When my daughter was 3 months old we flew from Boston to Tampa to visit my in-laws as a mini-vacation before I went back to work from my maternity leave.
I’ll sum the entire experience up by saying this: When you go to Florida with a new baby it’s not a vacation. It’s a trip.
There were moments of relaxation, but it was mostly more exhausting than if we had just stayed home and never left my living room like we had been doing for the past 3 months.
It was a week filled with multiple night wakings, stressful sessions of trying to breastfeed in restaurants, stores and beaches. And so much packing.
On the way home, I started thinking through how stressful it had been to travel with the baby. And then, this feeling started to take root deep in my belly. Maybe I didn’t want to go back to my job at a PR research firm. I couldn’t say it out loud though, I couldn’t admit it to myself. How could I? I loved my job!
As we pushed our stroller through the airport, we were a magnet for all the grandma-aged women. They ALL came over to see the baby. I decided to start polling them. “Did you stay home with your babies?” I asked them.
The results were staggering. I’d say that about 50% of the woman said “no” and 50% said “yes”. What was amazing was that EVERY SINGLE WOMAN who said she had been a stay-at-home mom said, “Yes, I did. And they were the best years of my life.” I’m not kidding. Every.Single.Woman. used the phrase “the best years of my life”. Most of them added, “It was the best decision I ever made.”
The moms who had worked said things like, “Oh it’s so hard, but you can do it!” “It’s hard, but you get used to it.” “You just have to be really organized.” “The first day care drop off is the hardest, then it gets easier” “It’s so hard, but you’ll get through it”.
One of the women is permanently etched into my brain and my heart. She was older. Her hair was gray, her skin was wrinkled. When I asked her if she had stayed home with her babies, she grabbed my hand with a shockingly strong grip. She looked me square in the eye, I swear she could see my soul. Her eyes teared up as she nodded and said, “I did, and they were the best years of my life. I just goes by so fast. So fast.”
I decided right then and there, that was how I wanted to look back on my years with a baby. As the best ones of my life, not ones that I had to “push through”. When we got home the next day, I called the HR manager and gave my notice. Through tears, I apologized to her, but explained I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t be away from my baby for 40 hours a week. I was horrified because I had been a good employee and it was very unlike me to not give two weeks notice. I felt like I should have told them this before I had my baby. I was nervous that I was burning a bridge with this company if I ever decided to go back to work.
A couple of days later I received an email from the CEO of the company. As I opened it, I dreaded seeing a message of disappointment in my unprofessional behavior. However, he said he was sad to see me go and knew this must have been a tough decision. He closed with, “but I’m sure you will look back and think this was one of the biggest and best decisions of your life.”
He was right.
The Doula Darcy is a mother of three who was a Stay-At-Home Mom, then a Work-At-Home Mom, then a Working Mom. So please, no “mommy wars” comments.
Her experience as a new mother motivated her to become a postpartum doula to help other new moms. She is an experienced, certified postpartum doula and a member of DONA (Doulas of North America) and CAPPA (Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association). Since 2010, she has helped hundreds of new moms during the first 12 weeks home with a new baby. Home on maternity leave? Join her free Facebook Group for new moms