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How Maternity Leave Taught Me I Couldn't Be a SAHM

Maternity Leave Made Me Realize I Don't Want to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom

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As I neared the end of my first pregnancy and geared up to take a leave of absence from my job, I was excited for a break from the daily grind. I looked forward to putting my hour-long commute on hold, slow mornings spent at home with a cup of coffee while the baby played contentedly beside me, and having the time to try new dinner recipes while the baby napped.

Not surprisingly, my naivety was shattered when the baby arrived. It immediately became clear that my fantasies were terribly misguided. After two weeks of being blessed with a sleepy, content newborn, reflux struck. My son became extremely fussy due to gas pain, and it was impossible to soothe him. For months, I had a baby attached to me for the majority of the day, as he refused to be put down. As much as I loved cuddling with him, it was physically and emotionally draining. There were times when I thought I couldn't handle the constant fussing and near-24/7 demand for my attention for the remainder of my maternity leave. I felt guilty for even having these thoughts, but I dreamed of the peace and quiet of my office at work.

Fortunately, as the months wore on, my son's reflux improved and we settled into a predictable and enjoyable routine. But, although my love for my son is overwhelming, the days could still be long and lonely. When I returned to work, I mourned the missed time with my son, but I quickly found my stride and thoroughly enjoyed working outside the house again.

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As my family prepared to welcome our second baby earlier this Fall, I toyed with the idea of staying home with my babies permanently this time. After all, babies aren't babies for long. I wanted to revel in their little-people years as much as possible. Besides, child care is expensive. Surely I could handle the stay-at-home-mom gig for a few years until they were in school. I envisioned the play dates we'd have with friends and the Pinterest-worthy activities we could do if we had the luxury of spending all day, every day together. However, my reality at home each day with two kids is much more mundane — draining, even. It involves a lot of rocking the baby while shushing the toddler to prevent him from waking said baby. Nap-time schedules leave little room for play dates, and the epic toddler meltdowns have me questioning my sanity daily. Being needed as "Mom" all day long leaves me feeling depleted by the time bedtime finally rolls around.

The decision-making process caused me a lot of anguish, but something changed several weeks after my daughter was born. I returned home from an afternoon of running errands without my kids. It was the first time we'd been apart since she was born. I realized I felt refreshed, not stressed, for the first time in weeks. It suddenly hit me: the quality time I spend with them is more important than the quantity. That realization allowed me to finally be able to let go of the guilt I felt for not wanting to be a full-time stay-at-home mom.

Now that I've firmly decided to go back to work, I'm confident it was the right decision for our family. We discussed the logistics of making it happen and came up with a plan — I'm so grateful we figured it out. Do I miss my kids while I'm working? Absolutely. But I'm a more patient mom after we've spent some time apart and I've had the opportunity to engage in projects that excite me on a professional level. When I walk through the door at the end of the day, I'm excited to dive head first into my role as "Mom" because we have so much to catch up on.

It took a lot of soul searching, but I've realized that being a full-time stay-at-home mom isn't for me — and that's OK.

Image Source: Getty / Westend61
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