While I was pregnant, the number of people that would ask me if I planned to return to work after my son was born took me by surprise. To be honest, I had never given it a second thought. I knew there would be some adjustments in order to juggle work and life as a new mom, but I thought, “It can’t be that hard.”
Ha! Fast forward to the final day of my maternity leave and I was an anxious mess. How on earth can a new mom get up multiples times in the middle of the night to feed a baby and be expected to show up to work looking somewhat presentable?! Not me. Never going to happen.
But I love my job, and I knew I was going to have to put on my big girl pants and figure it out. Along the way, I learned a few lessons that help me juggle work and life as a new mom.
Create a Schedule
First things first. When you go back to work, you need to create a schedule. Who’s watching the baby? Who will be picking them up? Do you have activities (school, church, gym, etc.) to do before or after work? What does your partner’s schedule look like? The list can seem endless, but it’s important to put together a game plan. You can start with just the basics to get the hang of the new schedule and then start adding to it.
Our biggest scheduling issue was finding time to exercise. My husband and I both enjoy exercising because it helps us to relieve stress. But fitting it into our new schedule took some time. We started slow, only a couple days a week each before we settled on set days. Schedules are a bit of a trial and error process, but you’ll slowly begin to figure out what works for you and your family.
Communication Is Key
I like to err on the side of over communication. Maybe that’s overkill, but communication is important when you’re balancing work and life as a new mom.
The people around you can’t read your mind. If you want something to happen or need something to change, speak up!
Encourage your partner to do the same. You’re both in this parenting thing together, and things will go much smoother if the lines of communication are open.
Our biggest miscommunication was about meals, specifically dinner. I’ve always been the one that cooks. I enjoy it, so it has never been a chore for me until we had a baby. Now I was jealous of the fact that he was able to play with our son while I had to cook dinner. It took me a while to speak up because I had convinced myself we’d only be eating pizza rolls if my husband was in charge of dinner. I finally brought it to him. His solution? You guessed it– he’ll cook dinner too! He was actually excited about the idea. He jumped in headfirst, and as much as I hate to admit it, he’s a decent cook.
Be Honest with Your Employer
This one is important. If you want to balance work and your life as a new mom, then you need to sit down with your employer to discuss your return to work. Maybe your schedule is going to change to accommodate childcare. Maybe you can no longer answer emails or work calls once you leave for the day. Or maybe you’ll be cutting back on your hours. Whatever the situation, you need to be upfront with them about what you can realistically commit to now that you’re a mom. They might not be able to accommodate all of your requests but you can work together to come up with a solution that works for both of you.
If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.
I had sworn up and down prior to my maternity leave that I would be back working the same schedule. Well, I quickly realized that was not going to work. My son’s daycare schedule wasn’t going to work with my old schedule and my husband’s schedule didn’t allow him to help with drop-offs or pickups. I was going to have to cut back on my hours to make it work. Fortunately, my job allowed me to make that change, but I still had to sit down with my supervisor to discuss a new schedule. It wasn’t a given. Remember Communication is Key also applies to your work.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
The old adage it takes a village really is true. If you have a busy work week coming up and can’t make daycare pick up on time, ask your partner if they can help out. If you’re fortunate to have family in the area, consider asking them to watch your little one so you can run errands, do some chores, get a beauty treatment, or whatever else you need to do.
Even a Facebook group can be helpful when you need some quick advice. I’m active in a few different mom groups on Facebook, and I frequently post random questions. What’s a typical nap schedule for a one year old? How do you introduce spicy foods? Is it too soon to start potty training? These groups allow me to gather opinions from moms who are going through the exact same experiences at the exact same time. Bottom line: you don’t have to do everything on your own.
You Don’t Have to Explain Yourself
Everyone has their reasons for returning back to work, but you don’t have to explain them to anyone. Period. You can still be a great mom while maintaining your career. There may be days where you experience a twinge of guilt, but it will pass. A Harvard study showed that children of working moms are just as happy in adulthood as children with stay-at-home moms. Right now, it may be stressful balancing work and being a mom. But in the end, your kids and mine will be just fine.
Returning to work may seem like a daunting endeavor, but you know what else seemed daunting? Childbirth. You made it through that, and you’ll get through this as well. It won’t always be easy, but the reward is indescribable. I promise you, momma, you’ve got this.
Originally published July 2019.