Length of Maternity Leave: 12-weeks
Childcare: Daycare & Work from Home
What did you struggle with most about returning to work after having your kids?
With my first child I had to come back to work earlier than expected. During my maternity leave, most of my department had been cut and they were starting a new project. The downside is that I was returning earlier than my sign off from my OB but on the plus side, I was able to leverage a better job title that they had been previously reluctant to give me and negotiate an earlier departure time each day for daycare pick up. Thankfully there was a daycare in the building so I didn't feel as concerned about leaving my almost 3 month old behind. To be honest, the first day back was a huge relief for me, I had been struggling with my role as stay at home mother to a newborn who cried A LOT and slept very little. The company was very welcoming and I was happy to return from my unpaid leave. The project we started on focused on a school shooting and that began to wear on me. The struggle of racing across the city and back each day to be where I needed to be really wore me down and I eventually began to feel very depressed by the increased demands on my time. This didn't change until my second child was born and I readdressed the balance of responsibility with their father.
What do you find difficult about being a working parent?
Someone encapsulated the struggle really well. They said, "A mother is meant to work like she doesn't have children and parent like she doesn't have a job." That is so true. The hardest struggle for me has been changing jobs. So many companies hear that I have kids and I never hear from them again despite the fact that my work is meticulous. My current company is flexible with my time because they know that no matter what, I always get the work done so I get to work from home a couple of days a week. I've exchanged career progression for flexibility but I wish it wasn't this way. As the primary breadwinner, the cost of childcare is not factored into my job so despite the fact I have been twice promoted and had multiple new responsibilities added, I have not received a pay increase in 5 years and because of childcare costs, I de facto get paid less for doing more. If I wasn't in need of a steady income and health insurance I would never stand for that but as a parent I have to think of more than myself. Men never seem to have this problem, they have a child and it's expected that their other half is responsible for childcare. Until we see major shifts in people's perspective on parenthood, it will not change. There are signs that some companies are getting to be more progressive but things like paid maternity leave and a better work life balance still feels far from the norm.
What do you enjoy about being a working parent?
As a parent I've learned how to handle temper tantrums and that comes in handy on production. But seriously, it's nice to have more than just work and more than just parenting. My life is well rounded and I love having a role outside of Mom. When I'm at work, I'm 100% focused on work and when I'm with them, I'm 100% focused on the kids because each deserve nothing less.
After being back at work for some time, have your views about career and family changed?
Since returning to work and seeing how being a parent has limited my career options, I can see the motherhood lag people talk about. Having kids a little later in life, my career was well established and I miss having some of the freedom to take a traveling job but it's fleeting moments. For me, having a career is so important to my happiness. Being a stay at home mom isn't something that would work for me personally.
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?
If I could go back I would have negotiated harder for more paid maternity leave. Going back before you're physically ready is really hard. And I would have saved a whole lot more money to cover the cost of child care.
What did you choose for childcare, and how has it been for your family?
Daycare for my first, working from home for second
Our current childcare situation suits me very well as it puts the burden onto the kid's Dad as I'm the primary breadwinner but he is frustrated with being at home. But it's saved us a fortune. A daycare facility is good because it means we can all focus on our jobs knowing the children are in a licensed, safe environment but cost almost as much as our mortgage.