Note: this blog post has been adapted from a Facebook/Instagram post that I shared earlier this month.
I’m going to preface this by saying: I’ve gone back and forth quite a bit on what I should share in light of the recent events highlighting police brutality and systemic oppression against the Black community in the U.S.
Why did I struggle? Mainly because I felt compelled — as a diversity and inclusion professional, as a self-proclaimed feminist, inclusionist, and mother who’s determined to raise anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, generally anti-bigoted sons — to make my thoughts and feelings known.
Also, sadly, because I felt pressured by the sheer amount of anti-racism-related and allyship-related content that was flooding my news feeds: I was concerned that my social media silence would be interpreted as apathy — or worse — complicity. What could I post on Instagram, Facebook, and my blog to assert that this was a cause I cared about? And how could I word my thoughts so that people would know I’m not a performative ally?
And then I told myself. Fuck. That.
I realized: I don’t need to prove who I am to whoever follows me on social media. People who know me, know where I stand. And I shouldn’t rely on social media engagement metrics as measurement of whether or not I’m doing the right thing as an ally.
Besides, this moment and this movement aren’t about me — while this is a challenging time, I can’t forget that what’s important is amplifying the voices and struggles of the Black community. I shouldn’t and won’t forget about that.
With the current, constantly escalating situation with COVID-19, my little family and I (just like everyone else in the world) have felt the impact of the pandemic on our home life.
Professionally, my employer decided to temporarily shutter all of our global offices. So I’ve been working from home since last Monday, March 9th. I’ve had different business trips and projects either canceled or postponed until Q3 of the fiscal year – which means that (1) I’ve been tasked with identifying new, virtual ways of getting my job done and (2) a much busier August than I initially anticipated. Plus, I’m grappling with a general sense of uncertainty around how long this temporary remote work situation will last — and when I can expect to return to my work “normal.”
Personally, my home life has been disrupted. I find myself constantly reassessing how I spend my days (What structure can I put into place to make sure I get everything done? How can I make sure that I’m still taking care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally when my daily routines have been upended?). My little family and I are frequently realigning how we coexist within our three-bedroom apartment: how we can capitalize on spending more time with each other, how we can ensure that we carve out crucial times we need to be by ourselves, and how we can ensure that we’re still providing a sense of normalcy to our toddlers who, quite frankly, have no idea what’s going on.
Harsh truth time: I’m a mom who likes being away from her kids.
I came to this realization when I was a little past the halfway point of my maternity leave after I had my second son Noah. I was one of the lucky few people in the U.S. whose employer offered a generous maternity leave (i.e. paid and longer than a few weeks): in all, I had roughly six months total of paid time off both to recover from childbirth and to bond with my newborn baby. And throughout that time, I had an opportunity to reflect on my motherhood style.
I undoubtedly cherished every minute of my leave (and, for the record, I would never exchange that time off for anything in the world, and I fundamentally believe that: one, this country needs to mandate paid parental leave for all types of parents, and two, we need to destigmatize parenthood, particularly pregnancy and motherhood, in the workplace… but I digress, as that is a topic of conversation for another, much meatier blog post). However, I realized during that time that I’m a better mom, a better wife, a better head of household, and, in truth, an all around better person when I spend some time away from my kids.
It’s funny: thanks to my favorite feature on my Day One Journal, my end-of-year journal entries automatically resurface through an “On This Day” recap, and I’ve had an opportunity to read through all my new year sentiments from the past six years or so.
There definitely were common themes.
I haven’t accomplished everything I’ve wanted to… but I will next year. I’m going to lose that weight. I’m going to get healthy. I’m going to write more blog posts. I’m going to be happy. I’m going to take care of myself.
Forgive me, but this blog post is also going to be filled with some of the same stuff… We’re creatures of habit after all, right?
I not only survived my first week back at work post-maternity leave but I also somehow managed to get through the days without a single tear.
