I really didn't want to write about this cause the wound is still pretty fresh. Maybe a few weeks from now, leaving my child at home while I go to work will be smooth sailing? Anyhoo, I had several new moms reach out to me asking how it is working with a child at home so now I feel compelled to talk about my experience.
I've heard so many mothers say that they had no idea going back to work after maternity leave would be so hard, or so wrenching, or so complex. Returning to work, for me, was one of the hardest things I have had to do as a mom as of yet (Followed closely by waking up 5 times a night when Zidaan was younger). It’s not on par with lots of life’s tragedies, even some losses I’ve experienced in my own, but when it happens to you, it is hard on a deep, biological, emotional level. From the outside, to some, I sounded at best melodramatic and maybe at worst, just plain crazy. A month into my leave, it started to dawn on me that this new normal—one that I truly was blissed out on—would morph into yet another new normal.
That first month went by fast. Crazy fast. So quickly that it occurred to me as I healed that time would continue in its unfair way, speeding toward a destination I could not control. Before I went on leave, I could honestly say that I loved many, many aspects of what I did at my job. Probably the most you can like a job while still having a job. Because, let’s be honest here, no matter how much we like or love our jobs, most of us wouldn’t continue working if we hit the Powerball jackpot. Am I right? OK, then. We understand what I’m saying here. Either way, I decided that I had to go back just to see if I could do it at least. I knew it would be tough. Just not how tough. Until the last week of my maternity leave crept up...
I went back exactly three months after I gave birth to Zidaan. He was born February 9th. I was back May 8th. All I could think about that last week was being separated from my number one favorite thing. There was no way that this was enough time for me, for him. No way. I’m not alone here. Most of the rest of the world agrees with me. I have no problem saying that our maternity leave policies in the U.S. are barbaric. Whether you’re ready to go back to work or not (and some are, and man, I envied that terribly) I don’t personally know one parent who thinks the current situation is even close to ideal. I felt so desperate I was texting every working mom I knew like a maniac asking her what it was like/how she did it/did she survive. It would surely be impossible. How would I walk out that door? Leave him in the arms of someone that, no matter how wonderful, was not me? Who would watch out for tiny, vulnerable him exactly the way I wanted? I would miss the best hours of the day, the happy ones, the wakeful ones, the ones where he might perform his firsts. I had to share. I did not feel like sharing. At all. I’m going to be completely honest. I think I cried every day the last week of my leave. Not all day. Just when it would hit me: 7 days left, 5 days left, 3 days left.
Then that Monday came. I returned to work. Tearfully and full of panic and reserve and dread. Handing him to my mother in law that morning almost physically hurt. Much to my surprise though, things kind of just snapped back when I arrived at my desk. Everyone else had carried on in my absence, of course. I don’t mean it snapped back easily, but just…. Well, like my work, my desk, my office had always been waiting there. I promised I would keep myself busy. Call home only twice to check up on my chiId and then carry on with my work.
The first day was slow and painful. I was so afraid of sounding insane - I would type up a text asking for a picture of my son and delete it cause it had only been an hour since I got his last picture. The week went on and I felt it getting teeny tiny bits better each day. All in all, I'm two weeks in now. And there's still good days and bad days. Today happens to be a bad one. My baby was giggling and puling my hair this morning while I kissed his little nose telling him he's my absolute favorite human everrrrrr (yes, I sound insane).
So here's what I've learned/what I found helped me transition back into work:
1. . The reality was hard, but the anxiety I put on myself about the unknown was far, far, far more torturous. Don't get me wrong, I still my son terribly. I'm that insane mom that breaks out in a cold sweat driving home when traffic crawls along during rush hour, counting the minutes that she's missing out on with her baby because people don’t know how to freaking merge. Here's hope: It does get easier. VERY slowly, but surely.
2. Talk to your Manager/Employer about your feelings. Mine was amazing and came over a couple weeks before I went back. We talked about how I felt, what will be tough for me and agreed to take it week by week. Her concern and understanding my feelings as a mom made me a feel a lot more secure in going back. Also, knowing that you're being honest and that your boss will understand should you change your mind down the road is wonderful.
3. Stock up. I pack my pump for work everyday. Make sure whoever is watching your baby has all his/her feeds, diapers and change of clothes. Do a practice run the day before of what your morning routine will be. Make sure whoever is watching your child is also aware that YOU are mom. You will do the all the extra baby duties such as bathing, laundry, nail cutting, massaging etc. All they need to do is follow eat, sleep, play until you get home. This makes you feel better as a mom and more in charge even if you aren't physically present with your child.
4. When you get home from work, allow yourself some snuggle time. Everything else can wait. You deserve to hold that baby, smell his 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.
I mean just look my chunkers! Goodbyes are super tough every morning.
Talking to every kind of mom—stay at home, work from home, work full time, work part time—there’s always a rub. Always. It’s just one of the hard parts of parenthood in the system we’ve got. As for me, I just try to be as present as possible for all the moments Zidaan and I are together. I hope this helps a mom who is getting ready to go back to work. You can do it, momma. And even if you can't, that's okay too. You're amazing no matter what.