Oh dear, I’m really bad about blogging. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just that I never find myself with the energy. Perhaps that is a testament in and of itself of being a mother.
I could tell you all about the amazing summer we had in California, seeing family, playing on the beach until dusk, driving up and down the coast, celebrating Mama’s fortieth birthday, celebrating the fourth of July. Son, you really started speaking English on this trip. Up until we left in June, you always answered me in French and now, you answer me in English. I think it was something to do with the fact of being with children your age who spoke English and nothing else, that showed you the necessity of it.
Daughter, you started Petite Section with the same maitresse that Son had, which was very nice, and helped with the transition. You’ve already had two field trips that I’ve been able to accompany : a trip to pick apples and a cinema trip. You celebrated your third birthday last week, we had a double birthday party slash Frozen extravaganza with our neighbor, and then on Friday we all took a family trip to Disneyland, and that was really magical. We stayed till closing time and saw all the parades and spectacles, and the Halloween decorations after dark. It was very empty and we never needed to wait in line for anything, which was a treat.
And so, that brings me to today. The fact of you celebrating your third birthday last week means that my parental leave is up, and today was my first day back to work.
I’ve been stressing about this return for a year and a half. The logistics, mainly. I’m grateful that your birthday falling in October means I’ve had a month and a half to acclimate you to school and the cantine. I’ve managed to make the two field trips. I’m still working on the organization of it all, but that will come.
But I realized today that actually, the stress wasn’t really about returning to work. That was a simple act that I did today. The act of entering the office. Getting some work clothes together, putting on mascara, digging out my good handbags, dropping you off at school, thumbing through some English exercise books, and entering the office. I managed basically to do all that.
It helped that I started off with just an immersion lesson, which is where the teacher goes on a company lunch with the student in a nearby restaurant for a casual conversation practice, and then spends the afternoon working on grammar and business points. I’ve always enjoyed doing those lessons and it was a great way to start back, easy and relaxed.
The center is located a ten minute walk from your school, so I managed to pick you up at 4pm after the lesson had ended, give you your snack and take Daughter to her dance class down the street that I signed her up for.
But it was more than just that act. It was the transformation. The evolving into something new yet again : changing from a SAHM to a working mom.
That was the part that really made me emotional today.
I was surprised by the emotions today. On the way to the center, I decided to walk through the park. There were little toddling babies with their moms and nounous, playing in the playground. I remembered how I used to take you two to the park in the morning like that.
And I suddenly felt sad, knowing those days were over.
And I wondered if I had done enough. If I had taken you to the park enough. If I had spent enough time with you. If I should have just put you in the garderie twice a week instead of three times. If I had done enough exploring of Paris with you. I felt, and still feel, like it’s a balance for me to get time for myself, which is important to me to be able to enjoy time with you. The garderie helped for that. But I still feel like I didn’t spend enough time with you, maybe.
There could have been more mornings in the park.
And I started to cry in the park.
The guilt has been surprising. Even though I took as much parental leave as is legal,
…it doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
I feel guilty for you doing such long days at such a young age. I feel guilty about putting Daughter in to the cantine three days a week while Son only had to do two. I feel guilty that I now have to put you one or two days a week in the evening garderie. I feel guilty about not being able to spend enough one on one time with each of you.
It never feels like enough.
I am glad that my job has a lot of flexibility and will allow me to bring you home for lunch at least once a week, and hopefully maneuver my schedule a bit to allow for accompanying on field trips.
I decided to sit on a park bench for ten minutes and meditate and be thankful and breathe. As I breathed, I was thankful for so many things. For living in a country that allows me to take three years of parent leave, and have my job to come back to. For this past summer. For allowing me to stay home. For all the lovely times I had staying home with you
…even if it wasn’t enough.
Today was not about putting one foot in front of the other and stepping back into my office. It was a transformation. So much has happened on my parental leave, since stopping work in May of 2009 for my maternity leave with Son. On that day in May that I gave my last lesson, I didn’t really expect that I would be gone for so long. But that’s how it turned out.
And I was a different person. I hadn’t yet given birth.
During this parental leave, I became a mother. And I lost my own mother.
And I thought of that today, and it made me cry too. I wondered how my own mother felt when she went back to work, on the day she went back, after staying home with me for so many years. I read in a journal of hers that I was eight years old when I went back, and she said she was so happy to be able to stay with me.
Just like I’m so happy I was able to stay with you, even if it wasn’t for as long, even if it wasn’t enough.
We moved during this leave, I traveled with you across the Pacific five times. I got my nose pierced (it has since closed up). I gave birth twice, breastfed for two whole years of my life (one year for each of you). Six months exclusively for each, which would have been much harder if I had not been staying home. Possible, but more challenging.
I lost myself and I found myself again, this summer.
And I realized, that chapter is over. The small babies chapter. It’s not that I want to relive it again, but looking at those babies and moms in the park, I felt a sad pang that that was it. That was my time as a mother of small babies. It doesn’t feel like we did enough. It doesn’t feel like I did enough. But it is what it is.
And now, it’s back to working life. Back to the professional part of my life. I’m forty years old now, and I think this is it on through to retirement. Work, and trying to balance.
I started this blog when Son was a couple of weeks old. I wrote back then about how everything is going so fast. It is. It is going by so fast. Going back to work feels to me like I’m taking more steps away from my mother, away from the memory of my mother. Barreling towards the future. The years will fly by, and she will be set in time, I will move forward but she won’t, just like this wonderful time I had with you as small babies, will float forever in that time pocket, there to revisit, but never to live again.
So that, children, is why it was so much more than just walking into an office. Today in honor of this blessed chapter of life, I put on a necklace that belonged to my mother, and a bracelet engraved with both of your names that I had done the Christmas before last. I made that transformation. And will continue to do so.
My next lesson the day after tomorrow is on the rue Cambon, near Chanel, one of the swankest streets in Paris. That’s the glory of this blessed life I get to live. How many people get to go to work on the rue Cambon ? Granted, I’m not going to be designing shoes, just teaching English, but it still feels like an honor to be here, to have spent the baby years of my children’s lives in the glorious city that is Paris….