Return to work after maternity leave, take two. Today is the first day of my first full week back at work.
The emotion and difficulty of returning to work caught me off guard the first time around with Dashiell. It wasn't terrible but it was harder than I expected. For several months I questioned whether I wanted to be working full time and what was best for Dashiell. I hated feeling uncertain and it was hard to focus at work. Plus I was waking up so many times (so! many! times!) on most nights. Big transitions do not pair well with lack of sleep. But eventually I did find happiness and balance in being a full time working mom.
And now I find myself at the beginning of the second time around. The good news: we already know the daycare routine so there is familiarity where before there was unknown. Ditto with pumping at the office. And: I really really love my job and coworkers so I have a happy place to go everyday when I'm away from the boys. And (the icing on the cake): I'm getting a decent amount of sleep. At least enough that when combined with my morning coffee I can bravely face the day.
Transitions are tough but slightly less so with a list, so here's my five-pronged approach for rocking my return to work:
+ Don't start with a full week. I used some vacation time last week so that I could start work on a Thursday instead of on Monday. I work at home on Fridays so this was a nice way to ease back into things. Plus it gave us a chance to give Cedric two shorter days at daycare. On his first day, Cedric protested his first bottle and I was in a minor panic. But he warmed up and by the afternoon and next day he was taking bottles like a champ. I'm so glad I experienced this when I was available to go get him at a moment's notice instead of trying to get through my first day at the office.
+ Get some lunch dates on the calendar. I've mentioned before that lunch dates during the work week are a way I find "me time" and connecting with other working moms always always leaves me feeling optimistic and bolstered. I already have at least three friends I want to schedule lunch dates with and I also love to set phone dates with long-distance friends during my lunch hour. I've got a phone date for lunch today with a good friend from grad school!
+ Remember the big picture. We've made a conscious decision to be a family with two full time working parents for now and last year I felt a satisfying balance as a working mom. So I'm betting I'll feel that again in a few months or hopefully within the year. In the meantime I'll remind myself that transitions take time and of the reasons I choose to work including the challenge and satisfaction in the work I do and the financial security we are building for our family.
+ Admit that it's hard. Leaving your baby is hard. Even when you are looking forward to the things you'll do while you're apart. Sometimes it can feel that whether you're working or staying at home you shouldn't complain because you made your choice. Eff that (which is the closest I can get to swearing so you know I mean business). Telling Chris or sending a text or calling a friend or my mom and saying, "I'm having a hard time today" does so much more to lift my spirits than to say nothing and smile. And I so appreciate having this community of readers to admit this to as well. Seriously, thank you.
+ Admit that it's awesome. As I was thinking about this post over the weekend I was feeling positive, even a bit eager, about going to work on Monday and I realized that "admitting that it's hard" isn't the whole picture. Being a working mom can also be awesome (just as staying at home or working part time or whatever you've chosen can be awesome) and I want to be vocal about that, too. (I loved Amy Poehler's take on this in Yes Please! which Erica and I discussed in our most recent book club podcast.) Connecting with other working moms who tell me that they love working and love their jobs (like Vanessa, thanks lady!) always seems to come when I really need it. I want to pass this sentiment on and offer support to other working moms, perhaps it'll come just when they need it.
Last week so many friends sent messages of encouragement and checked in to see how my first day back on Thursday went and I felt so supported and loved - thank you! My friend Sam even posted to Facebook with a message of encouragement and asked others to do the same and so many people - most that I don't even know - chimed in with well wishes. And my dear friend Laura sent a snail mail note saying that if we lived closer she would take me out to coffee on my first day back and included a Starbucks gift card as the next best thing. Thinking of you as I get my fancy latte this morning, Laura!
Well, here we go...!