Confessions of a Working Mom Q&A: Part 3
Q: How did you feel on your first day back at work?
The first day back at the office was both exciting and categorically exhausting.
My son wasn’t sleeping through the night (obviously…), I was trying to squeeze (ha!) in pumping sessions all over the place, I was mentally and emotionally stressed about being away all day for the first time, and I was determined that I would return to work with all the vigor and diligence as before. Ooof.
It was fun to see all my co-workers and energizing to jump back on board with two feet. However, I collapsed when I got home.
I had missed my baby all day, drained (figuratively and physically) from pumping and worrying about all things milk, managing a commute, and sleepless nights. Handling all things work/house/baby at the same time was brand new and overwhelming.
After the first day back, I got more into a groove. Day-by-day it all got easier. Emotionally, mentally, physically… I got both use to it and better at it.
Everyone has their own experiences – some of my mom friends cried in the bathroom on their first day back, others couldn’t wait to get out the door in the morning. There is no right way or wrong way to feel or behavior returning to the workplace. If you are jumping through the office door ready to get your hands dirty in something other than a diaper – there is no shame in that game! If you are going to quit ASAP and be a stay-at-home parent, that’s great too. To each their own.
Q: Did you pump when you returned back to work?
Yes! I mentioned in my prior post worrying about pumping while back at work and wrote more about my tips/experience in a post here! Whether a mom decides to pump once returning to the workforce is such a personal decision. I truly believe fed is best and encourage all my mom friends to do whatever is right for THEM and their baby based on their own experience.
For some people, it is not possible. For others, it’s really too hard. For others, the balance works well. Being away from baby all day presents a lot of physical challenges and there is no right answer.
Q: How did you handle conversations with your manager about your needs as a new mom?
I have to admit, I am really lucky to have had a manager (with both my children) who is extremely supportive. Both my time off for maternity leave and my transition back to the office was treated with generosity, grace, kindness and the utmost respect and support.
Speaking with your manager before returning to work is highly encouraged. Discussing the timeline of your return, what is expected on your first day or week back in the office, and other logistical details is help. You should also discuss if there have been any new changes to the team, projects, goals, deadlines or company overall you should be aware of.
If you have a manager that is supportive – be as transparent as you can be as you transition back into your role. Are their limitations on your time at the end of the day? Will you need to take more calls from a pumping space? Will you need to stay late some nights and leave early other days?
Q: How did you handle the stress of being back at work and managing the house/kids/commute?
Truthfully, it is a lot for any parent – working outside the home or not. Working outside the home means there are more distinctive pieces of stress; getting ready in the morning so you look like you washed your hair in the last few days (and wiping the spit-up off your shoulder), commuting, managing pumping/breast milk/feedings while in multiple locations, managing the emotions of longing to be with your child (for some), handling external pressures at work and from managers/co-workers/deadlines, the administrative part of being a parent (scheduling medical appointments, childcare, school forms…), overseeing and executing on home chores like grocery shopping, food prep/cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc…
However, being a stay-at-home-parent has just as much stress and just as much on the overflowing plate. Stay-at-home-parents fill SO many roles and SO much responsibility lands on them. It is just that the pieces aren’t as independent from one another. There is potentially even more responsibilities and less sanity breaks being at home 24/7!
There are pros (and cons) to both positions, both of which are such personal journeys and experiences, distinct to each family and parent.
Managing stress is the same for any parent. I encourage looking for some help when and if you can, letting the little things go, prioritize unapologetically, use tools and systems to make daily life easier, seek outlets for mental and physical breaks, manage a positive attitude and keep a healthy perspective, look for ways to be physically healthy (in both food and diet), aim for social connection and productive relationships, and seek to find joy and happiness in the here and now – with what you have!
Lastly, I think for those working outside the home, having the right childcare in place is super key. Knowing your kids are in good, safe hands while you are working means the world! You can be much more focused, present and productive having this knowledge and set-up. For more on that visit my posts here.
Q: Rude Working Mom Question: Do you have to work, or do you just want to?
This question is truly, truly, no one else’s business. Whether a mother wants to work or has to work, or a combination of both (or neither!) isn’t a concern of anyone else.
No one ever asks this of a father.
A friend of mine had a baby not long before I had my first son. People always asked her, “so are you going to go back to work?” She would exclaim “yes, of course!” We’d laugh! Little did they know that she was the breadwinner and her husband wouldn’t be able to support them by himself in the least. Absolutely not one person asked him about his “return to work after baby”!
ps. We are ALL working moms! Here I use that phrase to capture a ‘mother who works outside the home’. I am not mistaken, stay-at-home moms work.very.hard.