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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Returning to Work after Having a Baby? Remember these 10 Truths

It's been a whirlwind, but I've officially been back to work full-time for the same length of time I was out for maternity leave.

Three months of role and departmental changes, pump-breaks, rushing out the door to get home before my kid goes to sleep.

I'm one of the lucky ones. Meaning that I have a community of support, a team I adore, understanding leadership and even a few mom friends who are in the cradle-trenches alongside me.

Even with these amazing assets stacked in my favor, it has still been a mentally and emotionally strenuous process. But, there have been a few things I've repeated to myself (and prayed) over and over again throughout the last few weeks.

Here are 10 truths to remember when returning to work after having a baby:

1. It will all get done.

This. This is where you'll learn to forgive yourself. If you've been incapable of grace in the past, now's a good time to practice showing it.

Sometimes you just need to turn off the computer, leave the dishes in the sink and get your little self into bed as early as you can because right now, self care doesn't mean wine in the bathtub: it means going to bed when you're tired.

Because the honest truth is that the work, the chores, the cleaning will always be there for you.

2. Your Work will seem easier

This is the good news. If you've just welcomed a new child into the world, you have just come out of the mentally and physically demanding season of the fourth trimester.

Here's the thing: that deadline or task that seems impossible? That intimidating meeting you have to lead? 

Cake-freakin'-walk. 

You've already been in the midst of one of the world's hardest job and one of life's biggest transitions – if you take an honest look at how you're living day-in-and-out, there's really nothing you can't handle.

3. Work will still be there when you get back

It was eight o'clock. I was nursing my son when my cell phone rang. It was someone asking a question that could've waited until I returned to my desk the next day. But I picked it up and immediately regretted how it flustered me while I held my child, straining to hear and communicate over his coos and cries.

"What would've happened if you hadn't answered the phone then?" A colleague asked me the next day.

I stopped. Nothing. Nothing would've happened if I hadn't answered the phone right then. I chose to be available. I chose to let the phone be an instrument I answer to.

The only one forcing me to sacrifice time with my son after hours was myself.

4. This is what top knots and dry shampoo were invented for

Repeat after me: Dove dry shampoo. Make it your best friend, it will save you so much time.

5. You probably don't have time to start your own business

Probably being the operative word.

I had three days left of maternity leave and I was desperately researching t-shirt printing and distributing.

"I know. I'll design t-shirts and sell them through my blog!"

Not a far-fetched idea, of course. But very far-fetched to think that I could somehow manifest enough funds through that enterprise to warrant working from home.
Pump the brakes, sister. 

Maybe some people are cut out for it, or truly have the capacity to create, market and distribute a product or service on their own while looking after an infant. But you are a unicorn human, and probably aren't reading this blog anyway.


6. You are literally not the same person you were before you left

You are stronger, leaner, resilient.

Lean into those changes, full force. What worked for you before – like showering in the morning, packing lunches every day and picking out an outfit seconds before your walk out the door – might not be feasible right now. It's a time to explore and maybe even reinvent and refresh your routines (or give them up all together!).

7. You're not alone (seriously)

You are not the first and only woman who has left their child in the hands of a caretaker to go back to work full-time. Women just like you have done it successfully for a very long time.

Of course no one could ever take your place or communicate with your child the way that you do. But your bond is strong, and those few weeks you showered your little one with love and snuggles are not easily forgotten.

Find a friend who knows the very real struggle. Share, talk, cry and support each other. What you're doing isn't easy. What makes it manageable is knowing that you're not the only one.

8. You're doing this for a reason

It helps to remember the big picture, especially when you arrive at your workplace on that first day. This season, going to work full-time, was the decision that was best for your family at this time.

And while you may be gone for 10 waking hours of the day, and you may not be the attending to his or her immediate needs, you're still providing for them long-term. Being concerned about the well-being of your child's future is good parenting in and of itself.

Don't let anyone tell you differently.

9. When they say "balance" they really mean "prioritize" 

I learned this in graduate school, and to be honest this may be a separate blog post for a later date. But, sometimes life isn't all about balance. Because balance implies that you're orchestrating all the things, on top of working and caring for a new child. 

