My daughter was three months old to the day when I dropped her off at the daycare for the first time. She smiled toothlessly at me as I left her in the hands of Miss Monica. I took a mental snapshot of her chubby cheeks, downy blond hair and emerging personality. I had evaluated many daycares but as I walked away, the realization dawned on me that I didn’t REALLY know Miss Monica.
I suddenly had an urgent need to know if she was right-handed or left-handed? What was her favorite movie? Did she have any cavities? How about her go-to karaoke song? In my over-tired, slightly anxious and story-filled mind, these all seemed like relevant pieces of information I should know about the person watching my precious child. But I had to get to work, so I pushed these questions aside along with the voice in my head telling me I was a terrible mother for leaving my little girl with a complete stranger.
I started the car, knowing I had only a seven-minute drive to switch gears from mommy mode to worker mode. All my energy not devoted to driving went towards camouflaging my grief over leaving Riley for the first time. I blinked back tears in hopes of preserving my mascara and took deep breaths to calm my flushed cheeks.
After what seemed like the blink of an eye, I was sitting in the office parking lot putting on a fresh coat of lipstick. A glance in the rear-view mirror reassured me that I had it all together on the outside, even if my insides were faltering.
Armed with my computer bag, purse, jacket and two framed photos of Riley, I walked towards the door. My hand hovered over the handle. I filled my lungs, straightened my shoulders and walked in.
The familiar smell of carpet, stale air and coffee brewing filled the unchanged lobby—unlike my house that smelled like baby powder, shampoo and diapers. Conversations floated over the cubicle walls. The sing-song cadence of nursery rhymes replaced by the soft murmur of customers being helped. Co-workers enthusiastically welcomed me back and obliged when I practically shoved my photos in their faces. My chair squeaked in its familiar way and, even though someone had fiddled with the height, it was familiar. It was my chair, my desk, computer, all the way I had left it.
I knew I hadn’t been there in over 90 days, but it felt like no time had passed at all.
Everything was the same, except me.
This is an excerpt from my book on what I felt heading back to work on that first day. I’ve written many blogs about going back to work after baby, but it remains one of the most stressful and emotional times in a new mom’s life.
The facts are that seven out of ten mothers with children under the age of 18 participate in the workforce. Three out of four are employed full time. While this is a victory for the generations before us that fought so hard for a woman’s right to have a career and a family, many women fall into bed every night exhausted and feeling guilty for not doing either particularly well. The women who fought to get us into this position never could have predicted how hard it would be to integrate these two worlds.
Studies have also shown there are great benefits to children who have working moms including being strong leaders, earning more money and being more flexible and independent.
But all the studies in the world don’t help when your worried about your child and your coworkers or when you are trying to figure out how to keep the house clean, make meals and find enough time for sleep. It’s an adjustment, but it is possible, even if it doesn’t seem like it in the moment.
I could write about this for days, but here are three tips for heading back to work:
The one thing that all working moms need, on their first day or their five hundredth day, is support.
None of us are alone in this journey.
You may feel like you are the only one, but I can guarantee you, you’re not.
I’m cheering you on, and so are millions of other working moms.
You’ve got this!
p.s. I’m working on a survival kit for moms heading back to work! I’ll have more information in the coming weeks, but if you want to be the first to hear about it, message me and I’ll put you on the list to be the first to know!
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Photo by Damir Kopezhanov on Unsplash
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.