I’m officially back to work. Outside the home. Onward and upward.

I got a new job and I am absolutely pumped.

But I’m going to keep it real, as I’m wont to do: Immediately upon accepting the offer, I was met by a wave of buyer's remorse, the kind of Catholic-like guilt I suppose one inherits from their own stay-at-home mother. Going back to work means going back to daycare, rushed together dinners and short evenings together.

It's not that I'm not excited for this new role. I am immensely excited for what's ahead in this fresh opportunity. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't grieving the slow, easy, cartoon and pancake filled mornings that are inevitability followed by endless trips to the park or a bout of aimless puttering in the backyard. That's a good life, if you can swing it.

But everything has its season, right? If we stay where we're at, we will eventually grow weary and long to find a new happiness. That's the theory of hedonic adaption, which LifeHackers sums up like this: "Even if we’ve spent our whole lives pursuing something, once we’ve got it, we start adapting to it. Soon, it becomes normal. Once it’s normal, it can start to get boring. It doesn’t matter that we worked for decades to get there, we’ve got it now, so it’s not exciting anymore."

In short, I'm here — here as in, here as a human soul on planet earth for a finite period — to grow, experience, do a little leading and a whole lot of learning. In fact, that was kind of the premise of this column: “You're a new mom, Whitney. Won't it be funny, adorable and educational for readers to walk through that experience with you? We'll come to this page every week to commiserate, vent and maybe learn a thing or two.”

So what have I learned?

Well, I've tried to determine if there is some bulleted list of truisms I've gathered along the journey from working mom to stay-at-home mom and back again. I can't give you a Letterman-esque top 10 list, but I can tell you there's a few central themes to the insights I've gained. All I can seem to come up with is this:

  • Becoming a parent will lead you to incredible shifts in values and priorities. Sometimes twice in one day. Just when you think you’ve got yourself figured out, you’re confronted with a new, crying reality and all your plans go to hell. Go with the flow and relearn what you’re all about. You might be surprised.
  • Patience, with your child and with yourself, is essential. That seems a bit obvious, but the idea that you also have to treat yourself with kid gloves might be a new one for you. It was for me. If you’re going to be a good parent, you’ve got to ease up on yourself a little bit. Learn through your mistakes. Admit what you don’t know. Try again tomorrow. You can apply the Love Thyself concept to your whole life, actually, but it’s imperative when you’re role modeling for your little ones.
  • Seek out support. Find the Other Parents around you who can sense exactly what’s up with just an across-the-room glance. Connect with your child-free friends to remember who you are for a few hours when someone small isn’t hounding you for more milk. If you’ve got good ones, rely on your own parents to share some of the load when possible. Don’t let yourself get isolated. That ain’t a life worth living.

And now we’ve come full circle. I’m back to work after some time off after some other work. We’ve covered a lot of ground in the two years I’ve written here, so this is me signing off. Thanks to everyone who has read and responded to this column since its inception. Thanks for reading, for listening. It has been real — and really scary, at times — to talk about myself, my faults and my fledgling beliefs like this in front of an audience. But if I’ve done what we set out to do, I hope we’ve learned something together.

Go hug your kids. Get them outside. Go play. Have fun.