Hello my friends. Of all the things preoccupying me when I was pregnant with my first child, going back to work was at the top of the list. First, I stressed about the length of my maternity leave. Next, nursing. Then, there was all the guilt about leaving the baby behind. Childcare, frozen milk bags, pumping, grappling with my identity as a working mother — all these “thinggies” swirled around in my head and brought me to tears on a daily basis, the stress only intensifying when my baby actually came. From day one as a mother, I persisted in counting down the days I “had with him.”
Since going back to work with a newborn at home certainly constitutes one of the largest life changes many woman face, I was overjoyed when Susan Wenner Jackson of Working Moms Against Guilt offered to guest post for Cloudmom with her tried and true tips for making going back to work a successful experience for new moms. I’m so proud to be running this important post, and if some of you have other tips, please share them below. xo Melissa
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Making Going Back to Work WORK
In eight years of working motherhood, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, gotten to know many moms at all stages of the game, and gathered up a few nuggets of wisdom on the subject.
Here’s one thing I know for sure: One of the toughest moments as a mom is going back to work after baby.
Unfortunately, returning to work also happens to be one of the earliest milestones in a very long journey. You’re operating with major sleep deprivation, huge shifts in household dynamics, inner struggles with your new life, and very real concerns about everything from your baby’s care to your work re-entry after a long absence.
Tough stuff, for sure.
But something else I can assure you of: Many millions of women have done this successfully before you, and will do it after you. You can do this, too.
Working Moms Against Guilt
Not long after I went back to work, three months after my first child was born, I started a blog with some friends in a similar situation. At Working Moms Against Guilt, the four of us shared our worries, triumphs and tips—mostly for each other’s sake, but also for any other mamas who might stumble across the site.
Since then, Working Moms Against Guilt has grown into a trusted online community, and we’ve collected some real gems about returning to the office after maternity leave. Here are some of my all-time favorites:
1) Your view of the world (including work and life) has changed forever. It’ll take some getting used to.
2) Once you’re back at work, you’ll amaze yourself with how efficient you become. At work, you bust it so you can go home and see your baby. At home, you cherish every moment (well, almost every moment) you get to spend with the little one. Priorities take shape, and they shape you.
3) You might be tempted to “do it all”—all at once. Keeping the house immaculate, cooking homemade meals every night, killing it at work, losing the baby weight… achieving perfection in all areas of your life (especially with a newborn) is impossible. Don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself. A mother’s life is a marathon, and you’re just beginning.
4) Worried that your baby will miss you while you’re at work? He’s really OK. Babies haven’t developed a sense of time yet, so they don’t know you’ve been gone for nine hours. And guess what? They’re not forming memories either. So the only one who really notices your absence is you.
5) You start caring about certain things you never would have considered before. Like coffee as a basic human need, rather than a nice-to-have. Or absolutely having to leave the office no later than 5:37 p.m. in order to make daycare pickup. Your priorities get a major overhaul.
6) Traveling for work takes a whole lot more planning (and sometimes, worrying). But while it might impact your breastfeeding routine, being away on a business trip for a few days will not harm the bond you have with your little one. When you get back, you’re still the #1 mom.
7) Be patient with yourself—at home and at work. Adjusting to this new life will take time and you can’t expect to nail it right out of the gate.
8) Life is hard for everyone, working moms included. When life inevitably throws some hurdles your way, such as a baby with digestive problems, a car accident or a spouse’s promotion at work (involving more hours at the office), you will find a way through it. As WMAG contributor Kristi Blust put it, “In parenthood, and in life, there are no guarantees of fairness or fortune. All you can do is put on a brave face, and keep going.”
9) The big “G”—guilt. You will likely encounter this feeling more than once as you re-enter the working world as a mom. Heck, I started a whole blog about the subject! Bottom line is, you should not feel guilty for working. Why? Because you’re supporting your family, giving yourself an identity and space away from your kids, serving as a positive role model and doing what’s best for you and your family.
10) Create and nurture a support system for you and your family. It really does take a village to raise a child, and the more trusted help you can rely on, the better off you and your baby will be.
11) Daycare doesn’t have to be a four-letter word. Many (thoughtless) people will say things like, “Why would you have a baby just to have someone else raise it?” And those people are idiots. Putting your child in daycare so you can go back to work is not a sin, so rid yourself of the shame and despair, advises WMAG contributor Christie Gibson. She offers some very practical tips and words of inspiration regarding the daycare dilemma. If you’re not fortunate enough to have a live-in relative to care for your baby, I highly recommend checking out her tips.
12) When you get home from work, allow yourself some snuggle time. The dishes and laundry can wait (or you can get help with those household tasks). You deserve to hold that baby, smell her sweet baby scent, enjoy those baby giggles and just be a mom for a while. Sometimes, that one hour at the end of the day can remind you that all your hard work, patience, worries and tears are worth it.
Susan Wenner Jackson started Working Moms Against Guilt in 2006 with three of her working-mom friends in Cincinnati. She’s been a writer as long as she can remember (1980?), and a blogger and mom since 2006. She lives in West Chester, Ohio, with her husband, Jerry, and two children (ages 8 and 5). She’s VP of content partnerships for Ahalogy, a Cincinnati-based startup that’s helping the world’s top brands and publishers win on Pinterest. Follow her on Twitter @susanwjackson.