Monday, September 7, 2015

What if "it" doesn't get easier?

It's Labor Day, a day that I have always labored since choosing a career field that knows no holidays.

My husband is off today.  He is home with our now seven-month-old gem.  As I sit here at work, I hope they are still in their pajamas, snuggled up and enjoying a slower pace.

I have no sick days to use.  No vacation time remaining.  I've learned the harsh reality that millions of moms who work outside the home have faced before me: maternity leave in America sucks.

Sorry, Mom.  I know you do not approve of the "s" word.  But sucks.

I had Lila the first week of February, so I burned through all of my paid time off before March even rolled around.  I felt pressure to come back to work early, not because of my employer, but because of a few reasons:

1) My paycheck was going to stop.  Then, factor in hundreds of dollars in childcare costs each month upon return and I knew the clock was ticking.

2) There is only one female morning news anchor in a 70 mile radius.  Broadcast journalism is a very competitive field and if I don't consistently establish myself as Sunrise anchor, someone else will.

3) I have a very visible job and when I am not at work, thousands of people know it.

When I would think about going back to work, my heart would sink to my stomach.

The day before I returned, I literally held my seven-week-old baby all day.

Don't get me wrong, I love my job.  But I love this little girl more..

"It will get easier," said so many people as I waded through this tough transition.

"The first day will be the hardest."

"Just stay busy."

"She will be fine."

"You will miss her more than she misses you."

"She will be in good hands."

"You'll appreciate your time away from her."

"Just wait until she's a toddler.  You'll be begging for breaks from home."

I found myself reciting those same words of advice/attempted encouragement to hold back the tears on those first few days.

Then the next week rolled around and "it" hadn't gotten any easier.

"Okay, maybe the 'getting easier' happens after a couple of weeks," I thought.

Two weeks passed.  Then three, four, five.  Weeks turned into months and when Lila turned five months, "it" had only gotten harder.

My breaking point was one morning when she had woken up at 1:00 A.M.  I got up and held her in the rocking chair in her room until she fell back asleep.  I didn't fall back asleep, too scared that it would be harder to wake up when my alarm went off at 2:30.

When that time rolled around, I laid Lila in her crib, tip-toed to the kitchen to get my pumping gear and quietly escaped to my bathroom with the fan on to drown out the sound of the daily bottle-making endeavor.

Just as I got dressed, I heard Lila scream out.  I have no wiggle room with time in the morning, since Sunrise goes on the air at 4:30 A.M.  I rushed into her room, picked her up, and she immediately calmed down.  She laid her head on my shoulder and melted in my arms.

It was as if she was saying, "Thank you, Mom.  That's exactly what I needed."

I laid her back down - and she was inconsolable.  I couldn't pick her up again.  There wasn't time.

I woke up Matt and told him Lila was awake, crying, and I had to go.

As soon as I started my car in the dark, the tears started flowing.

I'm failing.  

Failing at being a mom.  Failing at being a wife.  Failing at my job.

It's not getting easier.

For me, "it" has held many different definitions.

It: not being able to hold my daughter if she cries early in the morning.

It: not being home to see her smiling face when she wakes up.

It: seeing Lila's face for the first time each day on my cell phone screen during commercial breaks - and texting Matt for morning play-by-plays.

It: settling for a mad dash to Matt's car to say a quick "hello" on the way to daycare drop-off.

It: watching other women on the daycare's webcam rock Lila to sleep.

It: working as quickly as I can to get out the door so that I can hold her for the first time.

It: pumping bottles versus nursing through much of the day.

It has been really, really hard.

After months of praying for peace, a settled spirit, patience, wisdom, and clarity - I've learned that maybe it doesn't get easier for every mom.

Does that mean I need to leave my career?  Work part-time?  Find a different job?

For me, I can firmly answer "no" to all of those questions.  Here's why:

I worked as a news anchor/reporter for almost 10 years before having Lila and it's something that lights a fire in my soul.  I love sharing stories that affect the community I care about.  I love being at adoption days for foster children I've featured in The New Family Tree.  I love that I'm part of the #1 local news morning show in America.  I love the interaction with co-workers.  I love that hard work really does pay off.

But more than all of that, I love that Lila will see first-hand from me that a job doesn't have to be a "job."  I want to see her succeed in school, college, and in a career that lights a fire in her soul.

I want her to be a difference-maker and I want her to see that in me.

So, how do I come to terms with "it" oftentimes being overwhelming?

I have had to ask for support in re-working "it."

I now have the opportunity every morning after Sunrise ends to go home for a couple of hours.  I grab Lila right as Matt heads out the door for work.

I get to kiss all over her chubby cheeks.

I get to squeeze her and smell her sweet baby smell.

I get to rock her to sleep for her first nap.

I get to see the smile on her face when she wakes up.

I get to make sure she has a bow on her head when I get her dressed.

I get to drop her off at Mother's Day Out.

Then I head back to work for a few hours, but the weight of "it" is gone.

I can exhale, knowing I had some precious time with my favorite girl.

I can go back to work with more gas in my gas tank, because a 20 pounder just filled me up.

I work a few longer days each week now, and two shorter days.  I am so appreciative of the managerial support I have received in making this arrangement work.

A baby had not been born to an on-air personality at KPLC for 14 years before Lila.  A lot has changed in the workplace since then and there is still a long way to go.

I hope that if "it" hasn't gotten easier for you, that you don't feel discouraged as you wait for it to change.

We are all wired differently.

Your solution might be different than mine.

Don't think you're alone if your heart feels ripped in two.

We are moms.  We are on the same team.  We want the best for our babies and families.

It might not get easier until you find a way to change it.

And change can be a really good thing:)