Mom to Noah
Length of maternity leave: 11 weeks
What did you struggle with most about returning to work after having your kids?
Guilt was the theme of the first few months of my son’s life. I really struggled with the cloying neediness of his newborn phase and felt SO guilty about wanting so desperately to return to work. I’ve worked incredibly hard to build my career, and I truly love my job as a dentist. But then I returned to work after 11 (VERY long) weeks, and I was smothered by the guilt of not being present for my new baby boy.
What do you find difficult about being a working parent?
I opened my own dental practice the day I returned from maternity leave. Realizing I was suddenly responsible not only for the financial stability of my own family but also that of my employees was a significant mental shift for me. Finding a balance between being present for my baby and working the long hours it takes to grow a new dental practice was extremely difficult for me. I felt like I wasn’t giving enough in any aspect of my life. I still feel that way. It’s incredibly hard trying to fill all the roles you want to fill as a working mom and still hold on to a smidgen of sanity. Fortunately, my husband is an amazing partner and father. He has really held us together and supported me (almost) without complaint and taken on the majority of household and day-to-day baby chores.
What do you enjoy about being a working parent?
I don’t know if anyone can ever truly “enjoy” being a working parent. I’m proud of my professional accomplishments, and I hope my son will someday understand and value the sacrifices I have made to care for both my patients and for my family. But I try to savor each little moment I have with my munchkin. The time I have with him is very limited, so every sweet giggle, snuggle, and smile is especially precious.
After being back at work for some time, have your views about career and family changed?
When I was pregnant, I thought I was prepared for the whole work-life balance thing. Then I actually had the kid and, oh man, was I wrong. The physical and emotional toll of being a new mother changed me in ways I never thought possible. I have a newfound appreciation and understanding for all the other moms out there who are just trying to survive. I also have far less patience for petty workplace drama. I have an actual child at home. I really don’t want to deal with tantrums at work, too.
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?
Stop planning. Stop right now. Life with a new baby is the opposite of plan-able. I am such a control freak, and I tried so hard to get Noah on schedule and have set eating/sleeping/play times. I was so stressed out about The Schedule that I didn’t give myself enough time to just enjoy being with him.
What did you choose for childcare, and how has it been for your family?
My incredibly patient mother-in-law watches the monster man while I’m at work
Pros: There is literally nobody in the world other than me who loves that kid more than his Lola (Tagalog for Grandma). I can go to work 100% certain my baby will be loved, cared for, and cherished every second I am away
Cons: Navigating the in-law dynamic was tough at first, but as I have seen Noah thrive and grow under her care, it’s been significantly easier to relinquish some control
Anything else you want to share?
Being a working mom is just plain hard. Even if everyone around you feels like you’re doing a great job, you just have those moments when you feel inadequate. Having a support system is so important to surviving that initial return to work. I have all the help in the world from my husband and our parents and our extended family and our friends and my coworkers and I STILL have a hard time. Admitting that you’re struggling and asking for help is the key to survival.