Growing up, my lifelong dream was to become a mother. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was simple: I wanted to be a mom. This desire was deeply influenced by the magical, wonderful, and strong mother I had, whom I looked up to and still do. This early inspiration led me to become a childcare teacher, a role that allowed me to care for, nurture, and teach young children. I loved my job, and I quickly realized that the children I cared for taught me just as much, if not more, than I taught them. The world of little children was filled with magic and wonder, despite the challenges and struggles that came with the job.
For years, I cherished my role as a childcare teacher. The relationships I built with the children and their families were incredibly special to me. I learned the value of trust and the strength it took for parents to entrust their little ones to my care day in and day out. These connections were close to my heart, and I couldn't imagine leaving the classroom.
Then, my world changed when I became a mother myself. Cradling my tiny newborn in my arms, the thought of being apart from her for even a second was inconceivable. I have the utmost respect for parents who entrust their children to caregivers, as I had done for years, because the bond I had with my baby was profound, and the thought of parting was excruciating.
In addition to my strong attachment to my daughter, I struggled with postpartum anxiety and depression, making it even more challenging to be away from her. As my maternity leave came to an end, the thought of returning to work was met with tears and anxiety. My heart ached at the idea of being away from my four-month-old daughter. The night before I returned to work, I cried myself to sleep, and tears accompanied me on the way to work the next morning. Despite the internal struggle, I had to put on my teacher face and leave my daughter with her caregivers down the hallway. Despite being in a supportive environment, the pain of separation was unbearable.
The first few weeks back at work were difficult, but I was fortunate that my daughter could be at the same facility, just down the hallway. She was in the care of loving, trusted colleagues who were also my friends. And I had a class of children I adored. We managed to get through it, but then the inevitable happened - the illnesses started to make their rounds. My daughter caught RSV, followed by COVID, a COVID-related seizure, and a series of colds. It felt like an unending cycle of sickness. Dealing with doctor's appointments, stress, and guilt for taking time off from work took a toll on me. I knew this was a shared experience for many parents with children in childcare, and the toll it would take, but wow it was difficult. I never called out from work as frequently as I did during that year.
I felt like I spent only a few short hours with my baby during the week, with weekends dedicated to catching up on chores. The precious moments spent with her were a respite, but they were often interrupted by the demands of daily life. I understood that some mothers might thrive in a work environment and appreciate the freedom and personal space it provides. Still, I felt like I was meant to be with my child, and it was agonizing to care for others' children while yearning to be with my own. My husband stepped up admirably to support us, taking on some household chores and tasks I was letting pile up.
The strain on our relationship was evident as we struggled to find time for each other amid the chaos of parenting and work. We survived the school year, but it was the most challenging year of my life. I understand that some mothers manage to cope with the demands of work and parenting, finding freedom and personal space in their jobs. However, for me, it was a struggle, and I have immense respect for parents who juggle both responsibilities.
During the summer, I took time off to be with my child, with the intention of returning to work in the fall. However, something remarkable happened. Our summer was peaceful and organized. I reclaimed household chores, and spent the entire day with my child. As fall approached, the thought of returning to work brought tears and anxiety.
My husband noticed my distress and suggested that I didn't have to return to work. The relief I felt was overwhelming. Although our financial situation would be tight, the happiness I found in being with my daughter was immeasurable. We needed this change to prioritize our family's well-being.
Choosing to leave the classroom and stay at home with my daughter has not been without its challenges, but it has brought me a profound sense of happiness and fulfillment. I've reconnected with a piece of myself I had lost, and my relationship with my daughter has grown stronger. While every mother's journey is unique, this decision has allowed me to cherish the precious moments of motherhood and regain a sense of balance and peace in our household.