Mom to Lila and Maya
Director, Internal Communications
Length of maternity leave: 12 weeks
Childcare: Daycare and short-term nanny
What did you struggle with most about returning to work after having your kids?
I had a very difficult time with post-partum depression and anxiety after my older daughter was born. If you haven't experienced it, I hope you never have to -- it was unexpected and debilitating. Fortunately, my support network stepped up, and my OB suggested that I stop nursing (to sleep more and allow my hormones to regulate) and begin medication, which I firmly believe was the best possible solution for me and my family. My daughter was born in August in Phoenix, so with temperatures hovering around 115 degrees, it was hard to leave the house and I often felt like the days all blended together. I still remember the first time I left home with her alone for something other than a pediatrician appointment, and it was terrifying! Suffice it to say, when my 12-week leave was up, I was nervous, but eager to return to work and resume some sort of normalcy and routine in life.
I felt wholly unprepared for the way my life would shift as I became a mother, and returning to work allowed me to begin carving out a new identity that was a blend of my personal and professional selves. I was fortunate to work in an environment that was supportive and flexible, and also feel I benefitted from having been in my role for several years, so I had earned the right to certain perks like working remotely and easing back into my workload.
My daughter was in full-time daycare starting at 12 weeks old, and is now in pre-k at the same school. Our school is a magical place, and our love and trust for the owners and teachers has made it so much easier to work full-time with less guilt and worrying. That's not saying there weren't many, many tearful mornings, hard days and transitions, and conflicted emotions, but overall it has been a very good situation.
When our second daughter was born in May 2017, things became --as any parent of multiple children will tell you -- much more difficult. I was so scared I would find myself back in the throes of postpartum depression, but this time around my experience was completely different. I had hard days and tears, but it was much calmer and I felt like I had my footing. We weren't able to have her attend my older daughter's school (they adapted their program to only preschool), so when she was 12 weeks old we started out with a different daycare. We had a terrible time with this daycare, where the level of care was far below our expectations, and ultimately pulled her out and began using a nanny for her until she was old enough to attend her sister's school. Now that both girls are there, life is much easier, until it's disrupted again by kindergarten in the fall, of course :-)
While I was at different employers for the birth of each of my daughters, I felt supported in both scenarios. I breastfed my younger daughter so the experience of pumping at work and managing that was a while new experience. It wasn't convenient, but it was doable. I fully recognize that my employers and line of work afforded me many, many privileges that many women in the U.S. do not have available. That being said, I feel utterly disappointed at the lack of support for parents and caregivers in this country, and feel it's an embarrassment to our culture. I truly hope things continue to evolve so that if my daughters opt to start their own families one day, there are better options available to them. I love working, and am proud of my career, but I also think it's bullshit that I am made to feel grateful for having 12 unpaid weeks off after having a child. I wish that experience was celebrated and accommodated rather than simply being tolerated.
What do you find difficult about being a working parent?
Logistics rule my life sometimes. My husband and I both work full-time, and between work, kid activities, doctor appointments, household chores and trying to maintain social lives...it's a lot. The hardest part for me as a working parent is that I am very introverted, and I have very limited time to be alone and re-energize, because there is always something that should be done. I've had to work at prioritizing my own time and care. And when one or both kids are sick, and kids in daycare are always sick, it’s incredibly stressful to rearrange work schedules and not disappoint anyone.
What do you enjoy about being a working parent?
I believe that being a working parent sets a positive example for my children, to see their mom pursuing something that is fulfilling and my commitment to provide for them. Also, because my time with them is more limited, it makes our time together -- in my opinion -- more focused and meaningful. I think it's created greater independence in them, and thereby greater confidence in themselves.
After being back at work for some time, have your views about career and family changed?
My views have changed greatly as I've spent more years as a full-time working parent. I now recognize the irreplaceable value of flexibility on the part of employers, and the growing need for greater support and benefits for caregivers, like paid leave, part-time roles and remote work environments. Even if my kids go to school all day, having a chance to work from home allows me to get in a load of laundry, work out and save time not getting ready and commuting.
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?
Don't try to be who you were, because you have changed so completely. Take time to figure out who the new you is, and what she needs.
What did you choose for childcare, and how has it been for your family?
Daycare and a short-term nanny
Pros: Open 7-6, close to home, nutritious food, incredible learning environment, friendships for the kids and the parents, social and emotional development.
Cons: Expensive, unavailable when kids are sick, limited one-on-one attention.