Mommy A to Z

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To My Daughter, as I Return to Work

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My Dearest Daughter,

It was almost eight years ago I left my full-time job to be by your side. I cheered on every milestone, from your first bath to your first word to your first time tasting solid food. I was blessed to be able to work as a freelancer, typing away in an office down the hall from your crib as you slumbered. I had no long-term plan as I lifted you in the air at Musical Munchkins, chased you around playgrounds on summer afternoons, gave out cards at your preschool Valentine’s party. Perhaps I imagined life would always be that way, racing from one sunlit playground to the next, one freelance gig at a time. The two of us against the world.

Perhaps I always knew it wouldn’t last.

Life changes. Reality comes creeping in. I know you can’t understand this right now, but sometimes as a mother, the definition of being there for your family changes.

I know you’re scared. After eight years, your rock, your anchor amidst all the changes in your life, is returning to work an hour away from home, leaving what feels like an unfillable void in her place. I know that feeling, because even though I’m the adult in this equation, for the past eight years, you’ve been my rock too.

There are so many things I don’t know how to explain to you.

I could tell you I’m scared too. I’ve been gone a long time, and while I know it won’t take me long to bridge that distance, sitting here now, facing this change, I feel the enormity of it. While I’ve been gone, everyone else kept running forward. But it’s your love, your belief in me, that gives me the strength to jump back into the race.

I could tell you I feel guilty. Because there’s a part of me that’s excited. Those parts of me that thrived on the collaboration with coworkers; the adrenaline of constant, everyday pressures; being part of the outside world, dressed in something besides my pajamas. It’s calling to me with an old, familiar song. Like being woken from a dream, I’m returning to a world I know, falling back into a life where part of me has always belonged.

I could tell you I can’t stop thinking about you. Even in my most enthusiastic work reveries, my heart returns to you. I’ve mentally parceled out each of my vacation days. Your spring play. Your parent-teacher conference. Your first day of school. That moment I leave work in the evening, racing toward the train that will bring me to you. There will never be enough glimpses of your smile. There will never be enough of the music of your fleeting little-girl voice. There will never be enough time.

How can I explain any of this fully to you? I know you’ll be fine, with your father, your grandparents, your afterschool program with your friends. But I know you feel every pang of our looming separation, because I feel it too. But I also know you’re like me. We give 100 percent of ourselves. We’ll lose ourselves in our busy, chaotic days, and we’ll feel the heartbreak of all we’ve missed when we’re reunited. Push and pull, every day, until it all feels normal.

Yes, months from now this will be the new normal. You, playing with friends after school until Daddy picks you up, excited about a worm you discovered in the playground. Me, managing a dozen tasks at work, filled with stories I can’t wait to tell you (none of which you’ll care about). And these eight years of blissful togetherness, punctuated only by the ringing of the school bell, will feel like a beautiful and distant memory.

I could tell you this “new normal” both comforts and saddens me. But I’d rather just hold you and tell you everything is going to be okay. Because we’re stronger than any distance between us. Because wherever you go, I’m with you.

Because, no matter how life changes — and it always will — it’s still us against the world.

* * *

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22 Comments

  1. Wow. You said that so well. It will be difficult, but it will also work out. You both will make your rime together even more special

  2. This is really beautiful. I know that your daughter will cherish this one letter throughout there entire life.

  3. The computer changed “her” to “there,” dang it! Should be “her” entire life, obviously.

  4. Incredibly moving…

  5. Oh man, you just made me cry. Beautiful.

  6. Beautifully stated. Best wishes to both of you and to the entire family. It will not be easy but, as a daughter who experienced her mother go back to work as a young child, I believe both of you will be fine.

  7. You threw me back in time, to my first day back at work. While I enjoyed being back at work with people who spoke in full sentences, my heart remained at home. I promise – it gets easier. Nope, not easier, but you’ll adapt.

  8. You will adapt and so will she. You will both look back at this stage almost like another milestone such as when she took her first step. This experience, much like taking your first step, will allow you both to grow in so many ways. You both will gain a certain independence that only this can bring…but it will also bring you both so much closer together as you each share the day’s experiences.

    Thank you for sharing your heartfelt thoughts.

    – Lisa

  9. Best of luck, Meredith! Why did this make me sad???? I feel like you aren’t sad, but I’m still in the world of dimpled little hands, and I’m not ready for this. Haha!!! I know you’ll all be great. Congrats on the job!

  10. This is beautifully written. I can feel every single word you said. My heart goes to you.

  11. I love this! I grew up with a working mother. What strong women you are to work because it’s what’s needed. There’s no gain without sacrifice and I truly appreciate your words. I write about my experiences as a wife and small business owner. I’d be honored if you stopped by and gave my website a gander!

    Thank you for sharing your goodness!

  12. I feel so related to you specially at this point when I have just so much work! Thanks for sharing :)

  13. What a sweet letter! I love how honest and real you are, sharing what every mother struggles with, the balance of motherhood and your own identity as a person. That will be forever cherished by your little girl!

  14. Aww this is so beautiful, I can tell this was a difficult transition for you but I am sure it is working out for the best!!

  15. Just as i was getting used to being home with your baby and my work life feels like a distant memory, i am realizing that my maternity leave is coming to an end and i have to get back to work!

  16. Well said! It’s an emotional time for both of you. It will work out fine when she sees how you manage this.

  17. What a lovely blog! Thank you for this heartfelt post. It is never easy being away from your children. Good luck with this big change.

  18. This is a well-written and heartfelt account that was all too familiar to me. thank you for your honest.

  19. Incredibly moving, and so heartfelt!!! I remember when that day came for me as well… it’s certainly not easy, but you will get through it as a family. Good luck with everything!

  20. What a beautiful reminder that it is okay to have more than one passion in life.

  21. Beautifully written. Very poignant. I won’t cry! You two are lucky to have each other. I wish you well in going back to work. She will likely adapt quicker than you will. Best wishes!

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