The Transition Back to Work After Maternity Leave

I am a mom to a 20 month old toddler, I took a 14 month maternity leave and am back to work full time. I received a lot of advice from my mom friends, the internet and my own mother about returning to work. I asked about meal planning, logistics, and emotions. I of course, received different advice and opinions from everyone, such as life. I appreciate them all. Below are some key things that I experienced that I wish I knew about before returning back to work.

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You will feel excitement

You might feel excited to go back to work. I sure did. I was excited to wear outside clothes all day, shower daily, have an actual ‘lunch break’ and use my pre baby skills. Embrace and celebrate this feeling of excitement. Let it overcome you because you deserve to feel excited. You’ve done an amazing thing raising your tiny human and keeping him/her alive. You deserve to feel good about this!

Mom guilt is brutal

I experienced mom guilt in full force during the first week that my son attended daycare. I was able to get him into part time daycare for 3 weeks before I went back to work. This was extremely helpful. The mom guilt hit hard and fast after 3 days of daycare and I didn’t know how to react to it. I was a complete mess and I felt like I owed him something for my “betrayal”. This emotion crippled me for days. I was really unable to see past it and it left me feeling panicked and out of control.

You will cry a lot and that’s ok

The crying started at around 6 months postpartum. I realized that I was half way done my maternity leave and was that much closer to having to leave my baby and return to work, I cried. When I interviewed daycare’s, I cried. When I got the call that it was our turn and we officially got into the top daycare of my choice. I celebrated for about 5 mins, then I cried so hard. Pretty much every day during the week leading up to my son’s first day of daycare, I cried. The first week of part time daycare, Wow, did I cry. I have to hand it to the mom’s that go back to work on the same day as their child’s first day of daycare. I don’t know how you manage to get through the day without sobbing onto the shoulder of the closest co-worker.

The heavy sadness kicked in at around week 3 back to work. I had to hold back tears multiple times a day at work and seriously questioned whether I could be a working mom. It’s hard to describe the type of sadness during that time. It was a sort of doom; ‘This is what my life is now’. Realizing that yes, I’m going to miss out on a huge portion of my kid’s life every day.

Constant conflicting emotions

Emotions are a tricky business in general and even more so when you are feeling them for yourself and for your baby. It’s like I’m living my life and I’m feeling all the emotions that my baby toddler is feeling to. It’s exhausting, especially on this back to work journey. I’m happy to have some ‘me time’, but I’m sad to lose time with baby. I’m worried about the logistical nightmare of getting him and myself ready in the morning and I am grateful that I have a daycare close by. I feel so much sadness about leaving my baby in the arms of a stranger, but I feel proud when he comes home having learned something new.

You will do your job differently/better

Seriously Mama’s, we grew and kept a human alive for 12 months (or however old you baby is now) we are amazing, strong and powerful! We can conquer any task laid out in front of us. Those complex sales reports, no problem! I can do them while thinking about what I’m going to make for dinner. The board meeting presentation, sure! I am immune to embarrassment, I’ve gone shopping un-showered, with two different shoes on and baby puke all down the front of my shirt. All those little things that used to stress me out? They just roll right off my back now because I know I’m here for a bigger reason. I’m here so my kid can get a new wardrobe next season and so I can stash a bit of money away to help with secondary education if he so chooses to go that way. I’m here because this fulfills me and I’m kicking ass at it!

There’s no such thing as balance

I’m going to go ahead and call bullshit on this work life balance with a baby/toddler nonsense. There is no such thing because there is just not enough hours in the day or arms on our bodies. You just have to make it work in the best way you can. Let’s stop putting pressure on ourselves to have it all figured out. Right now I don’t think it’s possible to have the right balance of time for self care, family, friends, work and your spouse. This season is called chaos.

Your spouse may struggle too 

A couple weeks after I return to work I looked around and realized the relationship with my husband was strained. He was going through a transition of his own that I hadn’t even noticed. The way our mornings worked out meant that he was now responsible for getting breakfast ready for himself and my toddler while I brushed my teeth, hair, got dressed and slapped some makeup on my face (15mins). On top of that he was now an equal participant in all of the household chores. All the stuff that I just ‘took care of’ while I was at home full time. As much as I planned for My emotional journey and my toddlers new experiences, I completely forgot to consider the major change for my husband. Give yourself and your spouse grace to breath through this transition. Just like when your little one came into your life, returning to work is a big adjustment for everyone.

Learn to let go 

Throughout our lives there are many seasons and letting go is part of every one. In this transition I had to learn to let go of a lot. Letting go of control over my baby was and still is my biggest hurdle. My daycare will tell me what he ate, when he slept and what time and type his diaper changes were, I know a lot of daycare’s don’t do this. My biggest challenge is just not knowing what my kid does all day! He can’t talk yet, so when I ask him ‘What did you do today at daycare?’ “Babababa” is all I get back. I have no advice on how to deal with letting go. I’m still struggling with it.

Your baby will Thrive 

My toddler has grown into a communicative, empathetic version of himself. He has learned so much that I wouldn’t even know how to teach him. He is more vocal and his physical strength is developing by the day. He is also communicating more in general. He’s adjusted so well and a lot faster than I have. He naps like a champ at daycare, sometimes even surprising the teachers. He is making his own connections and developing is own relationships.

I never imagined going back to work after maternity leave would be this hard. I also never thought that I would be able to handle so much at once. I am one of many practicing this juggling act of a working mama. 

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