As soon as I found out I was pregnant with both of my children, people asked me that daunting question: “will you go back to work after you have the baby?”
My Journey Back to Work after Baby
This is a harmless question, but for some reason it caused a lot of “mom guilt”. In my perfect world, my dream job is to stay home with both my boys, go on play dates and outings, and to be present to witness first-hand when the milestones happen. I hint to my husband almost every day how awesome it would be to be a SAHM. I don’t live in MY perfect world. My income helps support our family, pay bills, not to mention I carry the entire family on my insurance plan.
At least I have been fortunate enough that after both births, I took a 12 week leave. Not every new mom gets that. Some working moms go back after six weeks because financially, they have to. Even then, they have to use all their vacation or the paid time off they have built up just to help make ends meet for those six weeks, only to make the dreaded return back to work just as mom and baby are finally starting to bond…but that’s another story for another time.
The MOM GUILT
It starts early! Even before my first son was born, I had this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach knowing that I would have to return to work after his birth. I worried what I would miss. If the bond I would soon create with my baby would diminish after I returned to full-time work. I would find myself on job search sites looking for “part-time jobs” or “work from home jobs” to see if by some miracle I could find another job that would allow me to make the income of my current job, all while spending more time at home. I didn’t, and about 3 weeks before I went back to work the preparation began.
Once I got over my daydream of staying home with my boys, I knew I had to start preparing for the big day: my first day back to work. For me, it was like getting ready for the first day of school only in adulating terms. Instead of worrying about who my teacher was, I needed to figure out who would watch my kids. My mother-in-law was amazing enough to quit her job and take on the duty as our daycare provider. I had to figure out and think about where and how often I would pump at work. And where was I going to put my pump parts and store my milk? The night before my first day back, I wanted to make sure everything was ready, that way in the morning I would not rush around like a crazy mom and forget anything. I was like a middle school kid. I picked out outfits for myself and both my boys. I packed my work bag, pump bag and set them by the door. I set out my lunch box and coffee cup on the counter -- that way all I had to do was load both and go. I triple checked my pump bag to make sure all my parts were in there, bags for milk, THE PUMP and the trusty hands free pump bra. TIP: I put all my pump parts in a freezer bag to be able to put in the fridge at work so I don’t have to wash them after each time I pumped. I was ready. My husband calls me the ‘bag lady’, because of how many bags I carry.
The Big Day
The Big Day
I set my alarm clock for 4:50am. My younger son woke up for a feeding at 3:00am, then fought going back to sleep till 4am, and I tossed and turned in bed with my mind wandering until my alarm went off. My first thought was “this is why I want to stay home” but I got myself out of bed while everyone was still asleep and pulled myself together. The time came where I had to pull all my plans and put them into action, and let me tell you: it went nothing like I expected.
The baby woke up and wanted to be fed. This was not a part of the routine I had envisioned in my mind. As I sat on the couch with my shirt lifted up around my head, nursing him and repetitively looking at the clock knowing I only had so much time before I had to be out the door, my 2-year-old came down the stairs rubbing his eyes repeating “juice, juice”. I got off the couch, baby in arms while still nursing, walked over to the fridge and one handed poured him a little cup of OJ. The baby soon finished nursing and the pressure was on. I had 15 minutes to dress the boys, pack my lunch, make my coffee, load up all my bags and hit the road to grandma’s.
Drop off at grandma's went smooth -- but I think it only went so smooth because I was in such a rush I didn’t even say bye (queue the mom guilt).
I have an hour commute to work. One of the ways I pass the time while driving is pump. I set myself up before I take off. I zip up my hands free pump bra; hook myself up and away I go. I just turn off the pump when I know I’m done and unhook myself once I am in the parking lot of work. I put all my milk in a bag, my pump parts in the Ziploc bag and throw it in the fridge once I’m inside.
Three hours later, it’s time yet again to pump. I created a nice little sign to put on the office door to keep anyone from walking in. It sign simply said “Don’t come in. I am pumping and I promise it will be more awkward for you then it will be for me –Brittney”. I shut the door, make myself comfortable and take 15 minutes to myself. It’s actually kind of nice to walk away from my desk and get a breather for a few minutes.
The Best is Yet to Come...
As much as I daydream about being a SAHM, I truly believe working makes me a better mom. I get my adult time, I feel productive at the end of the day, and when I am with my kids at the end the day, I give them as much attention as I can because I missed being with them all day long. The mom guilt is REAL. I have good days and bad days about being a working mom. Recently a stranger at the grocery store checkout line told me “they are young now, they won’t remember you not being there. Wait until they are older and involved in things, that’s when you will want to be home.” Since then, I think about that comment EVERY DAY and it gives me a new goal: to be home with the boys when they are old enough to remember -- and a perfect age to embarrass them.