I keep picturing your chunky little cheeks and sweet face staring up at me as I walk away from you and put my faith completely in the hands of strangers. Strangers I hope to one day praise and thank wholeheartedly for keeping you safe, for teaching you things, and for loving you as if you were their own. I think about the loneliness you might feel, and the fear of not knowing your surroundings. I think of all of this and it brings tears immediately to my eyes. Knowing you’re ever feeling anything but pure joy makes me feel hollow. I wonder if my decision to work and have a career is selfish, and if I could potentially be putting you in danger. I hope you understand. I hope you know that I love you, more than I ever thought I could love another being. I hope you understand that while so many parents make this decision, it’s not an easy one. Nor one I take for granted. I know all of these feelings are normal, and maybe even silly, it’s just daycare. It’s just leaving your most prized accomplishment and greatest love in the hands of a complete stranger. Nothing to fret, right?
I’ve suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder for most, if not all of my life. My anxiety manifests in ways that may make me seem manic, aloof, dramatic, confused, hypersensitive, overwhelmed, obsessive, compulsive, organized, exhausted, lazy, tactful, and insecure… to name a few. I suffer from panic attacks, but my biggest issue is the fear of the unknown – this is where my OCD kicks in. I have to have a plan, I have to know the road ahead of me, I cannot function in the dark. My life feels like a long dark road (you know those roads where if you broke down you know for 100% fact a zombie deer is going to jump out and eat you) and I need to have my brights on. I need to scan the next 100 yards to know if anything could possibly go wrong.
This is where I remind you that I don’t want to. I need to. I have been diagnosed with GAD and OCD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.)
Enter motherhood, the most unruly, beautiful, spontaneous, eventful thing that has ever happened to me. Suddenly not only am I responsible for this tiny little human, I have feelings for it? I really want it to be okay? I WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO GO ON WITH MY LIFE IF SOMETHING HAPPENED TO IT? Oh boy. Suddenly I’m a deer in high beams, and I can’t see a thing. I have lost control. My heart no longer belongs to me, and all that crap I tried to do to protect it over the years is worthless. It’s now out of my chest in the form of a living, breathing, little drool monster with the chubbiest cheeks.
I know I’m probably the millionth mom to have anxiety, and the millionth mom to have to go back to work. But man it’s hard. Making the choice between working and being a SAHM is NOT a choice made easily, so before we debate what I should or shouldn’t do, let me just say this: I fucking love my job. I also love my daughter. I LOVE having a career, walking into a conference room, having adult conversations that don’t include talk of babies, having my own money, and spending my own money. I hate relying on other people because, back to the control thing, I hate feeling out of control. So let’s just get that out of the way, I’m going back to work. But, none of that negates the sadness I’ll feel when I look down at my desk and her little toothless grin looks back at me. None of that makes me wonder if she will call her teachers “mama” before she says it to me. None of that takes away the anxiety I’ll feel every single day that I work, knowing that she is in the care of someone else and not me. None of that takes away the doubt, and guilt wondering if I made the right decision for my child.
I often think about mother’s who are lucky enough to be Stay at Home, and then I think to myself- I’m lucky to have my career and a break. I think more than anything, the message I want to send Jo is one of love. That we love her. That her dad and I weighed the pros and cons of both options, and both decided that the best thing for our family was for us both to invest in our careers. That was what was right for us. For me and my mental health.
There’s no such thing as a perfect household, and most of us are just out here trying to keep it together, whatever choice we make. Whether you’re a Stay at Home Mom or a Working Mom, we are all one.
In the words of Louis Armstrong…
“I hear babies crying, I watch them grow, they’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know… and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” (Josie’s favorite song)