Tomorrow morning I am returning to work after maternity leave—again. Actually, since this post will publish in the morning, by the time you read this it will be Monday and I will be fighting to get myself and two kids dressed and out the door, fighting the traffic on my commute, and fighting the tears that are inevitable. Say a kind thought for me friends, this week is going to be a doozy.
I’ve written about returning to work after maternity leave before. Several people have made comments that this time should be easier, since I’ve done it before. But here’s the thing: having experienced something challenging once doesn’t always make the experience less challenging the second time. Giving birth a second time was hard. 4am feedings on no more than two hours of sleep are hard. Breastfeeding my new baby has been hard. And leaving your baby to go back to work, regardless of how many times you’ve done it, is really freaking hard.
I have made a list of rules for myself to help me get through the process of returning to work after maternity leave.
- Rule 1: I will not allow anyone to make me question my decision to work. I know, with certainty, that being a working mom is what’s right for me and for my family. Throughout the next few weeks someone will say something critical about working moms, about child-care centers, about how I will never get these years back. My decisions are my own and I have spent countless hours making sure they are the best decisions for my family. I will not let these statements hurt my feelings or upset me, because the people making the comments don’t know my family and my heart like I do.
- Rule 2: I reserve the right to change my mind. Today, right now, this week, being a working mom works for us. That said, if it stops working for us – for whatever reason – I will reevaluate. If my career stops being fun, if my children are struggling, if our economic situation changes, if it’s just not working…I will make whatever decisions I need to make to fix it. Because that’s what moms do.
- Rule 3: I will ask for help and support. My village of working mom friends will be working overtime in the next few weeks to support me. They will hug me tight and check on me often. They will listen to whatever I need to talk about. They will make me laugh, they will allow me to be vulnerable, and when the tears start to form in my eyes they will tear-up too…because the memories of leaving their own babies are still very raw.
- Rule 4: I will be patient with myself. I have a big learning curve ahead of me (like figuring out how one gets a toddler and a newborn and a car seat and two bags and four bottles and binkies and blankets and extra outfits out of the car…all at the same time). When I do get to work, I will probably be late, and my clothes will be stained by something (hopefully not poop…please God, don’t let it be poop!), and my eyes will be red from crying. This week isn’t about doing it all perfectly, it’s about survival.
- Rule 5: I will squeeze and snuggle my girls. When I get home, the dishes can wait, the laundry can pile up, dinner can be whatever is quick and easy, the cell phone is unimportant. From pick-up to bedtime—I’m going to smell that sweet baby smell and just soak up the giggles.
What am I missing? What helped you get through the transition back to work?