Re-EntryJun 30, 2018
I enjoyed being at home with my daughter. I could plan out my day however I wanted. The pace was slow, stress level, low and, our time together was all about cuddling, teaching her new things, napping, adventures to play group, the mall or the park. She was such a sweet baby, quiet (except for the first few months when she was colicky), curious, bright and affectionate. I loved her!!!!
As the moment of “re-entry” approached, I realized that I wasn’t the same person anymore. I had been so ambitious before becoming a mom. I worked day and night to climb the ladder as a college professor. I was hired full-time within record time and received lots of recognition as an excellent teacher. I loved my students. I felt powerful, competent and, I knew that I would never be poor. That had been a huge motivation for me. As someone who grew up watching my mother struggle, I knew I didn’t want to be poor and, I certainly didn’t want to get pregnant before I was financially stable. So there I was, financially stable, married, benefits and pension…but I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to rock my daughter in my arms while we read a book under a cozy blanket.
I should probably mention that I was severely sleep deprived. She didn’t sleep through the night until ten months of age so I also wondered if I could even teach on minimal brain power. My new students would have no clue who I was and, if I lost my train of thought halfway through my lecture, they would lose respect for me. There was also the question of who would care for my daughter while I was at work. I visited a daycare close to the college. I brought everything on the list with her name on it when we went for our visit- diapers, change of clothes, diaper bag etc. A little girl was crying the whole time we were there. I saw little children with runny noses. I watched the daycare provider interact with my daughter. She looked so little, so lost, confused about why we were there. She saw something she liked and reached out for it. Another kid pushed her aside and grabbed it away from her. This is all normal stuff but it broke my heart. I told them I had changed my mind. I took back everything I had brought with me and cried all the way home while she napped peacefully in the back of the truck.
Then came the bargaining and plain out begging. I concocted plans. What if I had a daycare and I could make some money while I cared for our daughter? I could clean houses in the evening (I hate cleaning, what was I thinking?). I knew I couldn’t replace my income by working from home. My husband also grew up poor and he was not willing or ready to become the sole income earner for our family. I bought lottery tickets every week, determined to win the lotto and stay home with my daughter.
My mother was semi-retired and looking for work. I suggested she come over three days per week to spend time with her granddaughter. I would pay her and it would put my mind at ease. My daughter loved her grandma. My mother accepted the job. My husband was responsible for one day per week. I never taught on Fridays so the plan was that I would prep for the week and correct assignments from the week on Fridays. It sounded as good as it was going to get.
As the weeks leading up to my “re-entry” loomed nearer, I cried a lot. My husband would come looking for me and find me balling my eyes out in our bedroom after I had put our daughter to bed. He never asked why I was crying. He knew. My last weeks with her were bittersweet. I soaked up every tender moment. I looked at her soft hair. I smelled her. I held her close. We did all our favourite activities. I wondered what she would think was happening.
My return to work was just five days prior to her first birthday. My mother was with her. I got into the car and blasted my favourite music. It felt good to drive fast and listen to loud music. I bought a coffee on my way to work. This wouldn’t be so bad. I parked and walked over to my office. I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass door. I was all dressed up, looking professional. It was like wearing my work “costume” helped me return to this role. I had switched hats.
I started with an early Leadership class, 8am to 11am. My first group was from the Facility Management program. As I walked into my classroom, I noticed that there were 60 students and only two of them were girls. The boys teased me, “Welcome to the sausage factory Miss”. Before long, I was back into the swing of things. It felt good. However, I was starting to notice my body getting nauseous. We were 90 minutes into the class when I suggested we have a break. I knew I was going to be sick. Students were coming up to my desk. They had questions and I had to get out of there. I simply said, “I’ll be right back”. I leaped out of the class and ran down the hallway as fast as I could toward the washroom. I couldn’t even see anything, it was all a blur. I could hear guttural noises coming out of my mouth. Anyone in the hallway that day would have known exactly what was happening. I didn’t even make it to the toilet, I burst into the washroom and threw up in a big green garbage can. Luckily, there was a black garbage bag in it. I walked over to the sink, washing my face and my hands. I looked like crap.
I tried to gain some composure and I returned to the classroom. People were asking me if I was ok. I admitted that I wasn’t feeling well. I was so embarrassed but, it turns out, the guys had a newfound respect for me. I was sick and then I got on with it and taught my class. They respected that. Of course, because it was such an early class, it started a rumour that I was pregnant again which was false. That first week, I was sick, then my husband was sick then our daughter got ill as well. By the time her birthday rolled around, we had all been crawling on the floor, weak from retching. The house stank. We celebrated my daughter’s birthday with my mom at a restaurant. We were on the mend but still a bit wobbly. Every time I see her first birthday photo it reminds me of that rough start so many years ago.