True, it was a short week: I purposely asked that my return date be a Thursday to ensure as easy of a transition as possible. And, while I was physically present, I honestly can’t say that my mind was operating the way that it should have been — speaking coherently in a business meeting is proving to be a lot more difficult than I anticipated…
But I’m cutting myself some slack. And I’m outwardly admitting: Yes, I’m human, and I’ve spent the past nearly six months of my life operating in a way that’s drastically different from working in an office environment, so this transition is probably going to be a bit challenging.
And, thankfully, I’m surrounded by so many work colleagues that not only hear what I’m saying but are also supportive.
So, on this Sunday evening, I’m not feeling as horrible as you think I would be — and that lack of dread has made me reflect on the first time I left Tadashi…
He was a few weeks old. It was a hot summer day in Dublin, Reggie and I were both on maternity leave, and I was deep in the throes of a particularly bad bout of baby blues. My older sister had recently moved to the apartment complex across the street, and she (and the rest of my family) knew that I was going through a tough time, mentally and emotionally. I had not left Tadashi’s side at all since coming home from the hospital.
After almost five and a half months of maternity leave, I’m finally returning to work. I knew that this day was going to be filled with a bunch of emotions — but, despite everyone’s warnings, I couldn’t have anticipated how intensely those emotions would hit me.
Honestly, there’s a part of me that’s eager and excited to return to work. That’s the part that suffered major cabin fever while on leave and yearned for some type of routine other than nursing my baby around the clock. The part that’s looking forward to conversing with other adults about things other than cradle cap care and feeding schedules. The part that can’t wait to see my work friends and be back in the city and work on something for me, for once.
Don’t get me wrong: I recognize how lucky I’ve been to stay with my baby for as long as I have. Nearly half a year of parental leave is a rarity in the U.S. And, bottom line, I would never exchange the opportunity I had to bond with Tadashi* for anything else in the world. It’s been a whirlwind of a journey, but I know that Reggie, Tadashi, Henri, and I are all a little happier because I spent this time at home.
But I also know me. And I know that I would’ve always wanted something for myself in addition to being the best mother possible for my boy. Which is why going back to work always felt like an inevitability to me.
With that in mind, I woke up yesterday morning feeling a little anxious but mostly determined. I resolved to use my last day of maternity leave to spend some quality time with my little family (Reggie’s back on paternity leave for a month as I transition back to work) and to prepare for my first full workday. We grabbed breakfast together at a little cafe in Pleasanton and ran some last-minute errands.
Welcome to “beanbrain,” my personal pregnancy and parenting blog. Before we get things started, I first want to share some things about motherhood and me:
(1) From a young age, I’ve always envisioned myself as a mother.
I know there are some women (and men) who never consider having or simply don’t want to have children. I was never that person. Whatever the reason, I always knew I wanted children of my own. One day.
(2) I had zero expectations in terms of how I would feel about and tackle pregnancy and parenting.
When I first announced I was pregnant, people would ask me the same few questions. What are you excited about? Nervous about? Do you want a boy or a girl? My answer to all of the above: “Honestly, I’m not thinking too much about anything.” As a first-time parent, I knew that I wouldn’t have the slightest clue as to what I would be doing once my child came into the world. My closest friends and family also warned me that the reality of pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing would be drastically different from anything I could imagine or expect. So, as I entered pregnancy, I vowed to live my days as open-minded and open-hearted as possible.
(3) There were so many times throughout my pregnancy and during my first few weeks of parenthood where I thought or said, “I wish people talked about this…”
Despite my lack of expectations, there were a few things that happened during my pregnancy and in the early days of motherhood (from a miscarriage scare at the beginning of my second trimester, to my reaction to learning that I would need to deliver via C-section, to the struggle I had with breastfeeding) that made me feel anxious, frustrated, and — above all — alone. Only by talking to other women in my life did I realize that these experiences (and their accompanying emotions) were more common than I thought.
And that’s why this blog exists. This is designed to serve as a safe space not only to share my thoughts and emotions with you but also to confirm that we are not alone when it comes to the less-than-pretty aspects of pregnancy and parenting.
Every week, I hope to share different reflections and personal experiences on a variety of topics, and I invite you to share your own experiences with me. So here’s to figuring out motherhood together!