“Do I really want to change out of my stretchy pants for a silly job?” For new working mothers this can be a really hard decision. You knew when you got pregnant that you would, without a doubt, return to the workforce and not turn into one of those mothers whose whole world revolves around her baby. You would even roll your eyes when you saw fellow co-workers leaving meetings or work events early to get home to their offspring. You told yourself, “I will never be like that”. Then the last week of your maternity leave rolls around and you realize that not only did you not complete Season 4 of Scandal like you planned, but you are not ready to leave your little miracle with a bunch of strangers for 8 hours a day.
Oh no!!! Are you turning into one of “those” mothers? The answer is YES and it is okay. Your baby is the most demanding person in your life and you cannot feel guilty about wanting to respond to that. Besides, there are many more things that you will feel guilty about down the road. Mergers & Acquisitions just don’t seem important after you literally created a future employee in your stomach. You just have to CHECK YOURSELF LADY!! Your baby will be perfectly well cared for and you will even look forward to having conversations about things other than reflux. You may actually feel confident that you have the skill set to accomplish the tasks that are put in front of you—something you can never feel as a parent. I am not saying there won’t be hard days when you are late to work because your darling angel had a massive blow out just as you were putting him in his car seat and you don’t even realize that you have poop all over the side of your shirt until you are walking into a board meeting. This will happen. You have to let it go and join the ranks of the rest of the parents in the office that are all doing their best to make it all work.
Luckily, employers are getting better (or being strong-armed) about trying to find ways to keep mothers in the workforce. Make sure you talk to your boss and ask for what you need. You may be surprised at her flexibility. Or you may realize that your job is not flexible at all and that you need to find work that allows you to be a parent and a career woman, knowing that you cannot be exceptional at both all the time. Sometimes you win at work and sometimes you win at home. There are trade-offs, but most kids survive the process. In the end, 50% of kids with mothers who work are psychopaths and 50% of kids whose mothers stay home are psychopaths. Have more than one kid and may the odds be ever in your favor.
SURVIVAL TIPS ON THE RETURN
- Get on a schedule
- While a lot of mommies don’t like the idea of scheduled feedings, it may be a necessary evil if you plan to return to the workforce. A good resource if you are having trouble getting on a schedule is Baby Wise. It is a bit militant so just pick and choose what you want to pull out of it so that won’t go completely insane.
- Block off your pump times on your calendar
- If you don’t have it as blocked time on your calendar, you are likely to delay or even skip your pumping sessions. This will also help your co-workers get used to the idea that you are unavailable 3 to 4 times a day because you are producing liquid gold and cannot be disturbed. I would often skip a pump because a meeting got scheduled and it caused my supply to drop faster than Mel Gibson's career.
- Have a back up outfit in the car or in your office
- This will be a life saver when you accidentally spill just-pumped milk on yourself or leak through your top while watching a YouTube video one of your co-workers sent you about a tiny kitten’s daring rescue from a tree by four exceptionally attractive firefighters.
- Use your lunch breaks for errands
- While I would love to suggest that you use this time for yourself and take a break, no one has time for that. Utilize the time to hit the grocery store by yourself and get whatever frozen dinner you need for that night.
- Just say “no”
- Now is the time to flex those boundary muscles. You are going to have to draw the line between work and personal life. Make sure you are upfront with your boss and co-workers about your inability to work late nights and/or take on someone else’s workload. This is when it really hits home that you have transitioned from the young, hip crowd in the office to the "mature" lot with mortgages and pest control issues. Hang in there. Those reckless youngsters will have an after work tequila night that will land one of them in the delivery stirrups in no time.
What a typical day back to work will/could look like for you:
6:00: Get out of bed lazy head
6:00-7:00: Shower, throw down breakfast, and pack pump bag, bottles and baby’s daycare bag while your little one happily sits and watches the chaos from a swing
7:30: Drop off baby and swallow the guilt that is in your throat
8:00: Start your day at a job where you are actually rewarded for your competency
5:30: Retrieve bambino from cage at daycare
6:30-7:00: Bath (b/c daycare is a germ breeding ground)
7:00: Bedtime for babe
7:30: Pour yourself a big bowl of cereal because you are too tired to cook
8:05: Fall asleep on the couch while trying to catch up on Game of Thrones
9:30: Milk dripping from your pump and through your shirt wakes you enough to stumble to bed
2:00: Nurse (if you haven’t yet gotten the little one to sleep through the night)
Oh yeah, you forgot to work out. I’m sure you’ll fit it in tomorrow between the crawl to bed and the midnight feeding. If not, you’ll be eligible for the silver sneakers discount at your gym in no time!
A few resources that will make you feel better about going back to work:
Lean In: inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s book, this site does a great job of inspiring you to stay engaged in the workforce. Get the audio version of the book for your commute. I couldn’t ever stay awake long enough to read it.
The Working Mother: This site gives you several resources and information on “mom-friendly” companies and how to survive the workforce.
Feeling guilty about going back to work? : A great article from HP on how staying at home isn’t right for every woman.
How to Rock a Newborn Schedule: A realistic look at scheduling from Incredible Infant.