It's Working Project

"I wish I'd realized what so many had told me but what I don't think I understood fully: how much of the 'me' I knew before was going to have to change and adapt."

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

I wish I’d realized what so many had told me but what I don’t think I understood fully: how much of the “me” I knew before was going to have to change and adapt. Kids have a no return policy and they need us to be on our “A” game–that is hard to do all the time.

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

I worked for a few agencies, freelanced on the side and after some long commutes and talks with my husband, we decided becoming a freelancer offered so much more flexibility. It was hard. I wanted to climb the corporate ladder and get the fancy title—to me that felt like I would gain respect and show my worth. But my husband supported me and we looked at the bigger picture of life. Flexibility does come with its challenges. So I spent a few years building up clients, getting people to trust my worth and really getting the engine running on my studio—not easy. There is never a good time but, when we felt it was time we had our first child. I was scared—scared to lose all that I had built which now defined me. So, I had built strong relationships with my clients to trust that I could be both a full-time mom and a reliable freelancer. It isn’t all wonderful when you have longs days and deadlines to manage and a child that wants your undivided attention. That requires me to sacrifice things like; a shower, exercise, clean laundry, cleaned house or sleep to meet ALL my commitments and not let my creative work slip or clients will leave. I cannot say I fully planned or understood that was going to be the case.

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 always knew I would breastfeed —it wasn’t a question. And I did for my first child. I would even hold conference calls on mute feeding her or pumping. She had to learn how to take a bottle and that wasn’t for work that was so my husband could be a part of that bonding moment and I could have a little freedom to leave her. I am planning on doing the same for my second, that helps my sanity.

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

I told clients I was taking 3 months, but I was still checking emails and doing small projects. I really never turned off my connection. That is a self pressure I did to myself.

What was your biggest challenge going back to work?

For my first child, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was filled with emotions and felt like time away from her was neglecting her—so I had guilt. Now that she spends the day in a learning environment with other kids and I see her happy about it each day, that feeling is less. For my second (on the way), I worry about being able to juggle it all: giving both my kids and my husband the most of me. I worry especially about keeping my work commitments. As a designer, it’s hard to turn on the creativity in a timed window—but given the situation I’ve had to re-teach myself to do that. Sure I want to go out and sketch outside or get a coffee to be creative, but I have to really discipline my time. I know after my first child that sudden things like injury or illness can really throw a wrench into what I thought was how my day was going to unfold, so procrastination cannot be part of day.