It's Working Project

"I didn't feel ready to go back, but the part-time transition was a lifesaver for establishing new routines."

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

Give yourself a break. If things don’t go perfectly, just don’t beat yourself up about it. Look at what you’d like to change to make things better or easier for yourself, but don’t dwell too much on what went wrong, because you are doing the best you can, and that’s more than enough.

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 chose to breastfeed knowing that there were health benefits for both mother and baby, in addition to skin-to-skin and bonding time that are also great! I work full time, so pumping was a necessary evil.

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

I was off work for nine full weeks, and then for the last 15 days of FMLA, I spread those out so that I worked part-time for a few weeks to transition back slowly. I didn’t feel ready to go back, but the part-time transition was a lifesaver for establishing new routines.

What was your biggest challenge going back to work?

I had been most worried about how I would deal with the stress of trying to fit so much more into my day. I was accustomed to a routine that gave me a lot of time to get myself ready in the morning, take long lunch breaks, go to the gym after work. I knew that now my mornings and after-work schedule would include getting baby ready for her day, daycare drop-off and pick-up, washing diapers and bottles, preparing my breast pump parts, and all the other day-to-day parenting tasks that need to be crammed into a groggy morning or a dead-tired evening. I was also concerned that I had used all of my sick and vacation time on my maternity leave, so I knew that I would need to take unpaid leave if I had to stay at home unexpectedly due to illness (of baby, myself or our daycare provider), and for regular doctor visits usually only available during work hours.

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

I had a colleague who had given me the great advice to start looking for daycare early. She had gotten into the situation of not looking soon enough, and had to take several extra weeks of unpaid leave while being on a wait list for daycare. A few other colleagues who are mothers also shared their stories with me, so that I didn’t feel as frazzled and alone in how I was coping with the stress and emotions of returning to work. I didn’t know about many resources available to me until I started asking, though. I definitely had to figure a lot out on my own, such as availability of lactation spaces, my allowed maternity leave, and flexible arrangements to accommodate daycare drop-off and pick-up.