On the eve of returning to work full time, I have so many thoughts. This maternity leave has been hard and amazing, but it really put a light on some areas in my own identity that I needed to work through.
The pandemic and having Walter made me do some self-reflection that I honestly have been avoiding. I have been moving through life just kind of in the zone long before the pandemic hit. I was just getting things done, but not really taking the time to enjoy it. I was anxiously awaiting the next thing or compiling the next to do list. I found myself resentful of others and then feeling guilty all the time.
In December, it kind of came to a head for me. Granted a lot of the emotional turmoil could be attributed to having a baby, but it was really a pivotal moment to realize I needed something. I wanted to be a different mom. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be anymore. I had let my anxiety overrun me.
I needed help, and I needed to put some time in to focus on my needs. So while I had this time at home, I knew that I needed to ask for help not only with the baby but how to navigate this transition so I could come out of this sacred time with a clear head and clear focus.
So in order to truly do the work, I started investing in both a therapist and a personal trainer. I needed to cry some things out and sweat out some other things. Both have been instrumental in my health journey post-partum.
I have not been in counseling since I was in grad school. And through my profession, I knew I needed help analyzing my anxiety and really talking through it instead of just pushing it aside to get everyone to the next thing. My perpetual to-do list was wreaking havoc on my ability to live in the moment. I had this need for perfection that drowned out any opportunity to be vulnerable even with those closest to me. My emotions were in control of my world view. I know I am an emotional person; this is nothing new. Most of the time I can keep them in check in public. But at home, I was losing it. I couldn’t enjoy my family because the only thing I could think about was the fear of not getting things done. I was nit-picky at anything and everything because of the chase to perfection. At home, I had a really hard time just appreciating what my family was doing because I was always on to the next thing. I had become so wound up trying to control it all that it was coming out in expectations I had on my family, which were often unrealistic. My anxiety manifested in all kinds of ways in unexpected situations. Some times it was in fear, some times it was in anger, and some times I just sulked around the house.
I didn’t want this anymore.
It was as though birthing Walter was also a rebirth for me. I wanted to do better, and so I needed some help processing it all. We only are given this one life, and I was just marking things off without really embracing anything. Working with my counselor has been really refreshing. I have been validated, but I have also been challenged. I won’t get into all the things since counseling is a personal journey, but I will say it has been helping me. Here is the thing, I still have a lot of baggage where my anxiety stems from. I still LOVE a to-do list. I still want things to go well. But I am learning more coping skills to keep the panic attacks and overthinking at bay. I am learning to look at the facts instead of imagining all the what-ifs of imperfection.
Often times as moms, we feel that we have to do it all and we often sacrifice our own mental health to take care of all the things. The mental load is taxing. My anxiety made me feel selfish in so many ways which is why I left it unaddressed for so long. Not being perfect really hindered me connecting with my kids because deep down I didn’t feel that I was good enough. Understanding that I wanted better for my kids and to actually enjoy my kids, I have to be a little selfish to take care of my own needs. Having Walter and this pandemic really helped me see that I couldn’t keep living this way for them, nor did I want to for me. I want to experience more in the moment. And while I do always have the to-do list looming over me, I can ask for help and communicate better to build a team around me. It’s also okay to be vulnerable and share how I am feeling even if it is not perfect. I also know that I am enough.
Honestly, what I was looking for was accountability. I needed someone to check in with every once in awhile to talk through my insecurities and walk me through how I can navigate my self talk when I start to spiral. I needed some one to tell me what to do in the gym so I could be stronger. I need the accountability to focus on my self growth so I can be a better wife, mother, friend and colleague.
Coming out of this maternity leave is bittersweet. I know that I will never have time like this at home again. I was able to spend weeks off at the holiday time with my family since I essentially didn’t come back to work after Thanksgiving. I have been able to see George off to school and most days pick him up from school, which is time I have really come to love. I have been able to see Daphne explore her world in a way that I wasn’t privy to before. Obviously spending time with Wally is a dream come true.
But honestly, I am most thankful that I found a new version of myself through this time at home.
I want to be mentally, emotional, and physically strong for the people around me. Having this space has helped me understand that I am not selfish for asking for balance or for help. It has taught me more about my priorities and how to focus on my family. I am learning more on how to vocalize those needs so I can be more available. I am coming back to work with a renewed sense of direction and passion for what I do. I am excited to come back to work for I know that it doesn’t have to be an either/or anymore. I can still crush it at work and crush it as a mom. I also am learning that crushing it in life doesn’t mean that I have to be perfect. It’s ok for me to ask for flexibility so I don’t have to sacrifice one identity over the other.
Nor do I have to sacrifice myself to make it all work.
So all in all, I am so grateful for Walter joining our lives because of the little person he is becoming and will be. He is everything I dreamed of. But I am so eternally grateful that I am becoming me too.
So cheers to the end of my maternity leave and all the emotions I am sure to have!