I remember the first day I dropped my baby boy off at daycare when he was just 12 weeks old. I was a puddle of tears when I left him, fumbling over where to store my pumped breastmilk, shaking as I handed over the diaper bag and barely able to see under my faded ball cap that hid my unwashed hair.
It felt like I was leaving a piece of my heart behind. I sobbed in the car. I went back midday to nurse.
As a working mom, and an entrepreneur I thought the transition to daycare would go smoothly. I had it all planned out. I would take an eight-week maternity leave before heading back to work full-time and even work on some projects during those newborn months. (Spoiler: That didn't happen.)
I wanted to quit everything and be with this tiny human. I had no idea what I was doing as a new mother, but I also wasn't ready to go back to work and leave my baby, so I even extended my maternity leave by another month.
But, little by little I started remembering why I founded my business in the first place. I remembered how wonderful my clients were and how satisfying it felt to use the intellectual part of my brain.
In a time where I felt so much confusion about being a new mother—Is co-sleeping safe? What should we do about his acid reflux? What's the best swaddle? Will he ever nurse without this nipple shield?—my work gave me some sense of control, some certainty. I knew how to do my job well. I knew how to manage editorial calendars and create quality content. I knew how to teach a class and run a sales report.
I did not know how to transition a baby to sleep in his crib or to help him sleep more than an hour at a time. I did not know how to ease his acid reflux. I did not know how to soothe his fussiness in the afternoons when he didn't nap well during the day.
And then I felt a shift and found a way to manage both. A new caregiver now looks after our son each day. I like it there. He loves it there. She knows all the kids' songs, has a ball pit and big toy trucks. He's happy and healthy when I pick him up. I stopped coming midday to nurse. I stopped every other hour texts to check on him. While I was learning to trust this new normal, I still felt like I was better at my job than being my baby's mother. Maybe his caregiver is better than me. Maybe he prefers her over me.
After grappling with this thought, meditating on it, and journaling, I realized something profound.
I can be good at my job and a good mother.
I can love quiet lunches between meetings and love bouncing my baby on my knee and chasing him around before bath time.
I can enjoy midday yoga practices between clients and walks with my baby in his carrier.
It's not an either-or game.
I am not better at my job than I am at being a mom. Just as my baby is learning about me and the world, I'm learning about him and my new role in this life. I now know which lullabies help him drift off to sleep and his tickle spots. I know how loopy and giggly he gets right before bed.
And I know that my deep love and appreciation for him surpasses anything I've ever felt in this life. And, that? That makes me a great mom.