Maternity leave is over and there you are back at your desk. You have spent many hours in this place, and yet now the environment seems surreal…

Your baby stares back at you from the picture frame to the right of your monitor.  That face is so darling it brings tears to your eyes.  Your heart aches as you think about the time you used to have together.  But you know that you are giving her wings as she is out in the world making new friends and discovering herself.  So you take a deep breath and swallow the lump in your throat.

Your diplomas hang on the wall above you.  A reminder of that fresh-faced, power-hungry twenty-something who still lives somewhere deep inside you.  Many moons ago you were up all night writing essays and drinking coffee by the pot cramming for finals.  Then after graduation you overcame even greater obstacles: making an impression, dealing with unconstructive criticism, living in airports, taking on responsibilities far above your pay scale.  You’ve worked hard to get here.

Your phone is silent.  A year is a long time to be away from an office environment and the players have changed.  No one is running to you desperate for a fix to their last-minute emergency because they’ve forgotten how thrilled you are to be a part of the solution.  No one is calling you for the inside scoop because you just don’t have it anymore.  The world doesn’t stand still, but you’re back in it now and in time you will once again be an indispensable member of the team.

Your paycheck waits in your inbox.  How novel it seems to bring in an income.  You are sharing the load in your relationship and providing yourself and your baby with security in case the unthinkable happens.  You will be able to empower her with education and see her down the aisle.  You will retire in time to be there when she becomes a mother.

Your coffee steams and lets off a delicious aroma.  For the first time in a year you will enjoy the entire cup before it gets cold.  This is your time to remind yourself that, though your life will never be the same as it was, you are still your own person.  And this sense of self makes you a better mother.

So turn on our computer, make a few calls and sift through your inbox.  But when the work day is over, hold your baby, kiss your husband and congratulate yourself for keeping it together.