the heartache of returning to work


My eyes are red and still slightly damp from tears. My sinus is inflamed from the collision between my nose and a baby’s head that occurred several days prior, but today’s crying doesn’t help. These emotions are a mingle of excitement, confusion and pain. The abrupt bursts are seemingly unending. I’m suffering from a first world problem, which makes me feel worse. Out of the blue, just as I began thinking, just thinking about going back to work, I was offered a job. It’s a good fit, so I accepted. Once I began the victory dance around the kitchen, my son crawled in, grinning ear to ear. Seeing him, my heart grew two sizes and then shattered all over the floor.

Why did I just negotiate to leave him?

The plan was never to be a permanent play-at-home mama. Having a child never dampened my desire to have a career. When he was barely two months old I returned to the pastry kitchen, practically running to get there the first day. It was like having a day off compared to at-home parenthood.  The work seemed less taxing and it was amazing to converse with other adult again, but something was missing. The same joys of accomplishment I’d once received were no longer evident. Jonathan and I juggled parenting and work, but ultimately it was more finically feasible for one parent to stay home consistently. I happily returned.

Certainly no other position has been more strenuous or challenging. The past seven months have drastically widened my appreciation for parents who drop outside careers to raise kids. While friends complained about the muck they dealt with in their jobs, I dealt with literal muck in diapers. My boss was unpredictable and needy just like theirs. The only difference is that I could never honestly vent about him without garnering strange looks. I love my son unconditionally, but only the sweet older lady at the sandwich shop has understood. “I bet some days you feel like you could sell him to the lowest bidder.” Absolutely! But today isn’t one of them.

Today I hold him and cry. And cry. And cry some more. Empathy is lost on the baby. He reacts with hysterical laughter followed by a joyful slap to the face. Perhaps my mood is intense because the change is sudden. Unlike the previous time, I don’t have two months to mentally prepare. I have a week. This time it’s not temporary. Jonathan is transitioning toward a full-time tattoo career.  Since it’s client-based and clients can be unreliable we will be once again share outside jobs and child care.

My partner is an amazing father and our son’s whole face lights up in his presence. I’m a blessed individual who doesn’t have to worry about the competency of my child’s caregiver during my absences, or about applying for a job because apparently they just appear. I’ve been blessed (although sometimes I felt cursed) to have spent such an immense amount of quality time with my little dude. He’s old enough to play independently and request daily doses of alone time. He doesn’t require my particular attention as often. It’s a good time to go back to work. I want to go to work. I know these things to be true, but my heart still aches. Who knew it would be this hard.


6 thoughts on “the heartache of returning to work

  1. I was blessed not to have to make this decision.
    But I have talked with other mums who haven’t had such a long time with their child, so I can understand a LITTLE of how your heart hurts.
    I’ll be praying for you all as you transition to a new season of your lives.

    • Oh my goodness. There probably isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about you when I watch little Mr Rivers. I can only imagine all of the anecdotes you have from Jonathan! It warms my heart. I think of how much you love your (big) baby, because I feel the same about ours.
      Thank you so much.

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