Permission to Leave Work at Work

I am giving myself permission to want my home, my son, and my soul to flourish first.

It was about a month into being back at work from maternity leave when the thought really, seriously crossed my mind: Even though I knew that I was the primary income and could never do it, I wished I could quit my job and stay at home with my son.

It wasn’t a romantic notion. I had just gotten off of maternity leave. I knew the hard work and exhaustion that went into being a stay at home mother – I’d just had three whole months of it. But still, some piece of me wanted it back. At first, I brushed it off as being a natural part of the transition. I’d gotten used to being near my son all the time, and I simply missed him. But in the weeks that followed – the weeks where I was preparing for the major life change of moving my family from California to Texas to be closer to my parents – I realized that there was so much more to it. It was around that time that I realized and verbalized that I was falling out of love with my job, and learning to be okay with that.

The problem, at its root, was not being at the office away from my son. I worked less than ten minutes away from home – I was able to come home at lunch time and feed him and give him a bath, or pick up extra diapers and wipes if we were running low and drop them off during my breaks. It wasn’t my physical absence from home that created these negative feelings.

I realized that at the time, I felt a little too needed by my job.

The possibility of feeling too needed was a foreign one at first. Before becoming a mother, it was something I longed for. It was rewarding for me to know that my presence was needed to get things done, that as a nurse in my county’s health department, my contributions were making an enormous difference. It was this swell of pride that at first, I thought I was completely addicted to – they need me to work on this, I would think to myself, and because of that, I would take work home with me. I would work on projects at home, answer emails from home, network and make connections from home that would further my job.

Coming back to work after becoming a mother, however, made all of that feel different. I tried – I tried to be the nurse and leader that I always was, the nurse and leader I had gone to grad school while pregnant to be. It just felt wrong. It felt wrong to not be completely present with my son when I got home, and to still have work on the brain. And it hurt, deeply. In trying to be the nurse I had once wanted to be, I wasn’t able to be the mother I wanted to be.

In my new job, I am away from home for a longer stretch of the day. I can’t come home for lunch or when I need a break to assuage my own mommy-needs, which include giving my son a little mid-day snuggle. But I know with reasonable certainty that when I get home, I am home. My brain is not at work.

It’s a change – and a very big change at that. I had grown so used to the pace of my work being slow but constant, always with me even when I had gone home for the day. My productivity is measured by the tasks I am able to complete in a day. I have assignments and deadlines as opposed to special pet projects. But I feel challenged every day, and I feel accomplished when I do things well. I feel like I get to spend my day solving puzzles and riddles – it tires out my brain.

And somehow, it feels right for me right now. It gives me a chance to feel good at my job without having it constantly following me home. It gives me a chance to let other areas of my life flourish. It lets me come home and be a mother, a sister, a writer, and all these other things I’d like to be outside of my credentials.

I’d still like to be a nurse who makes a difference. I’d still like to be a researcher and a leader and a scientist, to use my education and experience to do some good in the world. It’s just that I’ve given myself permission to not do it all right now. I am giving myself permission to want my home, my son, and my soul to flourish first.

When I get home, I’m tired, and I can’t always get everything taken care of as quickly or as thoroughly as I’d like at home, and I’ll admit that I’d be lost without my mom, my dad, my grandma, and my sisters, because sometimes I definitely need the help. But I do the best I can, and my best goes to my son.

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