Working Mama Life

Today marks one year since I returned to work after having Ariana. I was so lucky to be able to take 12 weeks off and be home with my newborn, even if it still didn't feel long enough.

Maternity leave was certainly a head trip in many ways. After having a career for 11 years, it was very difficult to give up the routines (and control, let's be real) I was used to. On top of the adjustment of caring for a newborn and physically recovering myself, it was also an adjustment to be home all day, forgetting what day or time it is, and living in that two- to three-hour window. By the time my leave was winding down, it was hard having to imagine going back to some semblance of my "old" life.

I'm grateful to have a boss who allowed me to ease back in the week before I officially returned by working from home and sifting through nearly 12 weeks of emails.

I still remember this day last year - getting up early and doing my morning routine with Ariana, but this time coupled with putting on work clothes for the first time since September. Visiting with my mom, who was babysitting for the day. Knowing that my baby was at my house helped me so much. I was already looking forward to going home for lunch and nursing her and cuddling with her. The drive to work felt the same, yet different. My boss and coworkers greeted me (and my purse full of photos and my pump backpack and bag full of supplies) and welcomed me back. My office was decorated with my Christmas tree and garland, and there were new picture frames on my desk with Ariana's photos already in them. It started to feel good to be back.

My last day of leave was emotionally difficult, as I think every working mother will tell you. I had a hair cut scheduled, and I canceled it because I wanted nothing more than to spend every second with my baby before we didn't have our days together anymore. I think we stayed in our pajamas until at least lunch time, and we snuggled as much as she would let me. 

I've learned many things about maternity leave in the United States both during my own leave and after returning to work. I still don't know it all, but I know that I wish it were easier and somehow more accommodating. Did I love having to pay into my own short-term disability plan in order to get partially paid leave? No. Was it confusing as hell? Absolutely. Did I love having to use sick and vacation time to get paid? No. Am I grateful that I had it in place? Absolutely.

In my first month or so back at work, I discovered and began following The Returnity Project. Reading both similar and completely different stories on my own helped me so much in those days of figuring out yet another new routine and my place in it all.

It took a while to find a new rhythm and figure out how to make time for everything. Sometimes I joke that coming to work is my 'me time', and I'm not sure if that's sad. Sometimes I miss my child the entire day, and sometimes I'm grateful for the break. I am excited at the end of every day to go home and feed her dinner, play with her and put her to bed. I still haven't figured out how to add my gym routine back into the mix on a regular basis. (I think I've made it to my favorite yoga class 10 times in the past 14 months.) Adding in errands during the week feels like a mental game of Tetris.

Pumping at work was always interesting, but I'm grateful to have an office with a door that locks, so I could stay at my own desk in my own space, rather than being delegated to a closet or empty space. Washing pump parts in my building's kitchen sink twice or three times a day was not fun, although everyone was always supportive. I don't have to travel very often, or very far, but there were a few times my little backpack got toted along.

One of the biggest things is how my perspective has shifted in the past year. It's a little easier now for me to switch off when I am not at work, and I'm a little better at boundaries when I need to be in mom-mode. Dividing my time is not the easiest, but when she needs me, that's most important.

I certainly miss those early days, where I got to spend all day with Ariana, but now that it's been a year since returning to work, I can say I'm glad I'm back, and I'm grateful for the village that helps us.

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