The worst week in a working mom’s life is the first week back at work after having a baby.
I see status updates on social media and I can hear the angst, the emotional tug of war and trepidation in the words as I read them: “I am going back to work and I have to leave my baby.” For many women, going back to work after having a baby is not an option but a financial necessity. It’s like the winter; you know it’s coming but you do everything you can to put it in the back of your mind and enjoy every minute of summer or in this case just being a mom.
My youngest is almost ten years old and I have two children. However, I remember it like it was yesterday. I can tell you it gets easier but I clearly remember the weeks going back after having each baby were some of the most difficult weeks as a working mom.
Why is it so hard? Because you literally jump feet first into two worlds at the same time and it’s as shocking as the baby taking his or her first breath after delivery. You first start at home, getting a baby who does not care about a schedule onto a schedule and out the door. Just to get ready to leave the house, it’s a project management challenge: you are packing diapers, wipes, formula and so much more. You are trying to find clothes that fit, get yourself showered, ready and in work mode. In the meantime, the baby is screaming his or her head off and you just feel like screaming yourself but you hold it together.
You leave your baby at a sitter’s or day care and you feel like you just left your heart on the floor and someone is stomping all over it. You get to work and everything and everyone have moved on without you. You are trying to pick up where you left off but things don’t feel the same.
When you are home, your mind is wandering to work commitments and when you are at work, you are worried about the baby. It’s a huge adjustment. In that moment, all week long you feel like you are horrible at everything you do. You don’t feel like a great mom and you don’t feel like you are doing your job well.
I was blessed to have my mom watch my kids but I will never forget the one day I went to pick up my first born and she cried to go back to mom instead of me. I remember thinking, “I am a failure as a mom.” It’s so emotional, you are so sensitive, and you have no choice but to move forward. However you need to look at the positives and get on your Big Girl Pants and move on. In my case, it meant my child was getting excellent care and I could focus on helping my family move forward financially. It’s not always roses in the garden but it does get better and the only thing that helps is time. Time moves forward.
I will say as each passing day goes on, it gets easier. You start to get into a routine. You find shortcuts with packing and drop things off for the week instead of each day. You start to get a pep in your step at work as your new normal starts getting more familiar and you are doing new things that you find rewarding. That baby begins sleeping in line with the schedule and you still may not be enjoying it, but it gets easier and it becomes routine.
Before you know it, you are taking off work to bring your child to their first day of school. Time flies and that one horrible week becomes a faded memory. You are not just good but excelling at what you do best: being a mom and having a career.
Remember how raw and vulnerable you felt in those early moments? Let’s make sure that every time we see a mom going back to work, we promise to “pay it forward.” Offer them a kind word of encouragement, help out with the kids, send over flowers, dinner or simply send a text saying, “it will get better.” As a coworker or manager, ease the new mom back into her role and help be part of lifting her to the next level and not adding to the stress.
Buzz Worthy Lesson: Going back to work after a baby is tough but getting through that first week is key. Help the hive by taking the sting out of another women’s first week back and giving her a little support in a way the works best for you.