Does Working On Maternity Leave Make Me a Bad Mom?

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Before having my son, I got advice from fellow mamas who all said something similar. They advised to “absolutely take at least 8 weeks off of work.” Being self-employeed and running a small business, this was really hard to set up in advance, but these systems and resources got me there. Funny enough, after all the prep I did to block off 8 weeks for leave, by the time my son was 2-3 weeks, I was craving work badly. I forced myself to stay away from the computer and refrained from looking at emails, but each day, the urge to get back to career work got stronger.

Because to be honest, the newborn stage was a bit boring and reminiscent of Groundhog’s Day for me (eeek! feels vulnerable writing that!). I struggled to feel fulfilled without writing and missed using the creative side of my brain. I had worked my ass off for 3 years to build a business I was proud of and it really did make me feel good. Plus, I missed the connection with my clients - many who have turned into friends.

But in the back of my head lived guilt that I should be savoring every second of maternity leave. I should only be focusing on him during this time - after all, it was a time I’d never get back. At least that’s what people told me, and what I was telling myself.

Then I realized something else (after many talks with my husband confessing how much I was missing my job). No matter how old my son is, work would always be taking time away from him. Just like any task would and just like all mothers experience as they attempt a little thing called balance. And in no way did I judge or think poorly of moms who spend personal time away from their children - in fact, I think it’s a recipe for happiness all the way around. So why was I judging or shaming myself?

Just because I had set this 8-week boundary before knowing what motherhood was like (for me) didn’t mean I needed to stick to it perfectly. Writing an article while he was sleeping wasn’t hurting him and it was helping me. Asking my mother-in-law to watch him for an hour so I could take on a project wasn’t making me a bad mom. It was filling me up in a way that my son couldn’t - and my well-being deserved that. Especially when he was safe and sound with grandma cuddles in the other room.

Looking back to prepping my maternity leave, I have no regrets of planning for 8 weeks off. Some days, I’m tired or I’d rather stare at my son all day and I have zero interest in opening my computer. But some days, working with a client is a creative escape that baby-time won’t fulfill. Some days I want to savor the newborn-ness and some days I need a break from it. Both are totally fair, whether it be during maternity leave or anytime down the road. I suppose it’s my first true attempt at flexibility as a mama, and giving myself as much flexibility as I give my son feels good.

Chelsea Becker is a San Francisco based writer, creator of becker editorial, and on the editorial team at MU. She’s a new mom to her son Cooper. For her thoughts on not keeping score as a parent & partner, click here.

Image via Alexa Dagmar