for the back-to-work mom: thriving once you return

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I work at a marketing agency that is mostly women. The last I heard, we are something like 70% women. We are roommates, wives, daughters, friends, and co-workers. Some of us are mothers. And since returning from maternity leave with Anouk, I have started to notice all of the mothers a little bit more.

The week before I was scheduled to return, I was feeling sort of desperate. I was hoplessly trying to create a sleep schedule that would work for us (meaning I wanted to start sleeping at night) and I wanted to try to figure out how I was going to swing childcare, the city commute, and the workday without pulling my hair out (HAIR LOSS IS A REAL THING ANYWAY). It all felt so hard.

And I was going to miss my girl. I started to focus on these ugly thoughts that I was going to be missing milestones, missing feeding her, missing her laugh, and missing her needing me. That fear was real. If she can survive nine hours without me, what does she even need me for? It was really painful. I would start watching her sleep more, knowing I was going to miss her. I started focusing. TOO MUCH. It wasn’t good.

The morning that I went back, I didn’t cry. Though I fully expected to, I just sort of pulled it together, went through the plan. Woke up, showered, got ready, all with Anouk as close as possible. I bathed her, fed her, clothed her, packed her in her carseat, and we set off. In the morning traffic, an hour and a half before work, I tried to put these thoughs of  how much I would miss my baby into the back of my head.

My sister watches Anouk during some workdays. She has 3 kids herself. And they are a handful. They are awesome. But a handful. I was going to be adding a 3 month old into her mix. This is something I was feeling guilty about, but she was really excited! We arrived. Anouk didn’t cry. I felt so lucky.

There were some hang-ups, though. Since we knew that I would return to work  (I was breastfeeding) it was important to transition her to a bottle so that I could pump. We started a few weeks in advance and she absolutely would not go for it. Up until the day I dropped her off, she still hadn’t taken a bottle. So I planned to go to my sister’s place during my lunch break, in case she hadn’t eaten yet. It turned out, she was willing to take the bottle as long as I wasn’t around.

I continued to go to my sister’s to check in on my baby during lunchtime for that week. Then I realized it was just for me, not for her. She was doing great, and I was returning to work feeling guilty, twice a day… not good for me…

I was open with my colleagues about my pregnancy and how I was feeling about returning to work. I didn’t hide the fact that I was hesitant to leave my girl so early. (12 weeks postpartum) They knew exactly how I felt. They had gone through it. They continue to go through it. All of us with our game faces on at work are mothers at home, worried about how our kids are going to turn out without us being home with them.

Maternity leave was lonely for me. Returning to work helped me feel more community. Though I miss being home, and have decided recently to work 4 day weeks, I have transitioned long enough to realize that I have the best of both worlds. I am surrounded by people who help me (and I like to think I help them) cope with new circumstances as a mom, and I get to have the family I have always dreamed of.

Be sure to check out my post 5 pumping tips for the back-to-work mom.

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