I was a career woman, always focused on the next promotion. I became a director at a large company by 30. My career was progressing as planned. At 31, I became a mother and my priorities immediately changed. I went from wondering how I could be off work for 12 weeks, to wondering how I could go back to work after 12 weeks.
I originally thought that after 12 weeks at home alone with a baby, I would be eager to get back to work. Instead, I was extremely anxious to leave her and go back to a regular work schedule. It terrified me to think about anyone else taking care of my girl. We had finally got into a rhythm. I knew every facial expression and cry and was just getting comfortable in my new role as Mom.
At 8 weeks, I started counting down to the dreaded day where I would have to leave her and dreaming up work/life balance scenarios that I knew weren’t realistic… like if I could just work from 10am-3pm. Looking back, I regret spending so much time thinking about going back to work instead of enjoying every minute that I had at home with her.
When the big day came, I had a conversation with my boss and expressed some of my anxiety about the return. He gave me the advice to come back on a Wednesday instead of a Monday to shorten my first week and the flexibility to work a modified schedule as I transitioned back. The stress of taking my baby to daycare was more than I could handle that first week and my village was there to offer support. My husband, mother, and mother-in-law each took a day to watch Harper during my first week back which really helped ease into the new routine of someone else caring for my baby.
The reality is – even with the support of family, friends, and coworkers – those first weeks back were hard. My mind was always on Harper and I spent too much time looking at pictures. The guilt was overwhelming and to make things worse after her first week of daycare, she got her first fever and cold. We were working from home, trying to keep her comfortable and learned the invaluable lesson to always have Infant Tylenol in the house as fevers like to show up in the middle of the night. But babies heal fast. She was back to daycare that week, and I was back to work and back to feeling guilty.
I had other stresses with taking my baby to daycare. I had just spent the last year eating organic and worrying about every product that came near my baby. Now, I was taking her to a daycare that has most of the products that I was trying to avoid. I looked around at every crib, mat, and toy and felt stressed about what she would be exposed to. I was feeling guilty about not getting a Nanny but decided to stick with our daycare plan. I did what I could to keep her safe from chemicals in her food by sending her milk or formula in glass or stainless steel bottles and lunches in glass containers instead of plastic.
When I went back to work I was exclusively breastfeeding with the plan to continue. But pumping did not go well. I was pumping twice a day and only producing 4 ounces. On top of the guilt I felt about leaving her, now we were going to have to start giving her organic baby formula to supplement during the day. After 2 months of pumping twice a day at work, my supply had dropped so low that I decided to stop. This decision was both painful and exciting. We had been supplementing with formula for months and saw how she was thriving. This helped my decision and truthfully it felt amazing to stop pumping and get a sense of normalcy back in my work life.
Life as a working mom did get easier as time went on but it is never easy. Now that Harper is walking, I spend most mornings getting ready with a baby on my leg. If I’m lucky, I’m able to get ready before she wakes up. Then, I get her breakfast ready and pack her lunch. Once she wakes up, I get her dressed and ready for school in about 30 minutes. Finally, I kiss them goodbye and run out the door. My husband does daycare drop off, and I pick up. Seeing her face when she notices me at the door of her room at daycare is the best part of my day. She lights up, runs to the door, says “Mama” and gives me the best hug.
Even now after one year back, I still battle the mom guilt. We’ve adjusted to our routine, and I know Harper is in great hands at daycare. She loves going to “school” every day. I’m able to focus at work again, but I still dream about a work/life balance where I get more time with her. I now know that it’s balance that I need, not spending 100% of our time together.
Advice for easing your transition back to work…
- Talk to your boss. You need to be open and express what you need, within reason. A good boss will recognize that you can only be a great employee if you aren’t distracted by life at home. Communication is essential and these topics should be part of a strong work/life balance.
- Wait on daycare. If you will be starting daycare, it’s a good idea to ease into this transition and tap into your village. Ask your partner or a trusted family member to watch your baby during the first week. This will reduce the amount of change you need to deal with in week 1.
- Ask for help. Many mom’s take on too much themselves. Talk to your partner about what you need help with, like packing the baby’s bag for daycare or handling drop off or pick up. I did not communicate what I needed help with to my husband and this just led to fights. Learn from my mistakes!
- Work smarter. Moms are master multitaskers. This can help make you more efficient in the workplace. Be smarter about how you spend your time so you make the most of your time away from baby. Skip the long lunches and keep hallway conversations to a minimum to help you get back to your baby as soon as possible.
