After taking almost ten weeks off for maternity leave, it was time for my husband and I to drop off baby girl at the sitter for the first time. We knew it would be tough and planned ahead to be able to stop for brief coffee date before we went into work to help soften the blow. Leaving her with a stranger, albeit a trusted stranger, was very difficult for both of us, as new parents. Would the sitter know how to help soothe her if she cries? Wait, she might cry?! But, I won’t be there!! After reassuring ourselves that she was in good hands and that our little squishy ten-week-old baby would be just fine, we reluctantly went off to work.
As soon as I walked into the main office the administrator said, “Oh good, you’re back. We have an IEP meeting to go to at Such-and-Such Middle School. Come on, let’s go.” And off, I was. Sitting in that meeting I quickly jumped back into my role and knew exactly what I needed to say. It felt good. I felt confident and competent. I thought to myself, “I really know what I am doing.” And boy, did it feel great.
It was much later when I realized that going back to work felt so natural and easy because I am a well trained professional with very specific skills, none of which include how to manage and care for a newborn baby. I also realized that I had spent much of my maternity leave wondering if I was doing the right thing at any given moment and second guessing myself. At work I am competent. At home I am clueless. At work I am confident in my skills and know where to find answers when I am unsure. At home with baby girl I found myself constantly trying to research and read to find exactly the right answer only to realize, in a huff of frustration, that there is no one right answer when it comes to babies, especially newborns.
Everyone tells you to trust your gut as a parent, to follow your instincts. That is no easy task when your day job is to be the one who is supposed to answer all the puzzling questions based on your extensive training and experience. My husband would often ask what I thought we should do in various baby-decision-making situations and it would frustrate me to no end. “Why do you think I would know and you wouldn’t?!” I would ask. To which he would reply, “But, you spend so much time doing all that research.”
I know that my job makes me a better mom. At work I have skills and knowledge that help me do what I love to do, help children. I can feel competent and confident in my skills during the entire work day. I can carry this feeling with me when I come home and can’t figure out why our baby won’t eat/sleep/stop crying. I can remind myself that it is OK to not always have all the answers. I can remind myself to trust my gut.