I officially joined the workforce as a gift-wrapping teenager back in the 80’s and since then, my only time off has been maternity leave… nine weeks when Liam was born in 2004, sixteen weeks when Ciara was born in 2006 and twenty weeks when the triplets were born in 2008.
I had mixed emotions about my maternity leaves… perhaps because I had mixed emotions about motherhood. With Liam, I was petrified of this little human that I had no clue how to care for; I was honestly surprised that they thought me capable enough to send us home from the hospital together!
With Ciara, I just couldn’t imagine how I’d juggle this sweet little rosebud of a newborn with the always active almost two-year old that Liam had become. And with the triplets, well, needless to say, I was completely overwhelmed!
As any WM knows, a maternity leave is far from the blissful break some folks suggest it may be. It is a daunting time full of sleep deprivation, dirty diapers, saggy body parts and for me, an occasional sense of isolation. I never thought that having a baby (or three!) could be a lonely experience but it was. It was very lonely to be awake with a hungry newborn at 3:00AM with swollen boobs that just wouldn't work. Or mid-day when my pals were out having fun and I was home with a crying soul I was trying so hard to understand. Of course, these feelings are not the sole territory of the WM, I’m quite certain that SAHMs experience the same range of emotions from fear to anxiety to yes, even the wonder of it all. Because it is indeed a wonder -- the fact that your body produced this little person (or, in my case, people!) who stare into your eyes with such adoration… I like to think it was adoration although, I know those meaningful glances might have also just been gas.
My point is that any time I’ve ever taken off from work has been filled with the sleepless nights and unpredictable days of infancy. So, taking a few weeks “off” to be a SAHM with three two year olds, a four year old and six year old was a completely different – and dare I say, much better – experience!
My stay at home sabbatical has been a dream come true. In a way, it was kind of a test… can I really juggle all these crazy kids without escaping to the grown-up work world that I’m accustomed to? Will l like it? Will I still like them? Will they still like me? These are the questions that ran through my head as I embarked on my six week stay at home. And, in short, the answers are yes, yes, yes and thankfully, yes!
I was finally able to participate in the many activities that I know (from a very good friend!) get to be a drone for the full-time SAHM but were a thrill for me… the preschool pick up and drop off, the meet and greet at the school bus, the ability to go to the pediatrician in the middle of the day, the chance to take some kids to the grocery store, host playdates, pick up from CCD and dream up random things to do – many of which focused on cooking or baking so, I fear this stay at home sabbatical has resulted in a slightly rounder me but, c’est la vie! I’ve loved every minute of it. And I’m prepared to admit that perhaps the reason why is because I always knew it would be short-term.
I always knew I was going back to work; it was just a question of when. These past few weeks have essentially been a maternity leave without the sleep deprivation, isolation and post-pregnancy hormone horrors. It was like a dream come true to have this break and, like most dreams, it is coming to an end. I will soon cross the line and head back to the place I know best, back to my role as a WM. I am truly grateful for the time I’ve had – for baking cookies, playing in the snow, walking the triplets to school, taking Ciara to gymnastics, meeting Liam at the bus, finding the time to quietly read to them all, cooking dinner without the post-work angst and mayhem, snuggling in PJs on weekdays, all of it. It has been stellar; it has truly been a gift.
And, I know the grass is always greener… I now know what I have as a WM that I wouldn’t as a SAHM. Beyond benefits and financial stability, working gives me the opportunity to pee when I want to and to eat a whole sandwich without sharing, if I so desire. It gives me intellectual stimulation and constant adult conversation that rarely wanders into the land of potty-training or discipline.
Thanks to my stay at home sabbatical, I will no longer wonder “what if” because I now know. I am glad to have a career and even gladder to know that should it all come crashing down, I have five little people at home who will always be glad to have a SAHM.