Depression after Maternity Leave Ends
As a child, I always wanted to “grow up” to be a working mom. When I entered junior high school, I set my goals for college, determined to be the first person in my immediate family to attend a 4 year university. In my senior year of high school, I was accepted into my dream school and on the road to achieving my goals. College went as planned and following graduation I began my career as a Speech-Language Pathologist. Two years later, I married my college sweetheart and shortly after was struck with baby fever. My husband didn't quite have the itch yet, as he wanted to wait until he was thirty to start a family. So I threw my energy into my career, working at a top pediatric hospital in the Washington DC area.
When my husband was close to 30, he finally agreed to start trying for a baby. Shortly before becoming pregnant, we got into quite a disagreement about the fact that I wanted to continue working after having a baby. He always imagined that I would stay at home and raise the kids. When we finally did get pregnant, reality hit him though. It would be near impossible for us to pay our bills, including our high student loan payments, with only one income. So we both decided that I would go back to work after my maternity leave ended.
After the birth of my first son, I took 12 weeks of maternity leave. As the end of the 12 weeks approached, I found myself feeling very sad and anxious. I was nowhere near ready to drop off my newborn at a daycare center for close to 12 hours a day. So I took another four weeks of maternity leave, in hopes that I would feel more ready to go back in another month. When the time came to pack up my breast pump and drop Xander off with total strangers, I was heartbroken.
I had a hard time transitioning back to full-time working mom mode, all while my baby was in the care of strangers. The first day back was SO hard. I cried through most of the day and the only thing that got me through was the time I had to myself for pumping. I wanted to punch each and every person who told me that “it would get easier with time”.
There is nothing easy about being away from your baby, especially as a new mom.
As the weeks went on, I continued to feel very sad. My sadness also began impacting my marriage, as my husband began to worry about my well-being. I honestly lived for weekends and vacation days. I hated missing the milestones my son was making and my passion for my work fizzled. I no longer felt the drive to work 50 + hours and deal with a long commute. Instead I wanted to be at home, loving on my boy.
I was miserable for four long months, before switching companies. I accepted a position with a much shorter commute and slightly shorter hours. The job wasn't my dream job, but it was well worth the extra time I had with my son. Slowly I began feeling like myself again and started celebrating all the small moments I had with Xander.
After having my second child, the sting of coming back to work after maternity leave hurt just as bad. At the time, we had recently moved 30 miles outside of the city, so again I had a horrible commute. I knew the option to stay-at-home with my boys just wouldn't work out financially. Instead of being miserable, I focused on turning our new house into a home, making some great friends in the neighborhood, and being thankful for the family I have.
It's funny how my view on being a working mom changed in a matter of seconds when the doctor placed the rest of my life in my arms. In my heart, I still dream of being a stay-at-home mom, but for now I must face the reality that I have to work to sustain my family. Some days are harder than others, especially when Noah puts his little arms around my neck and squeezes me tight at drop off in the morning. On these days, I remind myself that there are other moms feeling the same heartbreak and guilt that I feel and this tribe of working moms helps me push through.
Did your career goals and plans change after having children? What sacrifices did you make to accommodate your family?