Post-work day is a challenge. It was a challenge before I had kids and with each additional child, it seems to quadruple. Getting dinner on the table with some sort of nutritional value (thanks to my amazing hubs for handling this most days), checking homework (I am so thankful Cooper gets to do his homework during his afterschool program), and somehow finding time to actually hear how their day was, eats up all our evening time. They are lucky if they get a baby wipe bath during the week. Today, I got home so late that we ate dinner on the couch WHILE I fed the baby so I could still engage in their dinner conversation and not miss the evening report of their day.
My kids get it. They know we eliminated “school night” TV to decrease the rushing and to spend more time as a family. We prioritized play time and book reading over Blaze and the Monster Machines and despite the initial push back, my kids don’t seem to crave the electronics like they used to preferring to engage in a craft project or have a quick park visit.
So you can imagine my surprise when my FIRST week back to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave resulted in this…
Scene: My oldest grabbed his tablet for his 25 minutes of evening electronic time and upon turning it on he realized it wasn’t charged.
6 year old: “Mom, why didn’t you charge my tablet today?”
[Insert exorcist head spin.]
What I wanted to say: “Um, because I had to work to make money so you can go to private school, enroll in the drawing classes that you enjoy, be able to go on trips and well, EAT.”
What I actually said: “Honey, I haven’t been home today, remember I went back to work this week.”
6 year old: “Oh yeah. Sorry I forgot.”
While I was on maternity leave I…
- Baked (treats, pies, healthy peanut butter energy bars, and even invented what my middle child calls “squishy cookies” which are AMAZING and so EASY by the way.)
- Had dinner on the table, ready to eat when they walked in the door, thus saving time so the kids could go straight into playtime after dinner.
- Picked them up from school super early, crockpot on and cooking, so we could go to the children’s museums or the park on our way home.
- And had their tablets ready and charged every night, even remembering whose turn it was on the “big tablet” (aka as the family tablet vs. their amazon fire tablets that has a whole different set up of games).
And then it hit me.
While I was preparing myself to go back to work, getting our almost 3 month old on a schedule, and divvying up evening responsibilities with the hubs to be an efficient dual working team, I never considered the older kids would need to be prepared for me to be less available, too.
So here I was trying to OWN maternity leave, being the perfect mom of three, the mother I thought my family wanted/needed, only to tease them into a pretty terrible maternity leave hangover.
But just as I went back in time and questioned all the overachieving expectations I instilled in the older kids by doing all the wonderful things and activities that I can’t manage while working, I realized how ridiculous I was being. I can’t get this time back, and even though I can’t leave my job every day at 3pm or fix dinner every night, my kids don’t care about those things. They will, however, always remember that their first three months as new big brothers were SO FUN! Their baby sister brought so much adventure to their lives and even though we had to skip tablet time tonight because mommy wasn’t home to charge them, we still got to read books, build with legos, try our very best to make the baby laugh and spend time together as a family, which is really all they want. And I realize those overachieving expectations were really to make ME happy and not them. It doesn’t matter to them whether we have 3 hours after school or just 1, I am all they need AND want. And that is enough.