It's Working Project

"If I stay to work late or participate in after school activities I feel like I’m not being the best mom I can be, but if I skip out on some of the extra work-related responsibilities I feel as though I’m not working to my full potential and meeting my career goals."

Did you always know you would go back to work after starting a family? Why or why not?

Yes.  I always knew that I would go back to work after starting a family, because we rely on both salaries for provide for our family.

Tell us about your planning for your new child – timed around your career? Not at all? Share the skinny!

We honestly didn’t plan for our second child to come so quickly after our first.  He was a bit of a surprise!

What was your biggest initial concern and/or obstacle to going back to work after starting a family?

My biggest concern was going back to work full time and being away from the kids/babies at such a young age when breastfeeding for such a long time each day.

What factors contributed to your chosen feeding method?

The health benefits for both the babies and myself, as well as the cost savings of buying formula.

If you breastfed, did you need to pump? If so, how easy was it for you to pump? If so, how long did you pump after returning to work? If so, did your workplace provide a location? How did you make it work?

I did need to pump when I went back to work.  I was able to pump in my classroom, because both doors locked and there was a shade I could pull down covering the window.  My teaching schedule made it extremely difficult to pump, as I generally  taught straight from 8 until noon.  As a result, I had to skip what should have been my first pump session of the day.  My supply pretty quickly tanked as a result of my altered pumping schedule and inability to pump for as long or often as needed.  I was only successful pumping at work (with both kids) for about 3-4 months.  Then my supply dropped so much it was no longer worth it to pump at work to get 1 to 2 oz per session.  I also struggled with pumping, because it was done during my only planning times, so I was focused on work while pumping (trying to multitask) which I think negatively impacted my let down and milk production.

If you are in a relationship, how did you decide which partner would go back to work? What issues factored into that decision?

We decided both partners would go back to work, as we relied on both salaries.  After the birth of our first child, my husband took a week off work to stay home with me and the baby.  After the birth of our second child, he only took off two days (one of which we were still in the hospital), because we weren’t able to sacrifice his pay for extra time off.

If you needed to return to work, did you have a back-to-work mentor? How did they help?

I did not have a back to work mentor.  I did, however, have many friends at work who also had children and helped me greatly with my reentry into work.  They were great supports and understood how hard it was to leave a tiny baby at home, the struggles of pumping at work, emotional swings, and how overwhelming everything would/could be.  The teachers I co-taught with were great in helping with a  bit more of the workload than usual as I adjusted to coming back, but there wasn’t any set support, program, or mentor through work.

How long was your family leave? If you needed to return to work, how did you feel about it?

For my first child, I took 12 weeks.  6 of those weeks were paid and 6 were unpaid.  For the second baby, I took 8 weeks.  I returned after 8 weeks, because of the timing of my maternity leave.  I came back to school for the last 1.5 weeks of the school year.  They weren’t full days, and the students were only there for about 4 of them.  I returned because of the lightened load and our family’s need to regain my pay.  I cried a lot both times I returned to work.  I had pretty extreme anxiety going back.  I arranged for family members to stay with the babies when I returned (for the oldest until about 6 months, for the youngest for the 1.5-2 weeks I was back then I was home for the summer), because I wasn’t comfortable leaving a baby with someone else when they were so young.

Have you, or a partner, paid it forward as a parent in the workplace? Tell us a bit more.

I think I have, I have shared as many “tips” as I could that I learned during my own maternity leave, I have helped lighten other teachers’ loads as they work on preparing their maternity sub plans and come back to work, and I have passed along many baby items to other new parents in the school.

How did you work with your doctor, adoption agency, or Human Resources department to plan for your family leave and return?

I met with our HR director prior to both births in order to find out what I needed to do when the baby was born, to plan how long my leave would be, and to determine how much pay would be withheld as a result of my leave.  After the birth of my second child, my doctor wrote a note to the school stating that I medically needed more than the paid six weeks prior to returning to work.  As a result, the HR director arranged for me to get two more paid weeks of leave.

If you returned to work, when did your confidence around work kick in? How long did the adjustment take (or are you still adjusting?)

I think I am still adjusting.  I think the transition back to work is extremely difficult.  I don’t think I was prepared for not only returning to work, but returning to work with a whole new perspective.  I have always been involved in before and after school meetings, committees, etc.  After returning from leave it suddenly hit me that all of the before and after school commitments were severely cutting into the time I could be spending with my kids.  Especially when they were going to bed at 6:30 each night (until about 18 months for our kids).  It’s not at all that I’m less dedicated or committed to my job, but now I struggle with guilt about how I spend my time.  If I stay to work late or participate in after school activities I feel like I’m not being the best mom I can be, but if I skip out on some of the extra work-related responsibilities I feel as though I’m not working to my full potential and meeting my career goals.

What, if any, advice would you give to employers to ease strain around family leave and returning to the workplace?

I think employers should try and be respectful of employee time outside of the “contracted” schedule or daily work day.  With the exception of special events like parent night and conferences, I think the school should either be more cognizant of when they are asking employees to be available for meetings and school events, or should offer a stipend for their time.  I find it to be extremely difficult to make the decision to take the time that is necessary to fully participate in and contribute to after school (and before school) meetings, committees, and activities when it means that I must sacrifice time with my kids to do it.  That means I am not only losing time with my kids (and occasionally leaving before they are even awake in the morning, or getting home after they are in bed), but I’m having to pay extra for childcare than I normally would.  I enjoy participating in curriculum development opportunities, school wide committees, and leadership opportunities, but it would be great (not only for parents, but all faculty and staff members) if the school could find a way for people to get together during the school day.

A good day is when:

I’m not completely overwhelmed with life 🙂

What I wish I had known:

It’s okay to say no, and you have to find a balance.

One mistake I learned the hard way:

You can’t be everything to everyone.