The time has come and I returned to my life and responsibilities outside of the home. Maternity leave is officially over. Cue the sad music; I didn’t want it to end but I was also ready. I have spent eight weeks at home after the birth of our second son, returning a full 4 weeks earlier than last time. I have resumed my weekly yoga teaching, begun seeing clients, as well as returning to my duties as a salon owner. The return, like last time, was full of anxiety for me based in unknown variables like how in the world will I find time to pump, teach, twist hair, write, cook, clean, love my man, wash my face and sleep each day. My plate is full to say the least. It’s the nature of working for yourself. The only reason it even works and I am able to survive is because of my village. I couldn’t have known how important our circle of family and friends would be in this stage of our lives. I’d always heard the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”, but that same village helps lift the mother (and father). They enable the mother to continue to express and grow in her new role. I know there are mamas who do it all on their own but I honestly cannot imagine the struggle that would be our life without the relationships that have supported our journey through welcoming our first son and now baby number two. My village of course offers babysitting but more than that they are pouring love into the life my husband and I are working every day to build.
Maternity leave has been with both my children, a blissfully relaxing time for me. I enjoy the space of having time to focus on this new life and build a connection with my baby. Of course there are moments where I am on the brink of losing sanity but overall I look at those times as full of snuggles and growth. However, as a self-employed person there is anxiety about not generating revenue, losing clients and students and managing the parts of the business that don’t stop even if you are on maternity leave. There are touted notions that business should be kept separate from your personal life because blurring the line can make things complicated. Honestly, it’s a rule that has never held weight for me. My business partner is my best friend, in a relationship that is basically a chosen sisterhood. Without her sacrifice during my leaves I would be financially strained and still having to check in on duties that don’t have a place in between the midnight feedings, healing and nurturing of a new baby. Because we are a family she makes sure I have time and space to heal and rest, taking on my clients and my share of running the business. The other women I am fortunate to have working alongside me in the salon include one of my closest friends and the best assistant I have ever employed. They all have made maternity leave a relaxing experience because I had the relief of knowing that as a part of my village, they were handling things. They were working hard while I was figuring out this life with two babies and still found time to visit me and check on me regularly. My gratitude is never ending.
The nature of the work I do as a stylist and yoga teacher creates unique opportunities to connect with some wonderful people on a personal level. Some of my clients have trusted me with their natural hair for over ten years, long before I was a wife or mother. We are together at least once a month sharing our lives while I provide them with a service I am deeply passionate about. Most of my yoga students began taking classes from me just after the birth of my older son and in the same way as my salon clients we are together regularly discussing our lives and ways to be better humans. Naturally in both arenas, my clients and my students become more than just that. Many are my friends, mother figures and adopted family. Authentic and loving connections are formed as they patronize my business and come to my classes. Throughout both my pregnancies and subsequent maternity leaves they poured their love, wisdom and encouragement into me and my growing family. When I am on leave I miss them and our interactions. I am conscious of the fact that without them, my own life would be impacted not only financially but also in terms of the support that they provide. They are an integral part of my village.
Returning to work is not just about returning to a job and leaving my babies at home. I am fortunate that my husband and I have schedules that for the most part allow at least one of us to be with our children every day. I am also extremely grateful that returning to work means returning to a very rich and uplifting village of people I consider family. I get to wake up each day and be in an environment that makes space for me as a woman, a business owner and a mother. Everyone knows the break room doubles as a milk distribution center and my babies will make appearances regularly. And while I will cherish the time of being home with the sole focus of caring for my precious baby, I am so excited to be back to work. I am able to thrive in the transition because of the village that exists even in my workplace. They patiently carry my load while I am away, still support my business in my absence and greet me with open arms on my return. They remind me that keeping business and personal separate may work for some but not in my case. I need those relationships and the authentic connections that have been forged. This mama wouldn’t be able to survive without it.
This is the third piece in a series entitled “In Infancy.” by guest contributor Kelley Carboni-Woods. Kelley lives in Charlotte with her husband Christian and their 2 year old son, Palmer and one month old son, Duke. Kelley is a natural hair stylist, salon owner, yoga instructor and writer. She writes about parenting on her blog Infectiously Happy.