What a wonderful thread! Breathe, I can totally relate to what you are saying and I'd be very surprised if you got flamed for it!
Tigerchild, wonderful post (as usual!). I, too, try to think of these years as just a short time, kind of like high school or something.
After 12 years of University and 2.5 years of a post-doc I was really ready for a break when I got pregnant with DD. I was a SAHM for the first 15 months and at first I was completely in love and couldn't imagine doing anything else. I actually wondered if I'd ever want to go back to work.
But, I had been doing some work part-time on the side, at my own pace, and I found that I really looked forward to those phone meetings every other month when I got to talk "shop" and use parts of my brain and education that weren't being used much anymore. By the time DD was one, I began to feel the twinges of mild depression. I found I was usually not getting out of the house until after noon, and things weren't satisfying me.
Fortunately, DH is able to be a SAHD, so I returned to my career and I'm very very happy. I will be taking a year off when this baby is born, too. But I know it's just a year, and I plan to stay involved in my work a bit, but also savour that year since I know it won't last long!!
I'm really glad I took the break, because it allowed me to discover just how important that "balance" we talk about is. For each of us, it's different. For some moms it's working FT out of the home, for others it's taking an art class or yoga class twice a week. But that balance needs to be there. I now know that I will never want to quit my career, and that feels comforting for some reason. I just hate "not knowing", y'know?
I do think that motherhood simply does require a certain degree of selflessness and sacrifice, and that if we are honest with ourselves, it's part of what babies need. But I also think that if we remind ourselves how short a time it is that they are that dependent on us (when they are nursing every 2 hours, or need to be held all day), it makes it easier. And even then, we need to find balance and "me time" even if it's just DH taking the baby for a walk in the sling.