So, as of Monday, I’m officially a working mom. I’ve got my bags and bags of stuff that I carry with me to the office every day, the largest of which is my pumping bag so I can collect all the milk for Baby B during the day and she can eat it. I’ve got a desk which is newly decorated with photos of my little girl because it’s been shown to be beneficial for the production of milk, and a tiny baby orchid that my sister gave me to take care of. I’ve restocked my lunch bag with the cutlery that I took out to wash when I came home before baby was born, and I’ve finally been able to flip the pages on my calendar at work so that they no longer read, “February”. And today? Today I’m doing fine.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. The worst for me were the last few weeks before I went back to work. As someone who worries a lot, that’s what I did. I worried. Would I have time to prepare myself and make sure I was in the very best place mentally to go back to work? Would I have all the things I needed? Would my baby have someone to care for her? The answer to all those ended up being “yes”, but in an unfortunate coincidence that was not the fault of anyone involved, my last weekdays at home were spent in a whirlwind surrounding a family wedding. The date for the wedding had been long known, but because of when B was born, it happened that I would go back to work the Monday after it all happened. And with so many family members in town for the wedding, things got crazy. We were not on a normal schedule from Wednesday through Saturday, and I wish I could say that I just rolled with the punches, but there was a lot of hand-wringing on my part.
And while we’ve got medium-term care worked out for her over the summer, the specter of “unknown future” hangs over us again because we need to find full-time care for baby girl this fall, or else hope that we get off the daycare waitlist, though every passing month with no communication makes it feel like that might be a pipe dream. It doesn’t help that the DC area has a major shortage in daycare providers, and that the cost of living in this area nearly requires both members of a household to work if they want to maintain a certain level of lifestyle, or to afford a home.
I cried that first day giving my baby girl to my mom to look after her. Even though my little one had been babysat for hours at a time in the past. Even though in my head I knew I wanted to keep working, that I have professional goals and dreams. That I want the financial security that comes with having my own job and income stream, and the future security of retirement funds and government pension. Knowing that I want to write an article that gets published in one of the professional journals, and I want to influence policy in my workplace. And also knowing that I am giving my baby girl the example of a working mother will be better for her in the end.
We are still figuring things out. Until such a time as we are not in the summer (anyone who says they can maintain a regular schedule with kids during the summer is either SUPER SCHEDULED or delusional) and we have regular, consistent and ongoing care for Baby B, things are going to feel a little loosey-goosey. But I’m back. I’m using my brain and back on the professional ladder. It may be hard now, but it will be worth it in the end.
So – are any of you out there working moms? What tips or strategies can you share? Or did you have a mom who worked? What do you remember the most about that?