Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Working Mom Update: One Year Later

November 12th is forever singed into my brain.
As the day I left my heart, my 12 week old baby, and went back to work.

I was enjoying my weekly chat with my expecting best friend in Rhode Island this past weekend. Amidst the giddy dreaming about all the exciting changes that are about to come her way, our conversation shifted into the trials and lessons that go along with working after baby. And I couldn't believe the words that came out of my mouth regarding the topic. That I was actually thankful for my time back at work as a teacher and that it made me a better mother. It's sort of the whole idea that without bad, we would never really recognize good. And how, after one of toughest years of my life, I'm able savor every moment I have with and fully appreciate my daughter.

It is absolutely amazing the difference one year can make.
I'm a better and stronger person.
Someone who's experienced tremendous growth and who is filled to capacity with thankfulness.
After reading the post I wrote exactly one year ago, my heart breaks for that girl.
The one who left the unexpected bliss of maternity leave to a year full of confusion and heartache.

No matter the situation, returning to work from maternity leave is hard. Even for those who are excited to get back to work. It's that daily grind, the speed at which the day travels {all with the added stress of a newborn who doesn't sleep through the night} that is enough to make anyone reach the verge of a psychotic breakdown.
But even once I got the hang of running on 5 hours sleep, the endless cleaning of bottles and laundry, the rushing around like a crazy person every morning, the figuring out how to maintain my milk supply, and the keeping up with lesson plans and after-school meetings, things still didn't get easier.
In fact, once I got more "comfortable" and into a solid routine of madness, I sank deeper into a sad, dark place.

Unbeknownst to myself at the time, I was at a crossroads of sorts. Not only was I trying to figure out how to be the mom I wanted to be, I was also facing the feeling in my gut that my childhood dream of teaching wasn't exactly what I'd always imagined it to be. But it was still something that I threw my entire self into, as I do with all things. Because I don't really know any other way than to try to excel in whatever it is I do. Besides, I didn't leave a successful career and go into debt simply to be an okay teacher. I dreamed of changing education and truly making a difference.

But all of that changed at 4:20 a.m. on August 19th, 2012.

Because after going back to work, my full attention, energy, and heart was being pulled in two opposite directions. By virtue of the inability to give my entirety to more than one thing, I was settling to be a mediocre teacher and a mediocre mom.

I'll never forget something one of my teammates said to me my first week back. I was venting my frustration over my feelings of mediocraty. She said to me, "Ang, you're an amazing teacher and mom. You'll just have to learn to wear different hats."

Although she was absolutely right, my heart instantly sank. Because at that moment, I knew I didn't want to wear different hats. I wanted only one hat. I didn't want to be a teacher by day and mom by night. Which for me was only for one hour each night as Lyla went to bed so early. One hour a night. And during that hour, my mind was often elsewhere, thinking of all the things that had to get done by the next morning.

I tried to let it go. If you can't change your situation, change your attitude was my mantra. Believe me, I tried. All the pep talks from my co-workers and family, encouragement from my husband, and compliments from parents and my principal did nothing to help with the confusion, anger, and sadness I felt.

I was sad because I missed my daughter and sad because I felt like I was forcing my passion for a career that I at one time was sure was my calling.  It was devastating to slowly say goodbye to a lifelong dream that wasn't exactly what I'd always pictured. Not to mention the fear and anticipation I felt for the upcoming school year as my district planned extreme changes. Changes that would increase my anxiety and cause me to see Lyla even less. Sadly, my fear wasnt for nothing as it's a struggle for many of my previous co-workers to keep their heads above water this year.

And I often get asked the question, Do you ever regret leaving teaching? 
Honest answer?
Not one bit.

These days, I am fully able to focus on the things that are important to me. The things that matter most.

So many admirable women are able to do it. To Lean In and make it all work. I admire these women tremendously, and at one time, I was sure that I would be one of them. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't quite figure out the whole balancing act. Or how to put 100% into two different loves. And in the end, I could no longer put into teaching what I wanted to, or what it {and my students} deserved.

Which brings us to today.
One year later.

My circumstances have changed since one year ago.
But I'm still a working mom.
I still deal with the daily grind and the morning blur.
I still deal with a fussy toddler after a long work day.
I still don't get nearly enough time with my babe in the evenings.
But at least I'm fully present this time around.
And I'm no longer defined by my profession.
I am defined by so much more.
I'm a wife. mother. friend. daughter. snuggler. laugher. doer. reader. goober.
And sadly, I truly felt like I was none of those things last year.

Like many of us who deal with hardships, I am now able to fully appreciate so much more after my yearlong struggles.
I not only value every moment spent with my daughter, but I have a deep respect, understanding, and true appreciation for teachers everywhere. Especially the good ones.

I'm beyond blessed and incredibly grateful that I was able to make a change in my personal situation.
I now work at a job I enjoy and that I'm able to completely leave at the end of the day.

Overall, I'm loving life.
Especially the simple, everyday moments.

By focusing on my family, I'm actually doing something I love.
Not doing what I always thought I was supposed to do.

And I am finally okay with that.


MCP said...

This is great Angela. I can't believe that I left the Big A almost a year ago and I too am so thankful for working after Jameson was born. It makes me appreciate being home with him even more. Hope all is well! Your daughter is beyond adorable!

Mary Billings said...

I love that saying and want to frame it :)

Kristin said...

I always tell people that going back to work after having Kenley is the hardest thing I've ever done - which makes me sound a little wimpy but it's the truth! I love what your coworker said about wearing different hats, its so true.

Sarah @ Life, Love & Dinner said...

Oh, this post speaks directly to my heart! I am a teacher and a new mom and I am absolutely dreading going back to work. ABSOLUTELY DREADING it! I've always put my whole self into teaching and now I don't know how I can be away from this precious little baby who IS my whole self! I teach at an extended day school that is 40 minutes away and I just can't even picture my day but it sounds a lot like what you described. I'm hanging onto hope knowing that so many other mama's work but oh, it won't be easy. Thank you for sharing!

Also, what do you do now?