Having the perfect balance of work, social lives, quality time and the quantifiable time spent tending to your child's practical needs, pet projects, cleaning and staying on top of laundry, sleep or downtime after a long day, you name it, simply isn't possible.

You have to make a point to prioritize what's truly important. Leave the balancing for the gymnasts. At least for now.

10. You might forget something, and that's okay

It's going to happen. You'll miss an email. You'll leave an important pumping piece at work or home. You'll leave your lunch on the kitchen counter. You'll forget a meeting time. You're not impervious to making mistakes.

Take a deep breath. Clear the slate. Hold your head up high. Everyone slips up now and again. It's how you recover from the mistakes that makes you stronger, wiser and an even more incredible example for your child to emulate. 

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

7 Things I Want My Friends to Know About Being a Working Mama

It's been 23 weeks since my little bundle has come into this world. And let me tell ya, it's been 23 weeks of refining work. On my heart, my soul, my boy, my pretty much everything.

And it's been desperately, wonderfully good.

The air is cool, here. Summer has officially kissed us goodbye and our scarves and sweatshirts are calling to us from our closets. Booties on. Pumpkin spice lattes as permanent, steaming extension of our hands.

Basic is as basic does, right?

(For the record, I hate the term "basic" -- if something is good it's good. Just me? Mmkay.)

The point is, the season is changing. And we are too. With the new season comes a new role, new thoughts, new feelings swirling around. Here's what I want my friends to know about being a working mama:

We're a little more fragile these days

Maybe it's the lack of sleep. Or the breast-feeding hormones. Or that we feel as though we're under scrutiny for the choices we make with our children. Or the fact that our bodies didn't bounce back the way we thought they would. 

Or the fact that a tiny human life is dependent upon us for everything.

But words cut a little deeper, somehow. What once were casual disagreements have the potential to start social wars.

Whatever the case, our hearts are a little more tender.

At the Same Time We Feel like We can Do anything

We send emails while we nurse. We come home from a 10-hour work day and pick up right where we left off: with laundry, with doctors appointments, with changing diapers and bath time.The mental load is real, and we carry it in our pump bags along with with what our work schedules need from us.

It's incredibly empowering. You truly don't know what you're capable of until you're pushed to your absolute limit and then asked to take 20 more steps forward. 

It's easy to feel left out

Whether at home, the office or in social circles, sometimes we may feel about 30 steps behind everyone else. If we're new at this whole motherhood enterprise, we may have made the mistake of thinking that life would settle back down and that everything would return to normal. 

But the truth is, having a baby, adding another human to your family, means life will never be the same. It's a powerful blessing that takes hold of your attention, your goals, your day-to-day. Things like nights out used to fold in easily to busy weeks.

Now they require more effort. Sometimes that effort is there. And sometimes, mama's just gotta fall asleep on the couch at 9:30 and call it a day.


I want you to come over, but I don't want to clean my house

Plain and simple. "Adult time," as a friend calls it, happens between the hours of 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. If I have to choose between connecting with my husband and sweeping the kitchen floor, which do you think I'm going to choose? Which is more meaningful at the end of the day?

While it feels good to roll up your sleeves and have a job that has a finite start and end, I don't want to be ruled by what I should be doing. 

We don't mean to flock to our new mom friends

We maybe even made a mini note to ourselves when friends who had babies before us started disappearing from girls night (or disappearing all together) that would never be us.

We didn't know what we didn't know. Sometimes it's nice to have a confidant, a person in the trenches alongside you who you don't have to explain anything to, they just know.

That doesn't mean we value anyone in any other life stage any less. Pinky promise.

We're Trying to Balance being authentic without complaining 

Here's the thing: being a working mom isn't hard, but it's not easy.

Just like everything else with motherhood, there's a contradiction to everything. It's hard to find a line between being completely honest with how we're feeling while at the same time knowing that there are women out there just like us who would give anything to be where we are.

Because this season of life is completely wonderful, but like with any refining work, it's not without its challenges.  

You Can Do it, Too

Maybe we've been complaining too much. Maybe the media portrays working moms as frazzled, high-strung, frizzy haired messes. And maybe the stereotype fits us as snug as a pair of yoga pants. But however much you hear how difficult it is, know that if this is a step you want to take in your life ahead, we're totally here for you.

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