Going Back to Work as a Mama
In the past week, I’ve had three separate conversations with newly-pregnant women who are worried about going back to work after having their baby. This is a very difficult thing to do, one that I received a lot of advice on from trusted friends who had also gone through it. Because of our health insurance conundrum, we had no choice but for me to go back to work or our family would be severely underinsured. (Hopefully that will change in the future!) Regardless of reason, it’s hard to go back to work after maternity leave. There were (and still are at times) many tears shed after drop-off. Here are a few things that I wanted to share, because I felt so alone and sad. My hope is that these tips will help others in the same situation.
It doesn’t get easier, it just gets more normal. My girlfriend Misty told me this leading up to my first day of drop-off, and boy did that resonate with me. Just like people told me that having Maggie would “change us,” I didn’t really get why… but you just can’t really know until your kid is here. And you realize that a kid changes something for everyone but not in the same way. Once we established a routine, I felt worlds better, and I could feel the rhythm of our mornings.
Talk to your child in the car and tell her about all the exciting things she gets to do at school that day. It seriously made me feel better than the drive of shame.
Feel confident in the location that you are leaving your child. I could not leave Maggie in the mornings if not for the awesomeness of Ms. Sandy and Ms. Amy and all the other loving people that actually enjoy caring for her. Maggie is loved, cherished, treasured, and taught well while I am gone. I think her school is great. I would feel even worse had I not felt 110% confident in her school.
Reward yourself for getting back in the car. The roughest part of the day is walking back to your car after you leave your child for the day. Oh man, that walk is the worst. What has helped tremendously is some kind of “reward” once you get inside… a book on tape (Tim Keller has been extremely comforting), a thermos full of coffee you don’t allow yourself to have until you get back in the car, and calling your mother or a friend. Distractions are key here. Sounds silly… but it works!
Go to lunch with people, including your husband! Instead of wallowing in the misery of being apart from your child all day, take advantage of the time at work. Pay your bills at your breaks, visit with friends by meeting them for lunch, have coffee with your network… make the time at work feel like your “adult” time. This is also the best time to catch up and have dates with your husband! No need for a babysitter! Overall, this particular tip has been hugely helpful to my social side, especially when I felt guilty about taking time away from Maggie in the evenings and weekends when I wanted to see friends after work.
Give yourself some slack. There’s going to be a day when you’re slightly relieved that you drop your child off… whether it is because you are excited about what is going on at work, or if you were just spit up on, or if you just need a second of silence. Why feel guilty for not feeling guilty? It’s a stupid potential cycle. Consider that day a gift of no guilt and know that days ahead may not be that easy.
You’ll figure it out and make your own routine. Of course this is different for everyone, and what worked for me may not work for you. Obviously, I’d much rather be at home, so this may not be the standpoint of everyone dropping their child off in the mornings. But, I do wish I knew a little more about the process at the beginning… the first 6 months were quite rough. But it does get better.