A Letter to my Daughter on my Last Day of Maternity Leave
Dear Baby Girl,
Your older brother has a beautiful scrapbook. I designed and crafted each page to perfectly capture all the milestones from his first year: his first smile, his first tooth, his first steps, his first picture with the furry mascot of a single-A, short-season baseball team.
You have several paper envelopes full of photos that I printed from my phone.
Your scrapbook is just one of many things I didn’t accomplish during my maternity leave. Fearing I would be bored away from work, I wrote elaborate lists of all the things I’d do while I was home with you. I was going to read at least five books. (If we count baby sleep books and Peek-a-boo Forest, I’m halfway there.) I planned to take you to the gym and walk around the track twice a week. Atop the “House” list was “Redo upstairs bathroom.” This one seems particularly delusional now, as though I would bounce you on my leg while I changed tub fixtures and did whatever one does with grout.
I’m surprised how sad I am to go back to work next week, but it has nothing to with my lists. I love my job, but I liked only being a mom—your mom—for a little while.
I stayed home with your brother for the first few months, too. I agonized over his every nap, wrote down each feeding, and was sure that every time he started crying would be the time he wouldn’t stop. Back then, a list might have been a welcome distraction from the anxieties of being a first-time mom.
But this time, you were the distraction. Life slowed down while I was home with you. I lost whole days nuzzling your forehead and playing pat-a-cake with your feet to make you laugh. I watched you until I learned that your eyebrows turn red when you’re tired and the tiniest bubbles appear on your lips when you’re ready to eat.
Of course, our days weren’t perfect. There were times we both got so frustrated we cried. I broke my toe tripping over your bouncy seat. And somehow you peed on me way more than your brother ever did. But every morning, you grab my face in your tiny (and slimy) hands, and I take a deep breath and remember how lucky I am that we have this time together.
Staying home with your brother taught me how to take care of a baby. Staying home with you taught me how to enjoy it.
I know that you won’t remember all this time I spent with you. Maybe that’s why I’m so hung up on the scrapbook. You won’t remember what it’s like to have a mom who spends all day, every day with you. But my best memories from our months together—snuggling, bleary-eyed at four in the morning, watching the Gilmore Girls revival or dancing under the Christmas lights in the doorway to the kitchen —wouldn’t have shown up in a scrapbook anyway.
So instead, I’ll print this out for you and even make a frame that says, “My Mom Went on Maternity Leave, and All I Got Is This Letter.” And it’ll be even more perfect than those meticulously designed scrapbook pages. Just don’t tell your brother.
Written by Sarah Summers for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.