Today is my last day of maternity leave. It's the day I've been dreading this entire time. I've had such a beautiful summer with my family, enjoying the new baby and loving having my body back. Without a doubt sending him to daycare and going back to work would be intensely sad, not just for the end of my 12 weeks with my baby but the end of this idyllic season.
But today, this last day, I'm ready for it. Far from feeling melancholy about missing being needed, I am greedy for several uninterrupted hours. My husband is working upstairs and because he's working and I'm still on leave it's just me that has to jump every time the baby hollers and, to be honest, I'm a little tired of it. It's not like the things I want to do are sexy and indulgent: I dream of tidying up the living room, answering an email. I know a lot of people would like (and thankfully are getting) more leave, more time with their newborns, but me? I'm ready to focus on some projects and get my grownup time.
The new baby, whose go-with-the-flow nature has normally been a source of pride for me, is pissed off today. First, I took him to get a manicure with me, and despite having done this errand together numerous times, despite his having been fed and changed, he fussed throughout most of it. Nobody was happy—him, me, the woman doing my nails and the other women in the salon. I should have known better I guess, but it had always worked out before. "Don't worry," I said semi-bitterly on the way out. "I'll never bring him back. He starts daycare on Monday."
Later, when I thought he had been lulled to sleep in the car and I was ready to make the most of my hourlong respite during his nap, he went berserk instead. Nothing would make him happy, not eating, not being held, not a new diaper. He's currently in the other room getting tummy time which he hates but I figure if he's pissed off anyway he might as well get some exercise.
I went through this with my first son. The last week before I went back to work I took him to bed with me and tried to take a nap with him, in an attempt to soak in the last concentrated mother-baby time. But he didn't want to cooperate. He wiggled and fussed and wanted nothing to do with me (to this day he stinks at sharing a bed.) It confirmed what I had been gradually learning those first few months of motherhood: that you can't make it look the way you want it to and you can't force yourself to feel the way you think you should feel. And you damn sure can't make a kid do something he doesn't want to do.
I've long ago made peace with the way my children and my work fit in my life and that my idea of work-life balance might not look like other moms. This has been an amazing summer and I'll always look back on it fondly and wistfully. But it's time to move on, and the baby (who is sleeping now), is helping me realize that.