Hey there! I'm Lindsay Mitchell, one of the co-founders of The Returnity Project. I want to take a moment to tell you a little bit about myself, my family and why I've been inspired to create this community. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my husband Ryan, daughter Sloane, and our Golden Retriever Roo. I work in Advertising, love musicals and am a Bachelor franchise junkie (I know, I can't help it!).
But the thing I love most is being Sloane's Mom. I've known I wanted to be a Mom since I was a kid myself. So much of this was fueled by the fact that I was raised by an incredible Mom, who left her career to raise her kids, and was involved in everything we did. She was room Mom, field trip chaperone and full-time transportation to the variety of activities my siblings and I were involved in. I felt secure knowing my Mom would be there for everything, and loved having her so involved in my life.
I had a difficult pregnancy, and Sloane was born 6-weeks early. The day I met her changed everything, and after months of worry and fear over my high-risk pregnancy, I finally let myself fall desperately in love with my perfect daughter. We spent the first two weeks of her life in the NICU, teaching her how to eat and helping her grow. I couldn't believe how quickly she became my world, and I couldn't believe how lucky I was to be her Mom.
Maternity leave was both the best and hardest thing I'd ever experienced. I was incredibly fortunate to have 5 months of paid leave (I know I'm luckier than most in this country!), but even at that 5 month mark, I wasn't ready to leave my girl. The experience we'd been through together in pregnancy and birth (more to come on that story soon) bonded us like no other, and made me extra emotional when thinking about being away from her once I had to return to work.
Prior to having Sloane, when I dreamt about becoming a parent, I never gave much thought to whether or not a career would be involved. But once I became pregnant, the topic hit me square in the face. I didn't know what I wanted. I loved my childhood more than anything - didn't I want to give my children the same upbringing? But I had worked hard for my education, and was proud of the career I'd built for myself. I felt torn. But it wasn't long before I came to the realization that I didn't actually have a choice in the matter. Without my salary, we wouldn't be able to afford the life we'd created for ourselves in the Bay Area. Whether I wanted to or not, I had to go back to work, and I quickly felt suffocated by my complete lack of options.
In the anticipation of returning to work, I struggled. Hard. I cried for weeks. Lost more sleep than I can count. Plead my case to Ryan to sell our home and move to a much less expensive city where we could afford to be a single income family. I felt angry. Helpless. Trapped. I couldn't fathom a reality where I didn't know every emotion my daughter had felt that day. And though rational or not, I truly convinced myself that once back at work, I'd no longer have a place in Sloane's life as her Mom. Instead, she'd have many other caretakers establish significant roles in her life, and mine would be completely minimized.
Though I had an incredible support system in my boss and team, there was also a need for me to pick up right where things left off. The transition back to work was difficult. I felt like I'd stepped into my old world as a changed person, and didn't know how to reconcile that reality. I was tired, not as sharp as I was before, and though I desperately wanted to perform, I was also distracted. I felt guilty for the moments where I enjoyed being away - using my brain, having adult conversations, eating nice meals and contributing to something I felt good about. I truly didn't know how to feel.
Now that I've been back to work for over a year, I can say without a doubt that while it's been a roller coaster, I'm pleasantly surprised by my current state of mine. I've begun to feel grateful that I didn't walk away from my career like I wanted to so desperately in the weeks leading up to the end of leave. I'm starting to realize how much benefit I receive from working, and see how much Sloane is thriving, despite me not being there for every moment. I miss her constantly while I'm gone, but it makes coming home every evening a delight, and the time we spend together precious. And my fears over losing a significant role in Sloane's life couldn't have been further from reality. She loves her Mama fiercely, and it's the best feeling in the world.
During maternity leave, my community of support consisted of friends going through the return to work at the same time (Lauren was my rock!). But when I tried to receive advice or support from women with kids who were already back at work, most just articulated how they wanted to work, and could never see themselves staying home with their children, without sharing much about any potential struggles getting to that point. I couldn't relate, and that made me worry I wasn't cut out to work while raise kids. My anxiety, worries and fears felt like an exception instead of the norm. I would have benefitted so greatly by hearing stories from women who had felt like I had leading up to their return and who had wisdom, advice and positive outcomes to share.
That was much of the inspiration for creating The Returnity Project. This community, though young in it's existence, has been a dream of Lauren and mine since we became Moms. Supporting women as they become Mothers and return to work has become a passion that has filled my heart and challenged my mind. As more women return to work than ever before, the need to evolve conversation, benefits and policies is more critical than ever before, and we're finding our voice to help contribute to awareness and change.
My passion for building and growing this community grows stronger every day, and I hope that by sharing real emotions and experiences from women who've returned to work from maternity leave, we can normalize the conversation and make every woman feel supported.
Thank you for being part of this community. There's so much we want to do, this is only just the beginning!