Mom to Isabella, William & Elijah
Length of maternity leave: 13 weeks
What did you struggle with most about returning to work after having your kids?
I had my first baby only a year after starting my career as a veterinarian. Although I had always longed to be a mother, I had no plan as to how I was going to handle raising children and working. It was a shock to say the least. I stayed home for 12 weeks then put my daughter in an in-home daycare. Although she was well cared for and happy, I cried for weeks. I longed to stay home with her, I felt so guilty leaving her, and I grieved every missed moment with her. Eventually I fell into a rhythm and working became easier. With my second baby, I was able to stay home for a full year. It made going back to work much easier, on top of it being the second go around. Since then I have gotten divorced and remarried, and my husband and I lost a baby boy (Jacob, my third pregnancy) at 16 weeks. Elijah is our rainbow baby, 8 years younger than his closest sibling. I definitely have felt like I was started all over again, and all the grieving, guilt and shock of having to leave my precious baby to go back to work has returned again. It's better now that it was 3 months ago when I first went back, but I am still working on reconciling these different parts of my life and myself.
What do you find difficult about being a working parent?
I struggle with how early my kids have to get up and how long they have to be out of the house on the days I work. I work 3 ten hour days, so their days are sometimes just as long, depending on when my husband gets home. I feel sad when I can't chaperone my son's field trips, although I've gotten better about asking for what I need (to go in a few hours late to help my middle schooler get her school laptop, leaving for a few hours to watch my son compete in his elementary school spelling bee). I feel guilty when I'm too tired or unprepared or home too late to make dinner, or when it seems like all I ever say is "hurry up" or "we don't have time for that". Walking away from my sweet baby boy as I leave him at daycare is still really hard, even though it doesn't seem to bother him. Working all day after not much sleep can be a challenge (as I'm writing this I'm holding my 6 month old who is likely teething and probably won't sleep much tonight).
What do you enjoy about being a working parent?
I am grateful to be able to contribute financially to our family. I do find my work fulfilling and enjoy the challenge of using my education and training to improve the lives of my patients and their owners. I enjoy following my patients throughout their lives and being a trusted member of my patients's families and the community. I have great co-workers who also are very dedicated to their work and make the day go more quickly. I like being able to come home and tell my family about the difference I have been able to make in my patients' health and well-being. I appreciate the time management and organizational skills I have learned, along with the medical knowledge that helps me take better care of my children. I love knowing that my children are proud of what I do.
After being back at work for some time, have your views about career and family changed?
This is something I still struggle with. My mom was home almost all the time with me when I was growing up, and I haven't completely forgiven myself for not being able to provide my children with the same experience. After my most recent maternity leave, my older kids will often say that they wish I could be a stay at home mom, since I was around more and it made their school days shorter. Perhaps my life as a stay at home mom would be very different from what I imagine it would be. I just have to keep telling myself I am doing the best that I can and try to enjoy each day of both work and family despite the obstacles we face.
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 wish that I could have had more of a plan for avoiding debt that would have allowed me to be more flexible in needing to continue working while my children were/are very young. But I would also tell myself (and need to keep telling myself now) that children are very resilient and as for as much as we want to give them everything and never let them down, what they need most is to spend quality time with us and feel loved.
What did you choose for childcare, and how has it been for your family?
In-home daycare, Daycare
In-home Daycare: Pros: small, feels like family, fewer children to spread germs around
Cons: the hours are more limited; when the provider gets sick or goes on vacation, no back-up provider; less structured program for pre-school aged kids (more tv watching)
Daycare (what I'm using now): Pros: more convenient hours, backup provided when one caregiver is sick or not available; more structured curriculum for preschool aged kids; still a pretty small/personable feel in the infant room
Cons: germs! my 6 month old has been sick 3 times in as many months, starting the first week of daycare; my baby doesn't get held as much as he would in in-home daycare, staff changes during the day result in some caregivers who I don't really know at all.
Anything else to share?
Just for the sake of others out there who may be in the same boat, I'll share that I have also been struggling with a lot of anxiety since my miscarriage and most recent pregnancy. It really peaked on my maternity leave and in the first month or two back at work. I had taken on some additional managerial responsibilities right after my maternity leave and just felt completely overwhelmed both physically and emotionally, and I felt like I could barely get through each day. I would randomly cry when asked how my baby was doing or for no reason at all. I felt so much despair, even as I held my precious, long-prayed-for baby in my arms. I felt that I could never be good enough for him. After pleas from my husband, sisters and my OB, I have started seeing a counselor and am on medication. Although it is a work in progress, it has really helped. I also spoke up about this not being the right time in my personal and professional life to continue with the additional managerial responsibilities. I hope hearing my experiences can help someone else out there struggling with similar challenges. We are not meant to go through this alone!