- Babies sleep a lot. So maybe this one isn’t advice but mom guilt is real and hard to shake. Remember, at this age, babies still sleep a lot, so you aren’t missing as many hours with them as you think.
For anyone thinking about daycare, I wanted to share some of my favorite (almost) organic daycare products:
Wean Green Glass Cubes
I got the Wean Green Wean Cubes 4oz/120ml Baby Food Glass Containers – Multi Color (Set of 4) to store and serve her homemade baby food. The lid seals tightly, so I freeze and serve her food in these glass cubes. They are the perfect portion size for baby food. I use the Wean Green Cubes for her daycare lunches and even ended up buying another set.
Philips AVENT Natural Glass Bottles
I decided to register for glass bottles for my little one. Although all baby bottles should be BPA free, I felt safer with glass. I knew we would be washing and heating her bottles many, many times and did not love the thought of her eating all of her meals out of plastic bottles. We used the Philips AVENT Natural Glass Bottle, 8 Ounce (Pack of 3), so I can only share feedback on these specifically. The bottles are surprisingly durable, but we did lose a couple to drops on our granite countertops. They were dropped on our hardwood floors many times without any issues though. One of my favorite parts of these bottles is that they only have 4 pieces: lid, nipple, cap and bottle. This is extremely helpful when it comes to cleaning the bottles! We did have issues with a few of the caps on the bottles that sometimes did not screw on tight and would leak.
You will also want to make sure to include different flow nipples on your registry like these Philips Avent Natural Nipple Fast Flow – 4 Pack. The different flows equate to the number of holes in the nipple. We went from newborn to medium to fast flow to sippy. The great part about our bottles was that they transitioned easily to sippy cups with these Avent My Penguin Cup Replacement Soft Spouts – 2 ct.
thinkbaby Sippy Steel Bottle
We had to send sippy cups to daycare when Harper turned 1, and I found these thinkbaby Sippy Steel Bottle, Silver stainless steel sippy cups from thinkbaby. Once she started drinking milk on her own in her highchair, I was worried about her dropping her glass bottle at daycare, and I love these because they are unbreakable!
If you like the stainless steel cups, they also sell the thinkbaby Stainless Steel Baby Bottle, Silver, 9 Ounce as a regular bottle and with a straw thinkbaby Thinkster Steel Bottle, Silver. All of the thinkbaby cups are interchangeable so they grow with your child. We did not use these as our bottles, but we have the sippy cups and straw cups now.
Munchkin Miracle Stainless Steel 360 Cup
The Munchkin Miracle Stainless Steel 360 Sippy Cup, Pink, 10 Ounce is the same amazing 360 cup that normally is plastic but comes in a larger stainless steel cup. She has transitioned to using this cup instead of a sippy cup and loves it. It is insulated so her hands don’t get cold. The cup is also extremely durable along with being dishwasher safe!
aden + anais Bibs
I registered for one pack of aden + anais Zutano Snap Bib 3 Count, Fairground, 1 Pack to start and quickly learned that I needed about 4 more packs with my little drooler. The aden + anais cotton muslin bibs were a lifesaver for us because of their size and thickness. They were the only bibs that could keep up with the drool and keep her chest dry. Our daycare even commented on how amazing her bibs were because they were much larger and more absorbent than the regular cotton bibs.
Tommee Tippee Explora Bibs
We have the Tommee Tippee Explora Easi Roll Bib, Blue and Green 2 Count (Color may vary), and they are great for solid foods. I keep one at home and one at daycare, and they both have held up great. The bibs are super easy to wash after every meal and keep her as clean as possible now that she self feeds. I love that they are sturdy enough to catch foods, but soft enough that it’s still comfortable for her to wear.
Wildkin Nap Mat
Once Harper turned 1, she moved from a Pack ‘n Play to a nap mat for nap time at daycare. I wanted to find a nap mat that was not treated with toxic flame retardants was made of organic materials. I found some organic nap mats that looked great but were over $150. I wasn’t sure how much of a permanent purchase this would be so decided to go with the Wildkin Nap Mat that does not treat their nap mats with flame retardants but is priced at $40 or less. They also have a lot of great patterns to pick from to make sure your child’s is unique.
I also got the matching Wildkin lunch box!
Please share in the comments how you have dealt with the challenges of being a working parent or your thoughts about returning to work. Have you figure out how to get the balance that you need?