Twelve months ago, I became a working mom while my tiny baby was just six weeks old. I went back to work six weeks after pushing a human out of my body—while wearing an adult diaper, still functioning on two hours of sleep and figuring out what the heck I was doing (and for the record, I still am—minus the adult diaper).
Fortunately, my situation was better than most who are forced back into the workforce too early. I got to work from home half of the time and my (former) employer (that I love and appreciate dearly!) was so supportive and accommodating. I have had clients hold my baby during meetings when childcare wasn’t available, have been allowed breaks to pump, and have been to conferences where there’s a dedicated mother’s room for nursing/pumping mothers (shout out to Hack the Gap, BushCON and MIMA Summit). These are all good things, but…
Being a mom is still reallllly hard. And being a working mom has its own special set of challenges. In the past year (+ 6 weeks, but who’s counting) here’s what I’ve learned as a working mom:
- Six weeks is way too soon to leave your baby to go back to work. Some days I could literally not think about anything else other my baby and my body physically ached for her. Work production was at a bare minimum, and my anxiety was through the roof.
- Speaking of anxiety—it has become my enemy. I need to get it all done. Am I doing this right? Do I even know what I’m doing? Is this stupid? I think this is stupid. Good news: reflection and meditation have become my new best friends. Everything will get done. Everything will be alright. You know what you’re doing, and you’re doing great.
- Being a working mom is hard. Having a new human forced me to juggle being a mom, a partner, an employee, a friend, and a citizen of the world—all while trying to remember to be kind to myself and my body. I definitely dropped a few balls along the way.
- Guilt like whoa. Most of the past year has been spent fighting mom guilt. A work happy hour = guilt. A night out with my partner or friends = guilt. Taking two extra minutes in the bathroom in the morning = guilt. My vow for the next year is to drop the guilt. I work, and you know what? I love it. There, I said it. I’m a better mom because I’m a working mom and I refuse to feel guilty about that.
- Pumping is for the birds. In the last year, I’ve pumped roughly 1,000 times. In a supply closet, bathroom stall, coat closet, phone booth, bus, behind a tree, in my car, and in a barn. All of it was time-consuming, some of it was difficult, and none of it was fun.
- Balancing career goals with parenting goals is weird and hard and confusing. Parenting goals are easy—you want to raise a well-adjusted human who feels loved and empowered. Career goals, on the other hand, are not always clear cut. And finding career goals that don’t interfere with your parenting goals? That is tough.
- The support of other moms, coworkers, friends and family was absolutely critical to my survival. It takes a village—really.
- We need paid leave in this country. For so many reasons, including better health of moms, babies, families, employers and even the economy as a whole. Here’s some reading materials for you if you’re not convinced.
- No one can do it all and no one should have to. Learn to ask for help, whether at home or at work.
- I like to work and I like being a mom and that’s ok and everything will be ok.
Being a working mom has made me a better mom, but it’s also made me a better worker. It’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also been the most rewarding.
It’s going to be better than ok, it’s going to be great.