In one of my earlier posts, I shared my emotions about our daughter starting daycare (you can read the original post here), and I am happy to say that things are going so well for our Miss Lillian! It is always fun to have these posts serve as a time capsule and allow me to share how I am feeling and go back and read them to see if my worries were valid.
Lillian has been in daycare for about a month, and it is funny to think that I was worried about our bond lessening since she would be with daycare staff all day. In fact, I think we have gotten even closer, and I have discovered an old emotion I used to feel when my husband and I were first dating: anticipation. There is nothing like the excitement I feel that last hour of my work day when I know that pick-up time is near. While I knew she would benefit from being around babies her age and having engaging and stimulating activities, I never would have guessed the hidden benefit of her exhaustion- she is sleeping so well at night! She was absolutely exhausted the first week and is finally getting the endurance for the long days. I am not kidding, she pretty much puts herself to sleep on the nights she has been at daycare!
Many moms have asked me about my transition back to work, and I am grateful to say it has been smooth. I want to share my thoughts on what made it so smooth in the hopes of guiding other moms who are navigating this process. I want to recognize that just like pregnancy and the first weeks of motherhood, everyone has a unique experience and the same can be said for returning to work. For some women, it is a breeze – they are eager to get back to their professional experience – while others struggle each day with separation from their child and question whether or not they are making the right decision.
While talking with some of my mom friends about the challenges returning to work there were some common themes that arose: getting out of the house on time, making time for their partner, pumping at work (which I will address in a later post this month since there is so much to share) and the guilt of feeling like a “bad mom.” Gosh, there is so much emotional baggage with returning to work! Let me see if I can try and address them all!
Whether your maternity leave was six weeks, six months, or six years, you probably spent the majority, if not all, of your time focusing on your little one. I know when I was on maternity leave I felt like my “job” was to take care of my newborn, and I absolutely loved it. But now that I am back to work my time feels split between taking care of her, getting her ready for daycare, taking care of the house and my work. And with my husband just as busy with his company, it can be hard to find more than 20 minutes to focus on one another!
People will say the usual stuff, “make sure you do a date night,” “put your relationship first,” “don’t work so hard.” But my advice is do what works for you and your partner. The key to this challenging phase of seemingly organized chaos is communication. My husband and I spend time catching up and laughing and then spend about 20 minutes talking about logistics for the following day and the day after that. We usually know the plan two days in advance because it helps us make informed decisions about scheduling and work commitments. Since we are tired at night, we have found that getting up 15 minutes earlier than normal and having coffee or toast in bed gives us time to connect. Then we wake up our little one and start on our way. When schedules permit we try to meet for lunch and talk on the phone for a few minutes to check in. Carving out 10 or 20 minutes for ourselves each day makes us feel closer and maintain our bond.
Okay, now for the tricky part: the guilt. I honestly think that when moms are laying in the hospital bed holding their perfect little newborn, a nurse should whisper to them, “There is nothing to feel guilty about, EVER.” And it is actually true. It sounds wild, but it seems moms need someone else to give them permission to not feel guilty. There are so many things that make moms feel guilty: a night out, not being able to give 100% all of the time, dropping off little ones at daycare and returning to work. So here, I am- you have my permission to not feel guilty! You have all of the RightStart moms who give you permission to not feel guilty! My advice if you feel guilty is to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. As moms. we get so used to all of the tiny details and count everything from dirty diapers to ounces we pumped, and stepping back and realizing that we are a doing a good job by having alone time, being a working mom or enrolling our little one in daycare is important for one’s sanity!
If you are starting back to work and need immediate advice, here is what my friends gave me before I started back:
Do a test run. Practice getting your little one to daycare and work prior to your first day back.
Ease into it. Don’t take on the biggest projects right away.
Read articles about the benefits of working moms. I love reading studies and NY Times articles about how children of working moms are prepared for success. Anything to reinforce the decision to work.
Lean on others. Find support from partners, parents, friends and co-workers. Usually moms at work bond together over their experience.
Good luck and check back for my next post about pumping at work!