Maternity Leave and Playing Stay-at-Home Mom

I’ve never been a stay-at-home mom.
When I had my oldest, I was working full-time. I was only able to take six weeks off of work, then started back at my job and I’ve been working 40+ hours a week ever since. I had my second baby in January, I’m fortunate to work for a really family-friendly company, and my direct supervisor had a baby 11 months before I gave birth. For all these reasons, I felt like I could take off 12 weeks for maternity leave for this postpartum journey. Since my oldest is now three and enrolled in preschool and dance class, I was in full-on stay-at-home mom mode. Throughout my pregnancy, I kept looking forward to that experience. I can confidently say I have no regrets about those three months at home, but I’m also somewhat relieved to be back in the office (although I’ve reached new levels of sleep deprivation).
The best way I can describe my experience as a temporary-stay-at-home mom is a drawn-out, never-ending to-do list. Between making food for my three-year-old, nursing my newborn, getting the preschooler dressed, changing the baby’s diaper… it really never ended. I’ve seen jokes online about stay-at-home moms getting defensive when others ask, “What do you do all day?” But at the end of the day, I would sit down and think, “I was so busy all day but absolutely nothing got done.” I was exhausted. But, my house was a mess, dinner hadn’t been cooked and I was lucky if I’d put on real clothes.
I was convinced my biggest challenge in being a stay-at-home mom would be splitting my time between my two children. But actually, the biggest challenge was getting out of the house! Getting everyone ready to go in the small window where my newborn was fed with a clean diaper was like advance mathematics. I also had very little confidence in taking on big tasks with the two of them. Instead of taking the opportunity to escalate the stressful situations, my daughter turned out to be a great helper when she could sense that I was under pressure. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts at grocery shopping involving a busy parking lot and too-loose Moby wrap, I gave up on trying to get big things done with both kids in tow. I don’t know how true SAHMs ever get a full load of groceries with two kids. Those women have all my respect and admiration.
Like I said before, now that I’m back at work, I’m beyond exhausted. I definitely have less time to rest, but I do have more time to myself. I get to eat my lunch at my desk completely uninterrupted. I don’t hear my three-year-old say “Hey, Mom?” 5000 times per hour. I’m also breastfeeding, so I take 3+ pumping breaks a day. One of my friends recently asked me if pumping was absolutely terrible, but it’s actually the only true private time I get to myself all day, so I cherish it.
While a working mom is what I’m meant to be, my respect for the selfless, thankless work stay-at-home moms do everyday went up tenfold. It makes me regret all the times I put my dishes near the sink instead of in the dishwasher when I was growing up. Sorry, Mom!

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