As I sat at home with my 3 month old, one month before going back to work, I vacillated between total bliss and immense sadness and guilt at the thought of leaving him. I was a rollercoaster of emotions and the anxiety of going back to work was overwhelming.
And then my first week at work came and went, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. What made it ok was quickly learning and adopting a set of working mommy mindsets and practices. I found this helped me blend my two worlds together, in a way that worked for me and my family. Here’s what got me through the last year as a new working momma, and what I have integrated into my new working self.
Educate your colleagues.
If you were like me - available 24/7 for my colleagues and clients with no boundaries on my time - coming back to work post-baby required “training” my colleagues and clients on my new working hours. For me, that meant preserving 6am – 8am in the morning and 5pm - 8pm in the evening to be with my son during the week. And I mean 100% with my son – totally present, in it and not doing work email or calls. This meant leaving the office at a set time each day and getting back online when he was in bed to finish my work. While these boundaries were tested the week I got back, I held them firm and made sure I only deviated from it for rare and important occasions. Soon, everyone got used to my new working norm and respected it, as well as me for prioritizing my family.
You don’t say you’re sorry when you have to take time off because of a knee surgery, so you certainly don’t need to apologize for birthing and raising a little human. While reality clearly changes when you have a baby, I noticed myself feeling guilty and uneasy as I tried to embrace this new reality. I noticed the pleaser, go-getter part of me felt I had to apologize for having to pump between meetings, or leave at a certain time each day. I assumed my colleagues were disappointed by the new mommy-me, when really, I just had to reset expectations with myself. So I quickly figured out the new work schedule I needed to be the mom I wanted to be, and then lived by this new norm. Without asking for permission or forgiveness. And without feeling guilty.
Humble thyself on weekday workouts
This was a big one for me, as I was used to working out regularly, pre-baby. Once I went back to work, I found it virtually impossible to get a weekday workout in without jeopardizing time with my son or an extra hour of much needed sleep – both things I was not willing to do. Others may have a different set-up, approach or level of discipline and can make it work. But for me, being a working mom meant letting go of the weekday workouts and giving myself the space to get into a new routine of being a full-time working mom.
Embrace your new working mommy superpowers
I was someone who prided myself on being really efficient, but I’ve taken that to a whole new level. As my mommy skills developed, my work skills improved as well. Now, my work is laser focused on all of the things that will help me have the highest impact possible. I don’t get lost re’doing, overthinking or second guessing my work. My presentations are more succinct, and confident and the self-doubt I used to have around facilitating in front of senior clients flew out the window. I also used to fall into a lone wolf mentality, taking on more work than I should, and not asking for help. I quickly realized that this was no longer a good way for me to work, so I started to lean into developing others which created more space for me to focus on the more critical things that only I could do.
Be open to new possibilities
While on maternity leave, my small, family-like company was acquired by a much bigger organization. So I came back to a new working world, one that required more travel and other compromises on family time that I wasn’t willing to make. While this was unsettling, I wasn’t prepared to think of exploring anything else because I loved my colleagues and my work. And then my favorite client offered me a full-time role working for them, doing the work I love to do, working closer to home, and with no travel obligations and a family-friendly culture to top it off. It was something I never would have explored before I had my son, but given my new reality, it was the perfect fit. Now I have a balance in my life that brings me more fulfillment on both the work and home-front.