Nothing has ever given me the amount of anxiety and stress as the thought of returning to work when I was home on maternity leave with Porter. I was angry about it, I was devastated, and I asked God WHY he didn't make a way for me to stay home with my precious baby over and over and over. But, I did it. I went back to work and I survived it. I have since dropped my hours down to part time, which has been the absolute BEST thing for our family, but I worked full time for three months and have been meaning to publish this post to help other mamas who may be facing their return to the office after having a baby.
First-remember this: It's not as bad as you think its going to be.
Like I said above, during my pregnancy and the entire twelve weeks of my maternity leave, I cried at the mere thought of leaving my baby to go back to work full time. It felt like such an impossible unnatural thing to do, and I didn’t think I would survive it. I thought it was going to be the hardest and worst thing I’ve ever done.
I’ll be honest. It wasn’t easy. Tears were shed, mostly from me, but Porter also did have a few moments where adjusting was difficult. He screamed at the bottle, despite me giving him a few bottles a week from the time he was two weeks old, and he took 30 minute naps all day instead of the 1.5-2 hour naps he usually took at home with me. But we made it through that rough adjustment period, and dare I say I was glad to be back in the office? As soon as I got back and dove into the work that I geninuely do love, I realized I can do this, and everything is going to be okay. And it is. And now that Porter is eight months old and my hormones have leveled out, I really do enjoy my time to interact with adults and kind of step out of the mom brain mode for a few hours.
If you can, go out and buy yourself a new work wardrobe.
Don’t worry that you aren’t quite to your pre-pregnancy size yet. Don’t stress if you think you will just have to buy all new clothes when you lose the rest of the baby weight. To me, spending some money on clothes I would look and feel great in, even just for a few months was way more appealing then trying to squeeze myself into my old size four dress pants, or swimming in my maternity clothes that are no longer flattering in any way. I mean, where maternity clothes ever flattering? My mom and I made a day of it and went shopping and I bought a few pairs of pants, a couple skirts, and some tops that would work now and when (if?) I lost the few pounds. I went when Loft was having a 40% off sale and tried to be smart with the amount I spent, but I decided that eventually I will have another baby and will inevitable have another transition phase where my pre-pregnancy clothes are too small but my maternity clothes are too big. I knew that I could hold onto any clothes that I eventually didn’t fit into anymore so I didn’t feel like I was wasting money. If you are done having babies, maybe you can donate your too big clothes down the line so less fortunate women have nice work attire for interviews and their jobs. Having some pretty & professional clothes helped me immensely. I felt put together, confident and ready to kick ass at the whole working mom thing.
Find a childcare provider you love and trust.
The number one thing that has made transitioning back to work easier on me was knowing that baby Porter is being so well cared for and loved while I am away. Our family has been blessed immensely by two different dear friends who stay home with their baby and we are so happy to be able to pay them to care for Porter instead of paying a stranger or a daycare facility. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with daycare, if you find one you’re comfortable with. I personally wanted Porter to have a little more one-on-one time and also have a calmer, quieter environment as he is such an easily overstimulated baby.
The most important thing is that you know without a shadow of doubt that your baby is in good hands. I don’t have any anxiety about the quality of care Porter is receiving which makes this whole leaving him for 40 hours a week (ok, its about 24 now that I am part time, but it was 40!) so much more manageable. If you can, solicit recommendations from friends or coworkers. Ask around and see if any stay at home moms in your social circle are looking to make some extra income. If you can afford it, even think about looking into hiring a nanny to come to your home. There are a lot of different options for childcare,depending on your budget. Find someone you’re comfortable with, knowing that your little one is being loved on and cared for while you work.
Learn to embrace preparation, planning and organization.
The only way I can get out of the house with my head on straight is by being really meticulous and organized. I need to get myself and a little human out the door with everything we need for the day by seven AM. Just for myself, I have to remember my breast pump, extra bottles to pump & store milk, a pumping bra, my lunch , my ID badge, etc. Porter needs binkies, diapers, wipes, extra clothes, extra swaddle blankets, enough breastmilk for the day, etc. I can’t possibly get everything together + get myself + Porter ready, and nurse in the mornings so every night I pack my three bags.
I have a specific pumping bag with all the supplies I need to pump, a work bag (that I also use as a purse because who has time for a purse when you already carry three bags) that I keep my lunch in as well as my wallet, lipstick, ID badge for work in, and then a diaper bag with everything I need for Porter. I keep those separate so I never lose anything I need, or accidentally leave my extra bottles for pumping in the diaper bag or take Porter’s pacifier with me to work. I also left extras of just about everything Porter could need with his sitter so I don’t have to try and remember to bring extra diapers the day after he runs out. Obviously, having a supportive and helpful husband is key here-Ronnie makes breakfast in the mornings while I nurse Porter and usually packs my lunch as well.
Its okay to say no to things, even good things for a season.
The week before I went back to work, one of my best friends invited me to a concert I REALLY wanted to go to. It happened to fall on the evening of my second day back at work and as much as I wanted to go, I knew that after being away from Porter all day long, leaving him for another 3+ hours wouldn’t be good for either of us so I declined. Going to country concerts was one of our favorite things to do together before I got pregnant, and I still hope to go to many more with her. My friend was more than understanding and gracious and didn’t give me a hard time, and I think that any good friend would respond the same way. You have to know that in certain seasons, you might have to let good things go to focus on better things. Some seasons require us to sacrifice more than others, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose sight of all your freedom and self care. Just pick and chose what is most important to you and set aside times to do what you love.
We were completely blessed and humbled by the specific way the Lord answered our prayers to allow me to work part time just three months after I returned to work. I still am in awe over the way the Lord loves and cares for us. But, leaving your baby whether its one or five days a week isn't easy, and I hope that if you're getting ready to return to work, you can take comfort and peace knowing that you are just the mom the lord created for your baby. You are doing a good job, whether you work full time out of the home or stay home with your baby, you are an amazing, hard working mama and I am cheering for you!