Today marks a new kind of personal milestone for me: One year ago, I came back to work after spending three months at home with my new baby. Among work anniversaries throughout my career, this one stands out.
It was scary. It was painful. It was hard. It made labor and delivery seem like no big whoop. All I wanted was to be home with my sweet little baby girl!
But as with all big changes in my life, I made it through somehow. I was determined to continue working, earning money to help support our family, keeping my career moving forward, and taking the best care of Cassie as I could. No matter how much my heart ached each morning when I left, or on the nights when I had to work late and come home after Cassie was asleep, I would see this thing through.
Gradually, I developed a routine that helped my new working mom life seem almost normal. In some ways, my heart ached more as time went on, because Cassie was developing into more of a little individual person. But I also felt good about my financial contribution to the household. I fell back into a groove with my team at work—which is like a second family, really, with all its dysfunction and familiarity. And I came to terms with the reality that it’s really OK to work full-time—and still be a decent mom and wife. Shouldn’t I get a cake with one candle on it or something?
A lot of people helped make it easier for me over the past year. First and foremost, my husband Jay. He worked from home and cared for Cassie for the first few months after I went back to work. I always knew she was in good, strong, loving hands. I could call anytime and hear her sweet voice, and instantly feel better. Even now that he’s back in a full-time office gig, Jay still makes it possible for me to successfully manage the craziness of my job and life. I couldn’t do it without him.
What would I do without our babysitter Karen? She is a working mom’s dream childcare provider, treating Cassie like one of her own children. She’s super-flexible, often takes Cassie to fun places, and always provides a safe, healthy, caring, nurturing environment for her while Mommy and Daddy are at work. Plus, she has two super kids of her own to be Cassie’s “big brother and sister.” What more could we ask? That Karen never, ever moves away or stops being Cassie’s sitter. That’s what.
I’m also super lucky to have a mom who lives nearby and is ready to jump in at a moment’s notice. Not only is she supportive of my choice to be a working mom, but she also does what she can to help our family out. She picks Cassie up from the sitter’s when we can’t, or keeps her all night so Jay and I can have a date, or just takes her for an afternoon/evening when we’re both totally sick from food poisoning.
With my mom along with my dad and aunt, we’ve got a pretty sweet family network to count on when we need it. I’m so glad we didn’t move to Portland! We thought about it pre-kids, but I lobbied hard to stay in the Nati so I’d have family around for my future kids. Good thinking, me.
Another lifesaver has been the ladies of WMAG: Cara, Sara, and Tela. They are my at-work (and after-work) support group for working momhood. I can always count on them for advice, honesty, friendship, and good gossip. I’m glad we have this blog, too, and all of you rockin’ readers, commenters, and fellow bloggers. It always helps to know I’m not alone in my struggle against guilt.
To complement my mom friends, I have some kickass child-free pals, too, such as Meg, Michelle, and Brad. They still want to hang out with me and be my friend, even though I talk waaaay too much about the intricacies of my kid’s growth and development. They even enjoy (or pretend to enjoy) the company of my lovely daughter, which is sometimes a requirement since I only get so many hours in a week to spend with her. God bless you all.
Finally, I’m grateful to work with a company, boss, and coworkers who appreciate my skills and hard work—and don’t hold it against me that I’m a mom. In fact, it’s actually helped me do a better job in many ways, and people at work often recognize that. I feel like if I need to work from home because I have a sick kid or come in late to take her to an appointment, I can do that. I know this is not the norm (though it absolutely should be), so I don’t take it for granted.
So one year down; many, many years to go. (I need a bumper sticker that says “Retirement: Are We There Yet?”) I know this working mom thing won’t get easier, but I have a whole lot more confidence in myself than a year ago. I’ve been doing this for a year (with help). I can keep moving forward. It’s all good.
Now where’s my cake?