For me, the nearing of the end of maternity leave brought with it both a sense of excitement and a feeling of terror. Dread. The anticipated end of something important. An era I both did and didn’t want to move out of.
I know I’m not alone in having this jumble of feelings (though it certainly felt that way at the time).
How do I know new mama fears of impending loss are pervasive? Because I ask the moms in the Mindful Return course to share the big hopes and dreams they have for themselves and for their families. And so many of them write about how they dream and hope they can somehow manage to continue the amazing connection they’ve established with their babies when they head back to work after their maternity leave ends. But they’re really not sure it’s possible.
They fear that the bond and cuddles and love and attachment are ending when their leave ends.
Wow. Just writing that sounds devastating. And, with the benefit of hindsight, pretty much impossible.
I’m sitting here now, looking back from the vantage point of having 7 years of parenthood under my belt. (Yes, writing the number 7 makes me feel like I’m the parent of a grown-up!) And I’m both somewhat surprised and delighted to report that my boys are just as cuddly now – yes, much larger, but still cuddly – as they were years ago.
Here’s what I know to be true:
- The time my children and I have in the evenings and on weekends is so much more special and joyful, because we spend time apart during the day.
- School and daycare pickup is amazing. The glee on their faces when my husband and I arrive to get them overwhelms me daily.
- Heading back to work was in no way “abandoning” my children. (More on that idea here.)
- My youngest (now nearly 5) still calls me his “cuddly mommy.” And gives me the biggest, most intense, squeezes.
- We attempted an outing to our first symphony concert as a family this past weekend (it was half-disaster, half-victory), and my 7-year wanted me to cuddle up with him during the entire Philip Glass Concerto Fantasy for 2 Timpanists.
- When I enter each new phase of my children’s lives, I declare THAT one to be my favorite.
- In a baby’s world, there is NO ONE – I repeat, *no one* like mama.
Yes, of course, the cuddles will wane. My 7 year-old already sometimes glares at me when I arrive for pickup and doesn’t always want to leave his aftercare program at the end of the day. (He’d prefer to keep playing Monopoly with his friends.) And I admit fearing those teenage years, when my boys will probably want little to do with me. Least of all abundant cuddle time.
But I’ve gotten – and am still enjoying – so many more days, weeks, and years of amazing snuggles than I was banking on when my maternity leave ended. I need not have worried so much.
I suspect my bond with my boys will continue to grow, change, and transform over time. I can’t yet speak to the cuddle situation once they hit the double-digits. But for now, I’m writing to let you know that those cuddles, and nuzzles, and snuggles do indeed continue after the end of maternity leave. Way, way past the end of leave.
Want more opportunities to reality-check your fears as you head back to work after maternity leave? Join the next session of Mindful Return.
Need more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.