Confessions of a Working Mother
When I found out I was going to be a mother, the common anxieties crept into my mind – “Will my baby be healthy?”, “Will the nursery be finished in time?”, “Will I know when to feed my baby?”, and the big one – “Will I sleep?”
Not until a few weeks, before the end of my maternity leave, did I think, “Will it be hard to go back to work?” I didn’t quite grasp how I would feel being off from work or what would be waiting for me when I returned. No one talks about that part. The sleepless nights, loss of freedom and overwhelming responsibility —now that’s what they focus on.
I would like to say I learned a few things my first go-around, and 9 months post-maternity leave I can reflect on what helped the transition.
First Day Jitters
Anticipating my return date was almost like waiting for the first day of school, but instead of questions like, “Who will my teacher be? Will my friends be in my class?” you wind up asking yourself, “Was I missed while I was away? Did someone take my place?”
What worked for me was turning this nervous energy into motivation. Yeah, I may have been gone for a while, but I’m back now and better than ever. Turn your new responsibility into motivation as well. You’re not only providing for you anymore. A little cutie pie depends on you too.
Talk with your supervisor about expectations upon your return. It is OK to take it slow and ease into the week. My first week back was only 2 days, which allowed me to get settled, familiar with my new routine and caught up on what had happened the past 3 months.
New Routine Adjustment
I don’t need to tell you that your morning, afternoon and evening routines will need to be re-evaluated. Between the nighttime feedings, additional steps to your morning regiment, and drop-off / pick-up daycare schedule, you’re going to need to try and build in more time.
Start by prepping at night and getting a jump on your morning routine. A perfect time for me is right after I put my daughter down for the night. As soon as she’s asleep, I start making lunches, cleaning bottles, queuing up the coffee (arguably the most important) and ironing clothes. This eliminates at least some of the scramble in the morning.
Also, work around your child’s schedule as much as you can. In my experience, young children don’t provide much in the sympathy department when it comes to your life.
Be Flexible and R-E-L-A-X
A friend once told me that there are glass balls and rubber balls, and it’s OK to let the rubber balls hit the ground from time to time. Being a ‘Type A’ personality, I lived with a perfectionist’s mindset. I learned quickly what most people know —perfection is nearly impossible with a baby. And that’s all right! Your priorities are no longer weekly happy hours with your friends or cleaning the house, but rather ensuring your baby is fed, changed, healthy and sleeping.
While we’re at it, I was a person who loved to get in their work routine: computer powered on, headset strapped to my noggin and notebook to my right. Now I’m living more on the fly. I utilize my commute to follow up on phone calls or emails (sans computer, headset and notes.) I’m much more willing to make it work and adjust to what the day throws me.
Most importantly, fit in a little “you time”. It is OK to spend a little extra time wandering the aisles of Target after work or go on a walk at lunch to clear your head. If you are worn down or mentally drained, you won’t have the energy for your little one.
It definitely isn’t easy, but then I remember my favorite part — I left for maternity leave with one title and came back with two.