It's Working Project

"We stagger our schedules, as we can't afford daycare. I work days and he works evenings during the week and weekends. We manage but it's grueling."

What is one piece of advice you wish you could offer your former expectant self?

Decide first on the things that matter most to you, and organize around that. I don’t want to sacrifice meaningful time with my kid, and I’m lucky to have the flexibility at work to arrange my schedule so that several days a week I go in to work at 7am, and leave at 2, so I can get home early enough to spend a few hours with him and my husband before one goes to bed and the other goes to work, and then I get some additional work in during the evening. It’s tough… but it’s my choice because it allows me to do what I care most about.

FOR MOMS: If you breastfed, was there a place for you to pump that met your needs and was conducive to your success? If you breastfed, how did you decide to continue? FOR DADS: What, if any, adjustments did you (or your workplace) make to your schedule after having a baby? Was it specific to your manager or larger, whole work culture?

I had intended to exclusively breastfeed, but I had low supply and had to supplement with formula from fairly early on. I breastfed, then followed up with a formula or expressed breast milk chaser, and when I went back to work he was formula fed when I was away, along with the tiny bit of milk I was able to pump.

How much leave did you take, and how comfortable were you taking it?

I was able to cobble together a 12 week leave period. I had one month of vacation accrued, the state provides 55% pay for six weeks and allows sick days to be used to provide the other 45% for those days, and I used some additional 100% sick days to come to a total of 3 months away. I was really sad to go back at the end of that time – if I’d had the option, I would have taken a longer leave, but my employer has no leave policy (so once my sick days and vacation were used up, they might not have allowed me to take even unpaid time away) and we could not afford any unpaid time in any case.

What was your biggest challenge going back to work?

Putting in 50-60 hours per week for a decade before having my kid meant that neither I nor the organization I worked for realized what actual 40-hour full time work should look like, and now that I can’t go over anymore, it feels like I’m skimping a lot of the time. Should have kept to reasonable hours from the start.

Who was your biggest source of support in returning to work? What was your biggest pregnancy indulgence?

Hmm. I work in a nonprofit and my supervisor had been on maternity leave the prior year, so I did look to her for support and advice, though not in any formal way. I was very grateful to have her there, as I have been able to adjust my work schedule to fit our family’s needs, as long as I get in all of my hours and am present for important meetings, etc.

Fill in the blanks: As a working parent, I never expected ____ would be so hard and ____ would be so much easier!

That the idea that I could take the kid to work with me sometimes, since I work in an educational setting and have a nice little nursery space attached to my office, was completely ridiculous. I’m not sure why I didn’t know this, but I was pretty breezy about how it would all work out, and thought I’d have a baby who’d just coo happily on the play mat or something while I got work done for little stretches of time. Hah!