Parenting

Parenting Perspective: Going back to work

Thursday, April 01, 2010
Erins little girl

Sienna hanging out. (WPVI Photo)

The phrase "going back to work" is a bit of a misnomer. Being a parent IS WORK. It's the hardest job out there. It's a 24/7 lifetime commitment. There is nothing more challenging and nothing more rewarding. However returning to work (whether it is a choice or not) is tough.

I love my job but I'd be lying if I said I haven't suffered from some anxiety as my maternity leave comes to an end.

My mother stayed at home with my brother, sister and me. My husband's mother did the same with her children. This has made envisioning myself as a working mother a little more difficult. For the ten plus years I've been in the workforce, I've had dozens of colleagues who are working moms. They are loving mothers and capable professionals. I've had to remind myself that yes, I can be both. After all, as my husband patiently reminds me from time to time, life is about balance: family, friends, free time and work. But as I've discovered in the short few months I've been a parent, your head and heart aren't always sending you the same message.

Feeling comfortable leaving Sienna on a regular basis is a work in progress. There is a litany of things you have to surrender as a parent. Having complete emotional control of yourself seems to be one of them. There is no magic word, no line of reasoning, no one experience that will solve this internal "struggle" and allow me to walk out the door with no fears, no apprehensions or no regrets; at least not now, maybe not ever. But my brain tells me that time will make things easier. I'll get into a routine and start feeling more comfortable with Sienna in the care of someone else. My first step in this process was to stop thinking this will ever be easy.

After I sorted through the emotional turmoil, it was time to get down to logistics: Finding care for Sienna. We knew this search would not only be difficult, but parts of it that would be frightening. How would we find someone capable and loving enough to take care of the most important thing in our life? How would we know if this person could be trusted? How could he or she do the job as good as us? Ahhh&.the heart vs. head saga continues.

Of course, finding someone to care for your child is a HUGE decision and many of the fears that accompany that decision are justifiable. My husband and I talked at length about what qualifications and qualities we wanted in the person taking care of our child. They are individual and personal for everyone. But for our child, here was the bottom line: we needed someone who would be an extension of us while we were away from our daughter. This is where things get a little cloudy. We certainly needed our brains to look at resumes and backgrounds, but it's during the interview process where your heart has an essential role. Like any other relationship in life, some click some don't. This is the most personal of jobs. This was not a department, a business nor a corporation we were putting someone in charge of. This was our child; simply put, irreplaceable. So, the candidate could be fully qualified on paper but if he or she didn't "feel" right, it wasn't going to work.

These are big decisions for a new parent, and powerful feelings to deal with when you're life is already undergoing an incredible transformation. Can you be 100 percent certain you are making the right decision about your child's care? No. Can you be 100 percent certain, going back to work is the right decision for you and your family? Maybe not. But if you take this journey with your heart and head in balance, you can be certain you are doing your best. As a parent, that's all you can do.

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parenting - erin o'hearn, parenting, erin o'hearn
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