Welcome to MDC!
This is a great forum for working moms especially, because we face some unique obstacles (both professional and personal) that are really hard to deal with if you are by yourself. First of all...WOW!.....being in the military is tough. I'm impressed! Being a mom in the military has got to be even tougher!! You must be very strong and courageous, both qualities that will serve you well in finding the right balance between work and motherhood!
I totally commiserate with you! It is almost a physical pain that one goes through. Although I am not in the military, I chose a career path (law) that is not overly family friendly. I work in the public (gov't) sector, so my hours were much more reasonable, but they still conflicted with my ability to balance work and family. That is one of the toughest things a woman has to do, I think. The balance is an ongoing process, though infancy, toddlerhood, pre-school, gradeschool, etc. We are constantly trying to find the right blend. Just when we find it, then something changes....
Anyway, here's a look at my attempt to balance both: I was the main breadwinner (carrying the insurance and a bigger salary) I had 11 weeks of paid maternity leave. Unheard of for corporate America, but it was barely enough time for me to adjust to the thought of being a Mother, let alone time to actually *parent* my precious baby. DH started his own business and worked out of our house, so we had a wonderful sitter who came to our house and stayed with dd while I was at work. I cut my hours as short as possible and even came home to nurse during lunch. On average, I worked 30-35 hours. Sounds like a nice balance? Not really. To be precise, I snuck out of the office every day, dashed like a bat out of H*LL to get home, nursed dd, tried to get her down for a nap, and then rushed back to work and tried to appear like I wasn't gone for 1.5 hours or so! Needless to say, the stress was overhwelming at times. At work, I pored over Babycenter.com and MDC boards, because it helped me feel connected as a parent. In between, I was trying to discreetly pump. On top of that, I snuck out early to go home at the drop of a hat! But, I was unwilling to change the schedule. Changing meant that I would spend more time at the office and even LESS time with DD.
Like you, I grieved for the time that I was away from dd, for the moments that someone else held her, for the lost chances.
No matter how much I tried to rationalize it, my gut told me that I WAS missing out on things. The question then became, for me, Could I handle this? She, on the other hand, was totally thriving.
Me? I was more and more torn. I felt like something had to give. I was tired of playing "catch-up" You know, where you try to squeeze in "quality time" or you try to make up for being gone. You hope and pray that when the next milestone comes, you will be there....I finally realized that I wasn't the same person after having dd that I was before having dd. Whereas my path and career were pretty mapped out before, now, things were different. I was different. At the same time, I also realized that time was going by so fast. Before I knew it, my little baby was a toddler, walking, starting to talk, etc. A year flew by and I was no more "balanced" than I was when I went back to work!!
Fast forward a few months. I continued to long to be home more and decided I would be happy working only part-time. Needless to say, giving a part-time mom employment was not on the priority list for employers, but after A LOT of red tape, I finally secured a pt position with the County. DH and I sold our condo in the city and moved to the suburbs, thereby reducing our cost of living. DH, who was formerly self employed as a contractor, had to go out and find a full time job with benefits, which I didn't carry anymore since I worked only PT.
It is now going on 8 months and I feel that I have finally found some "balance"...at least for now! I wouldn't trade my schedule for the world. It fits perfectly for me right now. We had to make some sacrifices, but I think in the big picture, they will be minore. What strikes me is how "transitory" all of this is. Even now, I think how much dd has changed (she's 2 now) and how in a few months, she'll be in pre-school....Yikes!
I think the day that it will be time for me to enter the work force full time will be the day that I start to envy the FT mom's at work. Naturally, working pt is a little bittersweet as I see my colleagues moving up in the office, getting promotions, etc. But, when I see the women who have children, I feel bad for them, not envious.
Sorry this is so long. I just wanted to let you know that I totally sympathize with you. It's ok to feel sad. It is agonizing to realize that your priorities have changed but that circumstances around you haven't. It is even harder when the environment of your chosen career is not conducive to being a mom. Co-sleeping, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, etc, all help to maintain your connection to your dd. It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job. Expressing your feelings and voicing them out loud is also very crucial. You're also so lucky to have your DH be a SAHD. At least you don't have to spend $ on childcare and your dd is with a loving parent. Take heart that we are all in the same boat. We all have to find our "balance" in different ways, whether it is extended materinity leave, part time, cutting hours, or simply acknowledging that we are doing the best that we can under the circumstances we have. Peace be with you and your family!!
mama to a sprited 2 yr old