Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Working Mum: Going Back to Work

Moxie has a great discussion on freaking out about pregnancy, motherhood, etc up today. Some of the comments are wonderfully insightful. Reading the comments from other Moms who admit (as I do) that they love to work got me thinking about the working mom experience. I have written before about how glad I am that I went back to work. But I certainly wasn't immune to the fear that I would (a) not be able to handle the work/baby combo or (b) would suddenly morph into a completely different woman and not want to go back to work. There is nothing wrong with (b), of course, but it would have been such a complete break from my prior career focus that it would have been quite disorienting. For better or for worse, a lot of my identity is tied up in my career. Having that change at the same time as I was trying to figure out the whole mommy-identity would have been freaky, to say the least.

My mind was quickly put at ease on (b), but (a) niggled away in the back of my mind for my entire maternity leave. I was finding being a mother a bit on the overwhelming side, how was I going to add working into the mix? Hubby kept telling me not to worry, that work was going to feel like a respite. I was relieved to discover that he was mostly right. However, I did find the first few weeks back more difficult than he did. I don't handle sleep deprivation as well as he does, and I am not drinking caffeine so I couldn't rely on any artificial stimulation to wake me up once I got to my desk (or when I wanted a nap after lunch). Also, I was pumping, and that puts extra demands on your body and extra constraints on your day.

So what do I wish I had known during those first few weeks? In no particular order:
  • Leaving your baby gets easier (for both of you).
  • Drink lots and lots of water. Drink constantly. It took my about a week to figure out that the nasty headaches I had at the end of the day were from dehydration.
  • Eat lots of protein. Even now, if I don't get enough protein, I am extra tired at the end of the day. Feeding a baby takes a lot out of you, and the baby always gets top priority on nutrients.
  • Ditch the guilt. Liking your job is a good thing. Your baby is doing fine with the person/people watching her.
  • Whatever problems/issues come up, you'll find a solution. I had to take a business trip when Pumpkin was 6 months old. We weren't giving her formula since we suspected that she was sensitive to cows milk and hadn't mustered up the energy to try out the hydrolyzed formulas. I freaked out. How would I leave enough milk? How would I pump during the trip? The answers to those questions are a post of their own. My point is that Hubby and I have found a solution to every problem that has come from being a two-career household. (Hubby, of course, told me this would be the case when I was freaking out about the problem du jour. He still has to tell me this sometimes.)
  • Get organized and set up systems to help you remember the important things. Sleep deprivation and the stress of a new routine make you surprisingly forgetful. I'm still working on this one. My main solutions are redundancy and lists. If there is something I might forget at home and I can have an extra one at work, I do. If someone asks me to do something, I write it on a list or put it on my calendar.
Of course, the most important thing is to cut yourself some slack. Being a working mother is not easy, but I think it is definitely worth the effort. However, no one ever said you had to be a working mother with a sparkling clean house or home-cooked meals every night. Let the housework slide and eat more prepared food for awhile. You and your partner will eventually figure out how to balance everything out. We eat home-cooked meals most nights now, but we certainly didn't early on. (Hubby helps out a lot on the home front- I feel we really do share the household chores fairly equally. I realize that I'm very lucky in this regard. That is also the subject of another post.)

Anyone else have any tips/advice/stories to share?

1 comment:

  1. I love the tip about making lists. It's how I remember anything at work. Until I lose the list. Ooops.

    It does get easier. I think staying home with the baby is so much harder than going back to work! And I'm finally okay with thinking that. I love my daughter and spend a lot of time with her, and I enjoy that time. But she's not an easy baby, and it's okay that I enjoy work.

    Hmmm, the only other things I can think of are pretty much covered in your post. All moms should not be so hard on themselves, whether or not they are staying at home or working out of the home. It's tough, this raising a kid thing. And we should cut ourselves and others some slack.

    Another excellent post! Thanks!


Sorry for the CAPTCHA, folks. The spammers were stealing too much of my time.