleep. I’ll want to make sure I feed him once before I go, so I need to figure out what time to wake up, shower, exercise? I’ve got some details to work out.

So with 3 weeks left to go, I’m going to take the twins to a few more classes. I’m going to take a tour and observe what will hopefully be their preschool next year. I’m going to clean the playroom. I’m going to plan my guided math centers. And I’m going to savor every moment with my littlest man and my twins.

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