Mom to Hensley
Legislative Research Analyst
Length of maternity leave: 10-weeks + 3-weeks part-time
What did you struggle with most about returning to work after having your kids?
Work has been my unofficial middle name since I was sixteen years old. I love work! I come from a mostly blue collar, roll up your sleeves and work hard family. So when I got pregnant I thought this is not really going to change anything about my work life, I am OBVIOUSLY going to be a working mom. When my daughter arrived I got this gut wrenching punch to the stomach. I believe it is called being in love. For the first time ever I thought about what it would be like to be a stay-at-home mom. I know I am incredibly fortunate to have had that choice. The choice was mine, as my husband supported me no matter what. As the end of my maternity leave was closer and closer I was ridden with anxiety. I drove by a school bus stop on the way to an appointment one morning and started crying when I saw all of the moms standing there waving to their kids as they got on the bus. I thought about how when my daughter goes to school I will not be at that bus stop with her, instead I will be on my commute to work. I had a stomachache for weeks straight just thinking about it. I was very conflicted. I could not even fathom leaving this little girl who I spent 24 hours a day with since she started to make her presence known wiggling around in my belly. The other part of me was disappointed with myself, I felt like I should just throw my masters degree in the trash. I promised myself I would at least try to work to see how it went. And you know what? Beyond the first morning that I went back to work, I have not cried about it since. I absolutely love it. It has not been easy, but it has been worth it.
What do you find difficult about being a working parent?
It is difficult to make the most of the time my daughter and I can spend together. Weeknights are the hardest because most nights by the time I get home, we eat dinner, get her ready for bed, feed her, etc. it seems that bedtime creeps in fast. Sometimes I skip going to the gym or getting my hair done, because I just do not want to spend my free time away from her. Every minute we are apart I miss her.
What do you enjoy about being a working parent?
I have never felt so fulfilled. I thought I had a rich and fulfilling life pre-motherhood: perfect husband, the degrees I dreamed of, successful career, supportive family, an adorable fur-baby. There was always this nagging feeling like I was missing a part of myself and it seemed that work was the answer to that. I thought if I just got one more promotion or one more raise that I would be a better person. It took me becoming a mother to make that feeling go away. My daughter was the piece of me missing. Being a working mom feels similar to hitting the jackpot, I have it “all.” A bonus is that I am contributing to our family. I will never advocate that money is more important than time with my daughter, because that is absolutely not the case. However, it is a great feeling knowing that I am able to be a co-provider with my husband.
After being back at work for some time, have your views about career and family changed?
Definitely. I am now mom first, that job is where my greatest joys and “earnings” come from. My daughter will always come first, so any employer that expects anything less is not a good fit for me. I actually changed jobs soon after returning from maternity leave. I am lucky to have a job that I am able to leave the work at work. It is low stress and there is not extra baggage. This is not something I really cared about before becoming a mom. Now it is not even negotiable.
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 would tell myself to breathe! The schedule I was so worried about? It took care of itself! My daughter is a very scheduled and predicable baby. Missing milestones? Big milestones CAN happen on nights and weekends! She rolled over for the first time on a SUNDAY in front of my husband and I! Thinking my baby will not know who I am? You will still be baby’s favorite person in the whole world! You birthed her, no one knows her like you do. (Although she does seem to smile a tad bigger at daddy - not sure what that is about.) I wish I could go back and tell myself to let go of the anxiety and irrational thoughts so I could have better soaked up those precious newborn moments.
What did you choose for childcare, and how has it been for your family?
Pros: Pretty much everything, it is such a blessing that our parents are able to watch our daughter. It is just plain awesome that my daughter gets to grow up close to her grandparents. My phone is filled with picture updates I get which are the highlight of my work day - being very connected to what is going on with her is comforting. From a financial aspect it is great, instead of dishing out so much money for daycare we are able to save that money for her future. Also shout out to the grandmas that watch your child AND make you dinner twice a week (you’re the best, mom)!
Cons: Even though it’s special people that you know so well watching her all day, the guilt still exists that someone else is “raising” my child.
Anything else you'd like to share?
Seeking support from other women is key. I not only got advice and words of wisdom from older, more experienced moms, but I also talked about what I was going through with women that become moms around the same I did. While each mom has a different story of what works for them and their family, everyone I talked to shared the same exact feelings that I did. Returning to work as this new person is so rarely talked about, but you are not alone, the workforce is filled with working moms. Additionally I found moms that stay home full-time have the same feelings of guilt too! So my advice for other first time working moms is to find community support: full-time, part-time, stay-at-home, all moms can support each other!