I always thought I would return to work after my maternity leave. Why wouldn’t I? It was a no brainer. (I also thought I could “throw” the kid in the back pack and hike the Himalayas….not so much!)
After a fearful start to motherhood which included lactation issues, heightened anxiety and sleeplessness (duh)- 3 months came around and I was gearing up to return to work and low an behold, I was beginning to feel more comfortable in this foreign role as mom. While trying to wrap my head around leaving my baby for a full time job (i did not love) was daunting and I was given the opportunity (family support) not to return to work and that became the “no brainer”.
This isn’t always possible. Moms return to (outside of the house) work in all sorts of ways; Full time, part time, staying at home, daycare, babysitter etc. As I often tell the women in my New Mom’s Groups: “No camp is perfect”. There are often challenges and positive parts to whatever we end up doing. For example, if you are at work all day and come home at the end of the day- you have a different freshness for being home with your little one. You are able to be in that moment with your baby that perhaps staying home all day and trying to get anything else done at home can actually keep you out of all those “baby moments”. While working all day and missing the details of your baby’s day can be painful, some people use skype, a communication log and phone call updates to get them through the day. My friend, who returned to work after her 3+ months off, told her babysitter “please don’t tell me when my baby does something new. I want to discover it for myself. “ I also will add, after a year, back at work, she quit her job and stayed home full time (she had a second baby and gave birth to a second career, since).
There is a lot of new that comes out of being a new mom, of course I haven’t even brought up work/career/identity/identity integration (that’s another blog entry). I also have not mentioned the logistics, including pumping and introducing bottles for breast feeding moms. Often thinking outside the box, can be helpful (think flexible hours and schedules or job sharing, babysitter shares).
No matter what, when deciding to return to work childcare is one of the main issues. I will say that once this is in place (and hopefully somewhat in advance of your first day) the focus then can turn to enjoying your baby, processing your torn feelings of sadness about leaving her or perhaps guilt about feeling excited about returning to your work environment (one you hopefully enjoy). It takes a lot of advance thought to figure out when you’ll pump, how your day is going to look and will your baby be happy that cannot be predicted it has to be experienced.
The New York Times recently had an article about returning to work (and even being pregnant at work) that addresses some of these issues http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/jobs/22career.html. Also a book that I recommend is Nursing Mother Working Mother by Gale Pryor.
Whatever you decide to do, whatever you have to do, you’ll make it work out. It might not be what you had originally in mind, but it might be what evolves as your are paying attention to the details of your decisions. Oh, and by the way- it actually is not a no brainer