Going back to work after being on maternity leave can really challenging. On the one hand, you are kind of looking forward to getting back into your old routine, but on the other, at least for me, I felt like I really didn’t want to go back - even though I knew in my heart that I’d be fine once I got there...and even if I didn’t want to, I had to because we were not in a position to be a one income family from a financial standpoint. I tried to beg and barter with my husband to find a way to make it work but it was a no go.
What makes it so hard? Well the way I see it, there are three sides of it that pose the biggest challenges. 1 - The belief that nobody is as good at taking care of my baby as me; 2 - “I’m going to miss everything…”; and 3 - What if my mommy brain has turned to mush and I’m no longer effective or wanted at my job? Let’s dig into these *mostly irrational* thoughts.
1. The belief that nobody is as good at taking care of my baby as I am
I could fully argue both sides of this still today (1+ year after going back to work). I still feel like I’m the best at taking care of my child and that nobody cares as much about him as me. But now, after having a full-time nanny for the first year and putting him in daycare at 13 months - I feel peace that there are other (non family) people out there that DO love my child and WILL take great care of him while I’m gone. I also can’t overstate the importance of having a tribe around you - and when you have other people you trust that you can call to babysit, come over and play while you tidy the house, or go get your hair done, or whatever it is - there’s such freedom in that and it really can lift a big weight off your shoulders. You’ll start feeling like yourself again - and that is awesome.
2. “I’m going to miss everything...”
I don’t have a helpful rebuttal for this. To this day, I still feel sad when I miss everyday moments while he’s at daycare. I wish I could see every smile, step, every new food he tries, every time he makes a new friend, etc. It sucks. I once told my husband “I’ll never have enough time with him - it’s never going to be enough,” and I still feel that way. It is what it is, if you feel that way you’re not alone. I guess the only thing I can say is that it is okay and you can’t possibly be there for every moment of your child’s life. It’s not realistic, even for parents who work inside the home, and as long as your kids are safe and well cared for - that’s all we can hope for.
3. What if my mommy brain has turned to mush and I’m no longer effective (or wanted!) at my job?
During my maternity leave I felt 50% guilty for putting extra work on my colleagues’ plates while I was out, and 50% nervous that they’d think they didn’t need me anymore after being gone for 12 weeks. I worked at a very small startup at the time, so thank goodness for me, they were very excited to have me back and there was plenty to be done. And you know what I realized very quickly after going back? That I felt more powerful than I ever had at work. I felt more efficient, tougher, and actually BETTER at my job. All of the stupid stuff that used to bog me down or stress me out were suddenly not issues anymore. I actually became a better employee because I felt that if I was spending time away from my baby - I was going to get shit done and it was going to be worth it.
SO! If you’re reading this and heading back to work soon...if you have any of the same hesitations - I hope you found this helpful. My wish is that you’ll feel empowered, confident, and strong (because you are)!