The guilt of working mothers is a well-known phenomenon and something that a lot has been written about. Guilt about not being home enough, leaving your baby behind, not being able to dedicate enough time or attention etc. etc. Therefore the end of one´s maternity leave is usually being feared and every day that passes bringing her closer to that first working day makes mommy more and more nervous and already pre-guilty.
What I have noticed in Spain is that people also don´t let themselves ease into it or getting used to be away from the baby meaning that the end of the maternity leave will indeed be a very brutal change from 24/7 together to working a fulltime job away from home.
I remember that when I was pregnant I read a message on Facebook from a friend of a friend (you know this annoying thing where your newsfeed is full of updates of people you don´t know but that your friends have liked) basically describing in 4 paragraphs a complete breakdown because it was time to get back to work and this would be the first time in 6 months tha t she would be separated from her baby…. The only thing I could think was how the heck it was possible that she hadn´t left her baby for 6 freaking months. I mean, seriously? But hey what did I know, I didn´t have a baby (yet). However, now that I do have a baby I probably understand it even less. Really, 6 months and not a moment for yourself, not a quick visit to the supermarket, not some me-time in the gym (which is probably more like touching a machine and then running to the sauna), not a coffee (or wine) with your friends-without-kids, nothing?! I am surprised that meltdown didn´t come earlier than the day she had to go back to work! Life as a new mom can be quite intense and those little moments for yourself (yes, I am calling going alone to the supermarket a moment for yourself now) kind of keep you sane.
Although I don´t think stay-at-home-mom is something for me (I do envy stay-at-
home-moms sometimes but I just don’t think I could do it plus I really like working. I imagine my mom thinking now “you think…. I KNOW you could not do it”) the last month of my maternity leave I did start counting the days and dreading the day I had to start working again a bit. But it wasn´t guilt, I guess it was more because it went by so fast (16 weeks is nothing!) and especially the first months are quite tough so the real enjoying starts a bit later. So basically when the real fun started I had to go back to work. But it has always been mixed feelings: sad to leave him behind but also somehow looking forward to “do” something again.
So when it was time to get back to work, I didn´t feel the guilt that I had heard / read so much about. Maybe it´s because I really enjoy my job or that I think it´s important that children also have working mother role models so I never had a doubt whether I would go back to work or not. (What did probably also help is that my job is quite flexible so I can work from home a few days a week where I can sneak out once in a while to cuddle the ba by and that the dad is home all morning so we just had to drop the “bichin” at his grandparents for a few hours in the afternoon, there is no childcare involved (yet))
So no guilt about being a working mom, but I guess there was another type of “guilt”. The guilty pleasure that a day in the office suddenly felt like a day of vacation: I could enjoy my tea for as long as I wanted without interruptions (or at least not baby-interruptions that make you forget your tea altogether only to come back much later to an ice-tea), I could take a real nap for an hour in the train commute, I could have a whole day of grown-up conversations (no gu-gu, da-da conversation) and suddenly being busy at work felt like peanuts compared with the multitasking / never-ending pile of to-do´s at home.
Actually at the moment of writing this I am at the airport, about to board a plane to London. A business trip for a few days, the longest I have been away so far from the bichin. Was I sad when I had to cuddle him goodbye? Yes. Will I miss him? Hell yes! But do I feel guilty to be away? No, not really, I know he will be perfectly fine with his dad at home. So when they are having their guys-time I will just make the most of this trip by not only going to my meetings for work but definitely also having some nice dinners with loads of wine with my best friend who happens to live in London. Perfect combination for all of us I would say.