It's Working Project

Anxious Toddler blogger dishes on motherhood, guilt, and how every day is a chance to do better.

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

Yes, I always knew I would want to continue my career on some level. At first it was out of monetary necessity and later it became out of a desire to continue my passion and give my life deeper purpose.

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

When I had my first daughter my career was just coming into full swing. I had been out of graduate school for three years and I was just starting to blossom in my career. I think I was naïve about how difficult it would be to balance work and motherhood.

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

My biggest struggle was when I had my first child. I needed to continue to work long hours for monetary reasons. I felt like I was always rushing and never enjoying motherhood. There was a guilt that followed me everywhere. When I was at work, I felt guilty I was not with my child. When I was at home, I felt guilty I was not cleaning or cooking. It seemed as though there was never a time I could escape the burden of guilt.

When I had my second and third child my life circumstances had changed significantly. I no longer had to work long hours and I was able to plan much better. I had the knowledge of what motherhood took and knew what type of mother I wanted to be. I was able to create a schedule that met my desire to continue my life work, while investing quality time in motherhood. I am thankful every day that I have the luxury to have both. I know what it feels like to not have as many options.

What factors contributed to your chosen feeding method?

I was going to breastfeed all of my children. My first child would not latch on and I had major feeding issues. I remember crying in the middle of the night, as I called the 800 number on the side of the Similac can that was thrown into my hospital goodie bag. I was a new mom. I had no idea how to wean a child off of breastmilk. I had no idea how to make a bottle. I remember sobbing into the phone as an annoyed customer service representative told me in a dismissive manner, “Just put two scoops in a bottle and add water.” That was my low point as a new mom.

The second two children came and I vowed to breastfeed them for at least the first three months. I didn’t have strong philosophical beliefs about bottle or breast feeding at this point. Breastfeeding was cheaper, easier and good for them. That seemed like a no brainer. I didn’t have to worry about carrying bottles – I was a human bottle. That seemed perfect.

If you breastfed, did you need to pump?

Breastfeeding was ideal, until I returned back to work. My breasts ached and grew as the day went on. Leaking was embarrassing and I was constantly checking my chest. I worked for myself – in my own office – so I thought how difficult could pumping be? The pump seemed loud, and even though I used a hospital strength pump – it seemed to take forever. I wondered if everyone in the waiting room knew I was topless and being milked like a cow in the other room. I knew I had it better than many moms returning to work, but it still felt exhausting.

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

There was never a thought that my husband wouldn’t return to work. He was the bigger breadwinner and his career gave our family security.

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

I work for myself as a child therapist, author, and blogger– so it was a matter of how long could we afford to keep me home without it hurting my practice and our budget. I had the luxury of going back part-time, which helped in the decision to go back sooner. For my second and third child I returned back to work after four weeks.

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

No one helped us. Luckily my husband’s work provides employees with family leave as well – so he was able to take off a few weeks to help. That was invaluable.

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

After my first child it was a huge adjustment. I wasn’t working for myself. I felt sleep deprived, guilty and absent minded all the time. It took a good year to get adjusted to the work schedule – and even then I don’t know if I was fully adjusted. With my second and third child I worked for myself, I had less hours and less guilt. It took me a few months to adjust with each of those returns.

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

Returning to work too early can be overwhelming. Mothers are probably less likely to be productive when they are sleep deprived and concerned about their infant. If companies invested in their employees by giving them paid family leave – they would have a much more productive and happy employee upon return. I also like the idea of being able to spread out family leave by working on a part-time basis. I know when I was able to go back part-time, the adjustment to work was much easier. If one could add to the Wishlist – I would imagine private breastfeeding rooms would be a dream come true for most women.

A good day is when:

I feel I have been able to fully soak up my children and didn’t have to sacrifice my work to do it.

What I wish I had known:

That your world will feel completely upside down after your first child. That your hormones will be out of whack, you will be sleep deprived and it won’t take much to feel guilty. I wish I knew that those feelings were normal and that it gets better. I wish I had known that recovering from giving birth wasn’t just a physical phenomenon, but an emotional one as well.

One mistake I learned the hard way:

Initially I tried to do everything. There has to be some give and take. Sometimes things won’t get cleaned. Sometimes you will not serve a home cooked meal. Sometimes you will not be the best mom that you know you could be. I have learned to give myself some leeway. I wake up each day aspiring to be the best mom and child therapist I can be – if that doesn’t happen – I try again tomorrow.