In the last week before the end of my maternity leave I took the Munchkin in to the day care for a couple hours each day to support her “gradual entry”. I wish I had a gradual re-entry to help ease into my career after maternity leave. Instead, I spent the Munchkin’s gradual entry time at day care at the mall updating my professional wardrobe. Taking the full year of maternity leave, I didn’t realize how long it had been since I wore my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. Due to seasonality and the need for stretchy maternity clothes, it had been two years since I wore spring clothes at work.
I remember my first day back after maternity leave being a Monday and I had to wake up before 5am to nurse the crying baby, put the baby back to sleep, and then start my morning routine. Many tears were shed that morning (mainly my own), but my little family survived the dreaded first day “after maternity leave”.
Day Care and the Mom Guilt
Our day care staff were all amazing and we didn’t have to worry about the Munchkin’s needs being met. After maternity leave ended, I needed to learn to manage all of the mom-guilt I was feeling.
In the first two months back at work, the Munchkin refused to nap at day care. This meant, as a one year old, she was awake from 7am to 5:30pm. On the drive home from day care she’d constantly be falling asleep. This lack of seriously required sleep caused mom-guilt.
When the Munchkin refused to nap at day care people kept telling me that “next time” I needed to start spending more time away from the baby closer to going back to work so that after maternity leave “next time” it will be better. To me that sounds practical, but I also know that after maternity leave ends, my daily time allowance goes from spending all day with the baby to spending less than 2 hours of quality time with the baby. I would go the “cold turkey” route again in a heartbeat. If there’s a choice between time with my child and time to myself, the decision is easy.
Post Maternity Leave Office Routine
After maternity leave, I had to still supply the Munchkin with milk for her time at day care. This meant I had to pump at work and I alerted my manager of this a month or two before I returned so that I could have a place to pump in private. Pumping at work added another layer of complexity to determining my post-maternity leave office routine. It was a stressful time, settling in to this new office routine of pumping milk instead of grabbing a coffee or fresh air. I had also received a promotion so I was starting in a more advanced position and needed to catch up on all of the activities over the past year.
Mom Brain, the Good Kind
I think we’ve all heard someone say “pregnancy brain” but after I became a mom I heard “mom brain” a lot. This is an extremely demeaning term that we need to banish from our vocabs. This actually had me worried that maybe I’d have a lag and it would take my brain time to switch to analytical mood, but that wasn’t the case. In my opinion, society underestimates the work of parents in supporting and keeping an infant alive and thriving. When parenting, you are constantly making decisions and judgement calls, then immediately implementing those decisions and then moving to the next challenge. Now that I’ve been back at work a while I think I’m a more efficient employee and I second guess myself less, which I think is due to my other full-time job of being a parent.
Surviving and Thriving After Maternity Leave
I’ve now been back to work for over a year and my little family is surviving and thriving. I’m no longer pumping at work and I’m really enjoying being back in the office working. Having a career allows me to pursue my skills and passions and is a key piece of my identity.
Thanks for reading!