It's Working Project

"Parenting was the unknown. I knew what was expected of me at work. I knew what tasks I needed to get done. Being the mother of a newborn son was scary and so much harder (but also more amazing) than I ever could have imagined."

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

Don’t fight what makes you happy so much. Also, don’t rush back to work. If you are working at a company who truly values you, they will give you the time you need, not the minimum the law requires for new mothers.

What was your primary motivation for deciding to return (or not) to work? How early did you tell your employer?

I returned to my production management job two months after I had my son. This was much too soon, but my company had a major restructuring just before I went on maternity leave. There was no one to fill my position. My duties had to be covered by multiple people, and I was still on call while at home with a newborn. After a year and a half of no sleep, and a change in career goals, I decided to leave the company to be home with my son more, work on having our second child (which also made daycare impossible since my salary would not cover childcare for two children), and start up my freelance career; a career that truly made me happy.

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 was lucky at my company. Although I was the first to ever have a child while working there and go on maternity leave, a co-worker quickly followed three months later, so our tiny office had to figure it out quickly since they knew we would be nursing. We were given a small office to pump when needed, which was a luxury. I really didn’t want to take over the bathroom at our office. Later the company would move and there was no private space in the new building to pump, but by then I was finished. I breastfed as long as I could, which wasn’t very long with my first son. Multiple factors were involved (lack of sleep and stress probably being two of them), but my son weaned himself after four months old.

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

I only took two months maternity leave with my first son, but I wish I had taken three or four months off. My company was small. There was no one to do my job. I felt like I had to get back to work to keep things rolling. Looking back, this was a big mistake. I hadn’t slept in months; I wasn’t eating well or taking care of myself. My sole focus was on my son and what he needed. When I went back to work, this just got worse. I continued to neglect myself as I tried to prove I could be the perfect employee even with a child. I made it to the gym sometimes, but it was tough. I was also working from home part time so the pressure was there to continue to perform 110 percent. After I left the corporate world and started my freelance writing career, maternity leave became non-existent. When I had my second son I only took a few weeks off. I scheduled as much as I could ahead of time and didn’t take on any new projects leading up to my due date. When you are your own boss, every day lost is money lost too, so I was back at it much quicker than I would have in my old corporate career.

How easy was it to put a childcare arrangement together and did it work for your family?

Childcare was a nightmare. I was of two minds. I wanted to be at home with my son, but I didn’t want to let my career go. The first year and a half a co-worker and I set up a nanny share with her sister-in-law. Once that nanny had her own baby she wasn’t interested in working anymore for other people. She just wanted to be home with her son. I found a daycare to take my son, but he was constantly ill, and it just wasn’t a great solution for our family. When we lost our nanny, thoughts began to creep in that maybe this wasn’t the way I wanted to live my life. Six months later I quit and started freelancing. As a work-from-home mom, I now find childcare even more impossible. I don’t need a full-time nanny, but I do need a daytime babysitter every now and then, especially when I have to travel. I call in favors with friends, borrow other people’s nannies, and piece together plans when I need to, but it is not easy. I make it work though and I’ve been present for so much more of my boys’ lives than I would have been otherwise.

When did the “new normal” set in for you?

When I was still working in an office, my new normal set in pretty quickly. It had to. I needed to hit the ground running and not look back. We were a small office and I was responsible for multiple projects. There was no choice but to figure it out. When I went freelance, it took about six months to a year for everything to settle in. For me, it was the financial loss of a salaried income that was the hardest to come to terms with. Once I saw how our financial state shook out, I began to feel more comfortable with my new normal.


What was your biggest challenge going back to work?

Pumping in an office is miserable. There is no way around it. Pumping period was horrible for me, but I did it because that was what was expected. Running my son to daycare or dropping him with the nanny, going to work and trying to focus on work, while still having to remember to pump every few hours, and then rushing home to pick my son up before the daycare closed was brutal. I was on a constant race to beat the clock, so by the time I hit the weekend I had no energy to do anything.

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

My husband was a rock throughout my pregnancy and my going back to work. I was not a happy pregnant woman, and I cried a lot when I went back to work. I was so confused over whether I was a mom or a career woman. I wasn’t sure how to do both at that point.

During my pregnancy, I worked out five days a week. It was a break in my day and one thing I could control. I was lucky to have a healthy pregnancy, no matter how cranky I was. The last month of my pregnancy I indulged in a hot fudge sundae every day. I figured I had already gained a ton of weight, why not a little more at the end.


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

As a working parent, I never expected parenting would be so hard and work would be so much easier! This may sound odd to say, but parenting was the unknown. I knew what was expected of me at work. I knew what tasks I needed to get done. Being the mother of a newborn son was scary and so much harder (but also more amazing) than I ever could have imagined.

As a working parent, a bad day is when _____ and a good day is when _______.

As a working parent, a bad day is when I don’t get a shower, I haven’t worked out, the kids spill something, I miss a deadline or I forget to send something to school (that was due). A good day is when it all just comes together effortlessly. I meet my deadlines, the kids are happy when I pick them up and play well together while I make dinner, and they all go to bed on time so I can get back to work (I work all morning and then again between 8pm and midnight).