I was sitting in my local Starbucks, forcing myself to prepare for a job interview (more on that later). But my mind wandered and became fixated on the conversation that had developed just one table away from me.
Initially, there sat a woman glancing repeatedly at her cell phone until a swoosh of blonde and a smattering of “I’m sorry, I’m so late. The babies were challenging. I’m really so sorry,” revealed a beautiful, albeit exhausted mama. As they sat and chatted I gathered that the first woman was an employer and the beautiful swoosh of blonde was a new mama to twins. The conversation soon revealed that the beautiful mama was making the hard decision not to return to work and instead, be a full time mother to her twins.
Oh, how my heart went through the roller coaster of emotions as she explained her circumstances.
“I didn’t expect this.”
“I mean, I expected a baby, but twins?!”
“I wasn’t prepared.”
“I didn’t know it would be like this.”
“It’s so wonderful… but so hard! So exhausting.”
“I just can’t imagine working right now.”
“And I made the choice to breastfeed, so there’s that. I can’t really be away for more than a few hours.”
I had a hard time not leaping out of my seat and embracing that mama. That beautiful woman with the tell-tale bags under her eyes from sleep deprivation. The unwashed hair piled high on her head. The absence of makeup on her glowing but tired skin. Maternity clothes that no longer truly fit falling on her changed postpartum body. She was still so gorgeous and spoke with so much love about her little babes. But she was also vulnerable enough to pour out her honesty on her employer and to make that very hard decision that I and a lot of other mothers have had to make. Do I stay or do I go? Work or not work? And then try and justify it to someone.
Though I was not exactly given the choice to stay home with my children (I was instead encouraged to resign while 7 months pregnant with my second son * ouch *) there was still an element of deciding to continue to focus on a healthy pregnancy and to not immediately return to work. It was hard. It hurt in deep places within me. But, at the same time, I knew it was right for me. I knew it was right for my boys. Decisions like that are never easy and I felt that deeply as I watched the beautiful mama unload her burdens on her employer.
I’m happy to report that the employer was nothing but gracious, understanding and supportive of the beautiful mama. It was so good for me to see. I smiled to myself as I heard the beautiful mama abruptly cut off the conversation and stand to leave (likely the need to nurse was creeping up), again apologizing for her lateness and for the decision she had made but parting with the kindest sentiments.
“This is not goodbye. I will be around. I will see you all. I’m so thankful for you.”
I saw the catch in her throat and the doubt in her eyes as she walked away. Was she making the right decision? How was she going to be a full time mama to twins?! Who would she be without her work?
It was then that I took a deep breath and realized, mothers, we are really all in this together. Even when we have to make opposite decisions. Whether you decide to stay home with your kiddos. Whether you decide to return to work. Whether you do it right away, or take a year or two or three off. We all have to make those decisions. To weigh what’s best for us, for our kids, for our families and to know that the decision is being made out of our deep love for them. It is not easy. But it’s so much easier when we are not judged for it.
It gave me peace as I sat and ran through possible interview questions and scribbled nervously on my notepad. It gave me a sense of calm as I questioned my own decision to return to work after being home with my kids for the last year. A decision I still jump back and forth with in my mind, like a game of double dutch.
I hope that beautiful mama flourishes at home and finds a deep joy in every moment with her twins. I hope she doesn’t question herself or feel lost in motherhood. I pray that we learn to stand together as women and support each other, even though we may do things completely different. Because we’re all in this together.