It's working for Sarah Slovak Wu
I would advise my pre-child self to enjoy the free time you have to yourself because you will never have that again! I would also say not to be too hard on yourself as a new mom and how you are spending your time — don’t beat yourself up.
I had decided to stay home for about a year with my first child, and then I had the opportunity for a job that meant something to me and offered a lot of flexibility. When I had my second child I was able to ease back to work part-time at first and then slowly transition back to full-time on my terms. My workplace and supervisor gave me the flexibility to work and meet my own expectations for my new mom needs, too. I also had really amazing childcare for my baby which was a huge, huge factor to return to work. I could leave him at an amazing place (the University daycare and preschool) literally across campus from my office. I went every day for six months at nap time to nurse my son, and my work knew I would be gone for that hour every afternoon, no question. That. Was. Huge.
I had the ability to pump at my office. I shared an office with another part-time employee, so it was very easy to find those times when I could be alone in the office and close the door. My fridge was just right around the corner. Not to make it sound like it was all bunnies and roses, though. Pumping is really hard. I for sure had those days when I would toil to pump a full bottle and then knock it all over my desk and cry. But I never had to pump in a gross bathroom.
I took the full 12 weeks allowed under FMLA. I did not receive any paid leave. I had saved vacation time that covered two-thirds of my time off. I was able to take the full 12 weeks because I have a working spouse and we planned for this lapse in my pay. However, I know many parents I work with who were leaving their babies as young as six weeks at the on-site daycare because they had to get back to earning. I felt comfortable in my office taking this time off. I planned ahead to have my projects covered and was supported.
Childcare worked well for us because I was an employee at a university with an on-site daycare center and preschool, and I had an older child enrolled so our family was already “in the queue” for a spot. I always say that after my husband, the University of Texas was the very next entity to know I was pregnant, before my doctor and the grandparents. I called and put my fetus on the daycare waitlist even before my first doctor’s appointment! (Some families have to wait as long as two years for a spot.) We were lucky to have the option for great childcare, and feel so good about the individuals caring for our children and our new baby.
My new normal set in when my second child stopped being a baby and it felt like we had two little kids. When it stopped being all the baby stuff and a baby schedule, we have settled in to a better routine. We are still busier than ever but now we have a routine that feels more normal and manageable.
Timing in general is my biggest challenge. Trying to balance giving enough in both places, work and home, is tough. Once I was back to full-time at work I found it hard to create boundaries to keep work at work and not work when at home with the kids. I try and not work when I am home with them at the end of the day. That juggle is the hardest thing for me.
I had two big supporters. At home, my husband is amazingly supportive. He stepped in do more at home after baby. He is a hands-on parent who is always willing to do drop-off and pick-up.
At work, my boss was a woman, she is a friend and she is a mom. To have that understanding and support from my direct supervisor, who was a woman who understood what I was going through, definitely helped.
As a working parent, I never expected juggling and making time for myself would be so hard, and choosing my kids over all else when necessary would be so much easier!
As a working parent, a bad day is when both kids are sick and both parents are busy, and a good day is when we all get home early and have extra time to be together.