(NB: I don’t usually get political on this blog & I don’t intend to go on any lengthy political rants that don’t relate to parenting or maternity leave, but I have to say… I wrote this post 2 weeks ago & since the inauguration, the current administration has made my day-to-day job very challenging & frustrating. What a difference a day makes! Still, the sentiment in this post is generally still true, so I’ve decided to publish it as is. Maybe I’ll do a follow-up…)
I’ve returned to work. But with the winter holidays, I’ve actually only had a couple of full weeks back on the job.
There’s no doubt about it, it’s hard to be away for these long days. Commuting + a full day’s work… The hours add up. But…
I’m glad to be back to my work as an attorney.
There. I said it.
I am an attachment parenting mom & I don’t feel guilty about leaving my baby to pursue my career.
Oh, sure, I have worries, but those are limited to the day to day sort. Will I pump enough milk? (Yes, Baby M is taking a bottle!) Will MFA Dad overbundle her in her car seat? Will the babysitter drop her? (There I have to be honest… She’s fallen once from a low chair & that was on my watch.) Will Grandma give her too much milk?
I don’t worry about the long term… Will she somehow be damaged because I left her for the office? Will we not be attached?
No, those worries are silly. Not only is there no use in worrying about those things (my return to work was inevitable for a number of reasons, not least of which is because I love it), they are simply unfounded. But the main reason I think worrying too much is uncalled for is this:
Babies are remarkably adaptable.
If they are safe & surrounded by at least one loving adult, they can thrive. If this weren’t the case, adoption would always be a failure. All children with working moms would be damaged because their mothers work. This simply isn’t the case.
I read the lovely book Our Babies, Ourselves while I was on leave & one of the interesting findings that Meredith Small discusses is that while for many mammals immediate attachment to the mother is necessary for the infant’s survival, that is apparently not the case for human infants. Sure, there’s oxytocin, the famed “love hormone,” that can help facilitate a connection between mother & child, but babies have wily ways of convincing just about any adult to form an on-going attachment with him or her. Because survival. Maybe because historically childbirth was dangerous enough that our species planned for maternal death in infancy.
Whatever the reason, the point is that babies are adaptable.
We should be gentle with them. Easy with transitions. Meet their (prehistoric but very real) needs. But they are adaptable & forgiving.
Women subject themselves to far too much hand-wringing on account of the working mom “dilemma.” It should not be a dilemma. Work if you need to or want to. Stay home if you want to & can. No matter what, make sure your child is attached to his or her caregiver, even if that’s not you at the moment.
Now, there are many things to get in our way & that’s where the focus should be.
Affordable, quality childcare is hard to come by. Many families do not have access to quality care outside of the family.
Maternity leave is non-existent for most women, forcing new mothers to return to work before they’ve physically recovered, let alone bonded fully with baby.
I was lucky by American standards.
Eeking out a 5-month maternity leave as an attorney in the USA was no small feat & I appreciated every moment I spent with my new daughter. Forgoing vacation for 3 years to squirrel away every possible hour (in itself a luxury & lucky choice) & tightening the budget so I could supplement with unpaid leave was worth it for me. It shouldn’t be this way, but, America. I didn’t have to go back to work at 3 weeks postpartum (which should literally be a crime).
I’m not trying to be Polyanna-ish about working with an infant at home. There are challenges. My brain is fried by the end of a work day. I have zero time to take care of myself during the week. (Some would say showering is relaxing, but let’s be honest… I only take micro showers these days so my clients & coworkers won’t fear being near me!) When I have to be in the office, I barely get to see Baby M: I leave as she’s waking & come home just in time for bed, more or less. And that doesn’t feel good.
But overall, it’s good to be back. And I’m ok with having two jobs again!