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Am I Ready to Go Back to Work?

Photograph by Getty Images

I accepted an offer for a new job about six weeks ago. My start date will fall on the two-year anniversary of the date that I stepped out of my field (law) to raise my two children full-time. I stepped away because I couldn't see how I was going to raise both a newborn and an 18-month-old, while working full-time as a lawyer. My firm didn't offer part-time or flex-time hours so we parted ways after my maternity leave ended.

With my new job looming on the horizon, I dove into a six-week frenzy of preparation. My to-do list had well over 20 items on it, including "de-clutter the house" and "learn to cook." At this point, the eve of my first day of work, I have done all I am going to do on that list. While approximately 18 of those items remain incomplete, I did resuscitate my business casual wardrobe, and my briefcase is stocked with healthy snacks, pictures of my kids and a comfortable pair of shoes.

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Item No. 17 on my list was "prepare emotionally for return to work." I knew I would have lots of feelings about this change, but I wasn't sure how it would look to "prepare emotionally." When I started crying myself to sleep about a week ago, I got my answer.

Preparing emotionally looked like tears. Lots of tears. I cry when I think about how I will feel when the train pulls away from the station, taking me away from home and the world I have known these past two years. The waterworks really flow at night when I am exhausted and most vulnerable. Also, nighttime is when my kids are asleep and thus no longer on my nerves, demanding more milk or warmer milk or milk in a different sippy cup.

I knew in my gut when I said yes to the job that I was ready for a change.

At first I thought the tears meant I wasn't ready to go back or that this wasn't the right opportunity for me. I tried to read them as a sign of either "yay" or "nay" to the new job.

By the third night of spontaneous crying, I realized that the tears didn't mean I was not ready. They simply meant I was having feelings. This is what emotional preparation looks like, I assured myself. I knew in my gut when I said yes to the job that I was ready for a change—to step out into the next chapter for our family and to resume a career that had been idling two years. I knew I wanted to try again to reach for the ever-elusive work/life balance by working and raising my children.

Staying home has been a blessing, and I will certainly always feel immense gratitude about the time I was able to be a stay-at-home mom, even those days that I wanted to pull out my every last hair because I wanted a moment in the bathroom without an audience. I suppose I am crying because it's simply not possible to be in two places at once. I can't show up for my career and also be there every time my 2-year-old wakes up from a nap. I want to do it all, I really do. But I can't.

So I'm letting the tears fall, which is part of the preparation, just like dusting off my business casual wear and unearthing that purse I ditched when I started exclusively carrying a diaper bag. Don't mistake my tears for regret about my decision. They are just part of my emotional preparation. I'm ready.

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