Posted: Sep 05, 2013 6:00 AM
Do you remember you first day back to work after maternity leave? Terri Duncan remembers it vividly. She struggled with the thought of abandoning her daughter, but at the same time worried about wasting her college diploma. In Chicken Soup for the Soul: New Moms, Terri’s mom shares some insight that may help other mothers who are considering staying at home versus heading back to the working world.

Written by Terri Duncan, published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: New Moms

She never quite leaves her children at home,
even when she doesn't take them along.
—Margaret Culkin Banning

It was a cool spring morning in early April. I sat at Momma's kitchen table clutching my precious baby girl to my chest. It was to be my first day back at work since her birth, and the thought of leaving my baby was tearing me apart. I had waited so long to have a child and now was considering leaving her for a majority of the day, five days a week. What in the world was I thinking?

She could have accomplished much in the career world, but instead devoted her life to her family.

My mother, a parent of three, had never worked outside the home when we were growing up. Momma had so many talents and was incredibly intelligent. She could have accomplished much in the career world, but instead devoted her life to her family. Because ours was a one-income family, this meant that we experienced some financial constraints. Of course, the only one truly aware of the monetary burdens was Momma. She was the one who did without, not us. I took it for granted that Momma would always be at home when I needed her.

Now, here I was, a new mother leaving my child so that my new family could have a certain degree of financial freedom. All of a sudden, I felt so incredibly selfish. I wanted to be as selfless as she had been. At that moment, I decided that I would eat hot dogs when I wanted steak, I would stay at home rather than go on shopping expeditions, and would be content to spend summers around town instead of at the beach or in the mountains. But a little voice in my subconscious lingered. Would I really be able to do that? What about that college diploma hanging on my wall, the one that I had worked so hard to earn? Would I really be happy if each day was a struggle financially? And if I was not content with the direction of my life, what kind of mother would I be? The conflicting range of emotions was truly making me a little crazy!

grandmother holding her grandbaby

As the tears streamed down my face, my mother walked across the room and gently pried that little girl from my arms. I cried even harder and stammered that I just could not do it. I could not leave my baby. She needed me too much. I would just have to learn to deal with the struggle. Perhaps I would go back to work when she was older.

My mother, always wise beyond her years, smiled gently as she cradled the sleeping baby in her arms.

"Honey, this baby is always going to need you, even when she's a teenager. Time isn't going to change that. In fact, she may need you then even more than she does right now. That's what happens when you become a momma. But you are leaving her with someone who loves her just as much as you do, and she's going to know that you love her no matter where you are. I'm going to make sure of that. That's why you can go."

And with those words, I pulled myself up from the chair and walked toward the front door. My heart had never felt heavier.

All day long, I thought of my precious baby. I called at least a dozen times to check on her, and each time Momma patiently assured me that all was well. Yes, she had eaten well. Yes, the diaper rash looked better. No, she had not cried. Yes, she had slept well except that the ringing of the telephone kept waking her up.

It was never easy to leave my children, but I was blessed to have a mother to watch over and protect them just as I would have.

By the time my workday had ended, my arms ached to cradle my precious baby. I raced to Momma's house and ran through the front door where Momma was waiting with my little girl. I clung to her and hugged her tight. All was right again in my world.

I worked the entire time my daughter was growing up and eventually added a son to the nest. It was never easy to leave my children, but I was blessed to have a mother to watch over and protect them just as I would have. Those two youngsters are now teenagers, and Momma was right. Though bottles, diapers and strollers have long since been put away, they do still need me, probably even more than when they were babies. After all, I am the one holding the car keys.


Terri's own mother provided the ultimate reassurance: Your children will always need you, whether you work or not. Have you ever struggled with the choice between working and not? For more stories on this topic, pick up a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stay-at-Home Moms. And if you could use a weekly dose of inspiration for busy moms, sign up for the newsletter.

Reprinted with permission from Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC © 2011. In order to protect the rights of the copyright holder, no portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior written consent. All rights reserved.

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