The Truth About Returning to Work After Baby

One question I’ve been getting asked a lot lately is “How has it been going back to work?” And my reply is usually: “It’s been an adjustment, but we’re doing OK.”

While that’s not exactly a lie, it’s not whole the truth either. Even now that M’s been in daycare since the beginning of the year, and we have a pretty good system down, things don’t always go as planned – with work or with baby – so if I’m being completely honest, going back to work was hard, and it hasn’t gotten much easier.

Sure, some days are better than others, but even on the days I get a decent night’s sleep, can get M fed and dressed on time for daycare, and meet all of my deadlines at work, usually that means all hell breaks loose at home and I wind up ordering pizza in a bathrobe while trying (and failing) to put a fussy baby to bed.

Fortunately, for my sanity and our finances, I only have to put M in daycare two days a week, and I work from home (with help from my saint of a mom) on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Fridays, if my husband isn’t around to tag-team babysitting with me, I’m all on my own – and it’s absolute madness.

Being a working mom is hard, being a stay-at-home mom is hard, but honestly, I have no idea how full-time work-from-home moms do it! At least when my mom is here helping or M is in daycare, I can compartmentalize being a mother and an employee, but when I have to go solo on Fridays, I usually wind up working weekends because I simply can’t manage to get everything done with M around (and/or I’m the one with the screaming baby in the background of the conference call. Super professional).

Multitasking is easier with wine.

While daycare has its obvious disadvantages (leaving M with strangers all day, germy toys, expensive tuition, etc.), I’ve formed a new appreciation for daycare in these last couple months. At first, it was so hard dropping her off… I felt like the worst mom ever and spent a fair amount of time ugly-crying in my office’s parking garage.

Now, I see that daycare has some amazing benefits. The facility M goes to is Spanish immersion and teaches sign language, so I know her language skills are being developed early and in ways I could never teach her myself. She’s also getting socialized and learning from the other kids. And yes, she’s caught a few colds, but I guess that will help strengthen her immune system in the long run.

Knowing she’s in good hands at daycare should allow me to focus more at work, but SURPRISE, there’s this thing called “mom brain,” and it’s the worst. I can recognize the intelligent person I used to be deep down inside, but the half-asleep, hormonal mombie (mom + zombie) on the outside can’t remember a darn thing, let alone utilize basic vocabulary skills.

Giving my sweet girl a kiss before presenting at board meetings

Also, when I was nursing, I had to pump every 2-3 hours, so all my meetings, conference calls, and break times had to be planned accordingly. Not to mention the additional time spent washing and sanitizing my pump parts, and thanks to “mom brain,” I left my milk bags in the break room freezer pretty much every day.

I did miss work when I was on maternity leave, and I do believe I made the right choice for myself and my family to return full time, but before M, I used to be an absolute rockstar at my job, and now my best effort is about 85-90%. I just simply can’t function at the level I used to, and I’m still coming to terms with that.

Also, if you knew me pre-baby, my home was immaculate. Thanks to my clean-freak German heritage and upbringing, I cleaned the house at least once a week, vacuumed, dusted, and had a home-cooked dinner on the table 6 nights a week.

Needless to say, things are a little different nowadays. I’m still compelled to keep a clean house, but don’t always have the time. If I vacuum one day, I’ll probably get to the laundry the next, and I don’t even know when the last time I dusted was… Now, I’m happy if I can cook 3-4 nights a week and am not even bothered by shelling out extra money for takeout, especially when I still have work to finish.

So yes, going back to work has been difficult. I feel like I’m always cutting it close with drop-off times, deadlines, trying to sneak in a shower before M starts crying, and the only time I have to relax and catch my breath is when I pass out at 9pm and hit the ground running at 5am the next day.

Being a full-time working mom is a major life change that requires a lot of balance, patience, and forgiveness – the house may not be immaculate, not all the work may be finished by close of business, and M might occasionally be dropped off at daycare in the onesie she wore to bed the night before, but I’m doing my best and taking it one day at a time!

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