The reason I went back to work was ...
I've never had the option not to work, either financially or intellectually. I am our family's primary wage earner. I went back to work after 9 weeks. I had started a new job when I was 8 months pregnant, so I didn't feel like I could take the whole twelve weeks. In some ways, I think of my story as what it can be like when your employer is reasonable and family-friendly. After all, this is a place that hired a woman who was 8 months pregnant.
For me, the transition back to work was ...
I was pretty worried about how emotional I would be on my first day back. I had bonded really well and was enjoying my maternity leave very much; not to mention, I knew diving into an entirely new job would require my best attentions. But as the day (and weeks and months) progressed, I realized I felt just fine. It was actually quite a shock to realize I didn't feel devastated, and I felt kind of bad about myself and wondered what it meant about me as a mom. I'd always heard that returning to work would be so hard.
My mom came to town to take care of my baby, and she stayed until he was 6 months old. I think having her there made the transition so much easier. I trusted her as much as I trusted myself, so I didn't feel guilty or upset while I was at work.
For me, work/life balance has always seemed easy. I think I'm lucky in many respects. I have a 5 minute commute, my boss was a working mom and was very understanding about my pumping needs, and my workplace is not a place where people tend to burn the midnight oil (this doesn't mean we don't work hard). But I also made a choice not to feel guilty. After all, no one was asking my husband if he felt bad being away from our son during the day. And it wouldn't have occurred to him to feel bad. I'm the primary bread winner in our household; why should I add to the stress of that with the stress of other people's expectations?
I work for a children's media company, and I also think their approach to family is a big part of what made life easy for me. I wish more places could work this way. You don't need people to work 60 hour weeks to get the best out of them. Truly. And providing a pumping room that isn't a bathroom will earn you more loyalty than you can imagine.
- Your comfort with working will be in direct correlation to your comfort with your child care situation, so work to find something that you feel good about. Trust your instincts about caregivers; don't settle for somewhere you think sounds good, but don't feel 100% sure about in your gut, even if you don't know why. Good child care makes all the difference.
- Don't worry about how you think you should feel; worry about how you do feel. It's okay (and not that uncommon) to find it's easy to go back to work.
- Life will be much easier if you can compartmentalize. I think of work when at work, and family when at home.
When I went back to work, my oldest child was age ...
The hardest thing about going back to work was ...
Learning I could be apart from my baby and still exist. That's really how it felt at first!
The most rewarding thing about going back was ...
So much! I really love my life and can't imagine it any other way. (I probably said it better here: http://fencetalk.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/friday-confession-i-dont-juggle/).