Mom to Asher
Length of maternity leave: 23 weeks
What did you struggle with most about returning to work after having your kids? My return to work was a lot smoother (work wise) than I had anticipated. I think much of that had to do with all the organization (hello spreadsheets!) and preparation I had done prior to going on leave as well as having really strong support from my supervisors and my colleagues covering my cases. For my own peace of mind I began slowly checking emails in the week before my leave so I could clear out my inbox, prioritize what needed to be handled immediately when I returned and what could be passed to my other team members. All of this paid off because I came back to the office with my case files already returned to my office, my emails were manageable and I was mentally and emotionally primed to handle the workload that awaited me.
I will note that most of this prep work was self initiated, the pro and sometimes con of my office is there is so much personal work autonomy that help is given IF YOU ASK for it but a lot of the work transfer protocols and flow I used, I implemented myself so it took a tremendous amount of self discipline and ingenuity.
What do you find difficult about being a working parent? TIME. I think at least 3 times a day (double that on weekends) I think to myself, I just need a few more hours in the day. Most of the time I wish it was for sleep or self care but let's be real, if I could get those spare hours, there are 100 projects or tasks I would fill them up with instead.
What do you enjoy about being a working parent? I truly enjoy the growth I have experienced in my work and personal life. Being a working parent has forced me to expand my skills to think creatively and be more efficient in both work and at home. A wonderful by product of this growth is I have found the freedom of letting go of minor stresses or challenges to save space in my brain and my heart for only what is important. As a working parent it feels like you just don't have the time or bandwidth to take on every "crisis" at home or at work so it becomes very freeing to allow yourself the ability to just throw your hands up and say "This looks like a job for someone else." Once I started doing that I realized how much better I was at being both a lawyer and a mother.
After being back at work for some time, have your views about career and family changed? I realized that part of "having it all" involves making compromises but that doesn't necessarily mean you are sacrificing success or being a good parent. You can pass on projects, scale back your workload, or ask for help from your colleagues and still be a success in your field. Likewise you can have help raising your kids (hired or family), you can skip a bath time or miss that 4th parent's brunch at daycare and still be the best parent in the world in your kid's eyes. It's okay to feel guilty or fomo but it doesn't make me less of a mother or less of a lawyer.
Knowing what you know now, what’s one thing you wish you could go back in time and tell yourself as you were preparing to return to work or getting ramped up in your role? I would reassure myself that this experience is an asset and only increases your worth at your job and at home. Embrace all that it is teaching you and get ready to put these new skills to use!
What did you choose for childcare, and how has it been for your family? Daycare
Since the type of law I practice involves child protection and juvenile rights, I came into motherhood with perhaps way too much knowledge about the worst case scenarios that linger in the corner (or forefront) of all new mom brains. This made it paralyzingly hard for us to decide what type of childcare we wanted. It really felt like the only option was for me or my spouse to be with our son at all times. I think interviewing, touring and exploring all the childcare options out there was the most daunting task to returning to work. Not to mention the pretty hefty price tag that came with every option. Eventually it all came down to gut instinct, when we found the daycare that just made us feel safe and at ease, it was a no brainer. We weren't afraid to be upfront with our concerns, ask probing questions if something seemed off or wasn't clear, and insist on as many in person meetings or documents necessary to assuage our concerns. As much as we love our daycare and all the teachers (the livestream camera and regular updates via an app don't hurt) there are still always concerns: from ALL THE GERMS our little one so kindly brings home and passes on to us to worrying that he gets enough stimulation and enrichment. But in the end we see how happy our son is to go to "school" every morning and how excited he is to see us at pick up and we know we did what is best for him.
Anything else to share? I don't think its mentioned enough (though hopefully that is changing) but engaging with moms in your community, social media or online can be critical to improving maternal mental health. For me personally, I have a small group of close friends only a few of which were mother's before me, my own mother is across the country and I didn't grow up with a large extended family of females who could be "my tribe" to help me become a new mom. But the lessons I have learned and the connections I have made through online mom groups and social media have been the lifeline I needed when I felt like I was unqualified, failing or just plain scared sh**less.