Mom to Kian
Director, Real World Learning
Length of Maternity Leave: 5 months
What did you struggle with most about returning to work after having your kids?
I feel like I struggled with everything when I first returned to work after having Kian. The logistics of it were tough--remembering all pump parts, pick ups and drop offs, getting ready for work, washing pump parts, scheduling pumps, getting to work on time, and still being so incredibly tired. That first week back I forgot something essential each day. My laptop, pumping bags, pumping bra...you name it. Thank goodness for my husband who would drive it over all the time. That being said, there was definitely a day or two where I had to tape my pump flanges to my breasts and store my milk in an empty water bottle! I really missed my baby when I returned to work. It all felt so unnatural. Going from 24/7 together to trusting others to take care of my child while I was performing this relatively new social construct called work felt so odd. In addition, the exhaustion became glaringly apparent when I returned to work. I found myself unable to focus in meetings, re-reading emails I sent and realizing they were full of typos, and just not feeling like myself. I decided to sleep train at 6 months shortly after returning to work because I felt like it was a necessity. I really missed those naps while the baby napped! On the other hand, I was surprised by my increased efficiency when I returned to work. My first day back, I got to my office at 8am and charged through my to-do list. I got almost everything done on my list and looked at my clock, expecting it to be at least noon. It was only 8:40am! It’s amazing how efficient you can be when you’re no longer being pulled in multiple directions. That really feels nice.
What do you find challenging about being a working parent?
Life is just so busy as a working parent! One thing I know about myself is that I recharge via alone time, but juggling an infant and work leaves very little time for me. By the time the baby is in bed and I’ve eaten dinner, I feel really burned out. Since I really value starting my day off with some leisurely coffee, my husband and I have developed a system where he takes the babe each morning. That really helps my sanity. The logistics are still difficult, but they have gotten so much easier. Now pumping and washing things and making lunches and drops offs are second nature to me!
What do you enjoy about being a working parent?
I didn’t expect to enjoy being a working parent so much! Now that I’ve been back at work for 6 months, I don’t think I would want to stay home full time. But had I been given the option to stay at home or go back to work when Kian was 6 months old, I would have given anything to stay at home. I appreciate the social aspects of work, using my brain in a different way, and let’s be honest--sitting down alone and being able to drink a full cup of coffee while it’s still warm. I love the people I work with and am fortunate that many have also become moms this year. By going to work, I get to see some of the people I love most and work toward a common goal.
Now that you're back at work, have your views about career and family changed?
My views about career and family have definitely changed since being back at work. I now feel like I’m a working mom by choice, not by necessity. My priorities have shifted. Since becoming a mom, I care less about salary and more about flexibility, meaning, and autonomy. I often ask myself--does my work fit my life vision? With that north star, I’m able to continually align my career choices with what I want.
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 just wish I could tell myself everything was going to be okay. The baby would be fine. I would be fine. It would get easier. I was so hard on myself in those early months! I envied other women who were eager to return to work and analyzed what it said about me that I wasn’t. I felt torn between my image of myself as a capable, hard-working young woman and the one that just wanted to snuggle my baby all day. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself that I could be both. Some of the best advice I got upon returning to work was “you can always change your mind”. It’s not some be-all, end-all decision. If you return and it really doesn’t work out, you can switch jobs. If you return and really miss your baby one day, you can call in sick. You have choices.
What did you choose for childcare, and how has it been for your family?
In general, I am so happy that Kian is in daycare. He learns so much there, loves playing with the other kids, and his teachers love him. He gets to sing songs and play with new toys and have so many people that adore him. It’s also forced me to let go a little (read: it’s impossible to be a helicopter mom when you’re leaving your babe for 8 hrs/day). The biggest cons are sleep and illness. Kian just doesn’t sleep much at daycare. This creates a cycle where he is super tired when I pick him up, he goes to bed at 5:30pm, and then he wakes up at 5:30am. He also gets sick allllllll the time. And then I get sick! It’s annoying and inconvenient, but unavoidable.