It was nearly three years ago now, but I remember the exact day I went back to work after maternity leave. It was the very first time I was leaving my little girl for an entire day, after being fortunate to spend 15 weeks at home with her. I remember dropping her off at daycare for the first time – a provider I now know and love – but at the time, she was new to me too. I remember that I made a point to not put makeup on before dropping her off – that I knew the tears would flow and I’d just have to fix it in the car anyway. I remember so much of that first day, and how relieved I was when it was over and I got to see Abbie again.
For a few new moms I know, that day is coming up fast. In fact, one of my best friends returns to work today. As I was thinking of her this weekend, likely soaking in every moment she can with her little boy, I thought of all the things I’d want to tell her, all the things I wish I’d known before I went back to work.
So, to the new mom going back to work:
The first day? No matter what you do, it’s going to be hard, and hard in ways you don’t expect. You might cry when you leave for work. You might get frustrated with the pump and want to throw it out the window. You might be distracted and not able to concentrate on anything. You might feel relieved, able to go the bathroom without an audience and drink a hot cup of coffee. You might miss the midday naps and snuggles, and you might demand pictures all day long. ALL of those things are okay.
Going back to work after maternity leave, especially with your first child, is a transition. While your job has stayed the same, you haven’t. You are still the same person, but with the added role of mother. You may take a little while to find your balance. That’s okay. It will get easier.
There will be times that you think you can’t do it anymore, that you’re losing it. When that happens, know it’s okay – and ask for help. Call a friend to vent. Talk to your family. Ask others for advice to solve the issues you’re facing. If you need a break? Ask for it. There is nothing wrong with taking a few minutes for yourself.
There may be people in our life that judge you or your choice to return to work. Don’t let them. I have found that we as women are our own biggest critics. In fact, the most negativity I’ve personally seen in the workplace toward new moms doesn’t come from men – it comes from other women. Find women who support your choices. Find women who will lift you up and help you when you need it. These are the women you need in your life.
People may say things about your decision to return to work. Trust your gut in your own decision, because honestly, it’s none of their business. Some moms stay home, some work outside the home, and some work in the home. All of these choices are fine, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Your little one? They’ll be just fine. I know you wonder if they’ll eat enough, if they’ll be cuddled enough, if they’ll sleep enough without you there. Trust in the choice of who you’ve decided to care for them during the day. You may be lucky, and that person is family. You may have picked a center or home daycare, or maybe a nanny. Trust your gut in these instances. Make sure you can check on your child at any time. Read the reports they give at the end of the day, and ask questions if you need to. Trust your gut. If you do that, your child will be just fine. In fact, they’ll thrive.
And remember at the end of the day, you’re coming home to them. You’re setting an example that you can be yourself, that you can provide for them, and that you’re still their mom. Keep in mind that their smile at the end of your workday is the sweetest moment of all, and remember they will always know who Mommy is.