Mom to Kerrigan and Fallyn
Length of Maternity Leave: 10 weeks
Childcare: In-home Daycare
What did you struggle with most about returning to work after having your kids?
I struggled with managing all of my mental health issues, my workload, general household needs, and care for the girls. Even with my husband's help I was, and am, still feeling very overwhelmed, like I'm drowning, and that I will never get caught up. It really is about survival mode, and doing whatever you can to get through the day. Each day I seem to get more confident in my decisions and things seem to come more naturally to me.
What do you find difficult about being a working parent?
I struggled with, and am still struggling with simply having enough time to do All. The. Things. and maintain my sanity. It seems like I can't have it all in terms of getting things done and getting them done well. If I devote more time to my students and school, then I feel like I'm letting my babies down. If I leave work at work and focus on my kids at home, I feel like I'm only half-doing my work responsibilities. If I focus on keeping my house in order, then I feel like I'm ignoring my children when they are right in the same room as me. If I do anything just for me (which is very rare these days) I feel like I could make better use of my time. I can't find that sweet spot where I feel like I'm meeting the needs of everyone I come in contact with, and the never-ending search to find it is exhausting.
What do you enjoy about being a working parent?
I love the autonomy it gives me. I enjoy working with my students and being involved in the culture and community of our school. I think it's important that my girls see me working hard and have something that I'm passionate about outside of our household.
After being back at work for some time, have your views about career and family changed?
Growing up, I never thought that I would have a desire to stay at home. I'm not a naturally maternal person - I don't ooh and ah over every baby I see. And, little kids make me nervous - there's a reason I teach high school! So, I had always assumed that I would work, would enjoy working, and would have no desire to stay home. With my first daughter, the desire to stay home with her unexpectedly hit a few weeks before the school year started, and it completely blindsided me. The desire never left, but just became easier to manage. Now that our second daughter is here, the desire is even stronger.
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 tell myself that it's okay. It's okay to ugly cry to your colleagues. It's okay to be in survival mode for a while after you get back. It's okay to say no to people and experiences that would take up time away from your child(ren). Whatever it is that you need and will get you through this ridiculously difficult transition, it's okay. I would also tell remind myself that my mental health is just as important as my physical health. I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at 14, and I've always done well with maintaining my physical health as best as I can. However, my mental health is something that has taken a backseat for much of my life. I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and OCD two years ago, despite having symptoms of all three since I was 17. I was also diagnosed with postpartum depression a week after my second daughter was born this past July. My mental health is something that I've only recently started to prioritize, and I wish that I would have given myself more grace when it came to my first pregnancy/birth experience.
What did you choose for childcare, and how has it been for your family?
We were very lucky to find an in-home daycare with someone we actually knew at a very reasonable price. Our oldest attended for 4 years, and our youngest is currently there now. Our oldest is now in an all-day pre-K program that we love.
Pros: Reasonable rates, our children are taken care of by good people
Cons: Our girls are in two different places, so it makes our mornings more hectic.
It really does take a village, and make sure you lean on that village whenever you need. I felt, and still feel at times, that I have to do it all, and if I don't then it means I am a bad mother. It's so important that we surround ourselves with friends, family, and colleagues who support us in our needs and decisions, especially in those early months, in order to help us new moms get through the rough transitional time.