So in light of Ashtyn’s recent accomplishments, Jeffrey has been asking me to do a guest post about my experiences as a working mom. To be quite honest, I’ve been putting it off because every time I start to think about what to write, I end up sobbing and cuddling my little angel like her life depended on it. To say it’s been rough would be a gross understatement; I’m hanging on by a thread.
Now before spilling my sob story, I feel like a little bit of background information is essential. Most people know that Ashtyn was planned, but not many know just how precise we were with her conception. I work as a high school English teacher in one of the most prestigious school districts in Southern California and while this low-paying job may not seem like much to be proud of, anyone in the field of education can attest to how difficult it has been to get a job since the recent budget crisis hit. Until having Ashtyn, getting my job was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Because I love my job and wanted to make sure I kept it during these difficult financial times, Jeff and I planned to have Ashtyn in July so I could return to work in September and not have to take maternity leave. I wasn’t worried about how I would manage the demands of motherhood and teaching because I was used to juggling multiple responsibilities. While in college I managed to work full time as a preschool teacher while attending classes at night. Finding balance was sure to be a breeze.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It’s not the long hours, piles of grading, or lack of sleep that’s bringing me down; it’s the heart-wrenching pain I feel every time I have to leave Ashtyn to go to work. This insane attachment is nothing new; as soon as Ashtyn was born, I was a goner. Never in my life have I experienced the kind of love that I feel when I look into her eyes; she quite literally takes my breath away. After she was born, I refused to leave her, even for a quick trip to the grocery store. Jeffrey would spend hours at time convincing me it was okay to take a shower while she napped, and when my mommy-stink became too much to bear, I would reluctantly concede. It may sound crazy, but I just didn’t want to miss a second.
In the eight weeks that we had together before the school year began, I left her twice. On my first day back to work, a teacher work day in preparation for the new school year, I cried my eyes out and had to lean on my amazing coworkers for support. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, and now three weeks later, it’s not getting any easier.
In an ironic twist of fate, the same nurturing nature that drew me to teaching is now driving me away. While I love learning, the real reason I entered this profession was for the kids. I had always enjoyed the sense of purpose that teaching provided; my maternal instincts came in handy as I became a sort of pseudo-parent to my students, teaching them about literature and life. I often referred to them as “my kids,” taking pride in their accomplishments and providing support when they were forced to navigate the challenges of adolescence. Now that I have a child of my own, that need for purpose has been filled, and I’m struggling to find a reason to continue in my chosen career path.
Having missed one of Ashtyn’s first major milestones this week, I’ve hit a new low and am struggling more than ever. Anyone who reads this blog knows how amazing Jeffrey is, both as a husband and a father. He cares for Ashtyn like no daycare ever could, and he does his best to support me when I have to be away. While I love his daily picture messages and blog posts, I’m finding that sometimes a grainy cell phone video just isn’t enough.
I wish that we were millionaires and could afford to maintain our lifestyle on a single income, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. We both pride ourselves on our work ethic and dedication to making sure that Ashtyn is raised with every possible opportunity. While working is killing me now, the logical side of my brain knows that one day it will be worth it. When we’re able to enroll Ashtyn is toddler dance classes, buy her her first bike, and take her to Disneyland without feeling a financial strain, these difficult times will have been worth it. Until then, however, I’m trying to adjust to the constant feeling that my heart is being ripped out of my chest and held captive from 9am-4pm daily.
As much as I try to remind myself that our situation is better than most people’s, nothing in the world is as important to me as raising my daughter, and I can’t help wanting to spend every second with her. Some may call that smothering, but I know I need to take advantage of these early years. If there’s anything that teaching high school has taught me, it’s that pretty soon she’s going to grow up and start doing everything in her power to get away from me, and apparently if I’ve done a good job as a parent, she’ll be successful. That’s the really cruel part about this whole parenting thing: we give them life, raise them to the best of our abilities, and if we do a good job, they’ll leave us behind and build a life of their own.
Seeing Ashtyn roll over for the first time — via YouTube, because my stubborn angel still won’t do it for Mommy — I had my first real taste of parenting. I’ve experienced the simultaneous joy and heartbreak that comes with seeing my beautiful daughter grow. With each major milestone, she gets closer to independence and farther away from that helpless newborn that depends on her mommy for everything, and while I want more than anything to maintain that feeling of being needed, I know that we both have a lot of growing up to do.