It’s been nearly a year since my previous company decided to close its doors. It was a bittersweet time, but I look on the last year as a hidden blessing. I got to rest through the morning sickness and spend more time with Sofia (a wonderful thing since it would be the last few months that she’d be my only baby). I took driving lessons again (long story) and finally got my driver’s license! I also started this blog with my sister—something we’d been thinking of doing for a long time but just never had the time to set up. Still, I have to admit I sat up in bed some nights worrying over my return to work once my disability insurance and Paid Family Leave ran out. It was both a matter of if and when. If I got the job—would it be the right job? Would I be able to find it right away? Or would I have to wait a long time before the right offer came along? My mom, of course, said it best when she advised me to stop worrying and instead begin feeling grateful for the job I would eventually get, which she believed would be the right one.
I know some are asking: why not stay home with the kids instead? The answer is never easy. Part of it is finances, being able to save for our kids’ futures, and the kind of lifestyle we want to have. We want to be able to travel and give the kids the kinds of experiences my parents gave me when I was growing up. If we have the opportunity to get them through college without having to pay it back the rest of their lives, why not? Extracurricular activities like music, art, martial arts and dance not offered by schools are also something we want them to be a part of. But, in addition to all that, I enjoy being in a work environment. I like the collaboration, the challenges. I feel a sense of satisfaction when something that was conceptual turns into something real.
My job searches B.C. (Before Children) were pretty much about getting a bigger salary and a better title. When I came back from maternity leave the first time, I was happy to have my job back and continued where I’d left off. This time, I wanted my return to work to center around that ever-elusive work-life balance. I didn’t want to take a step back from where I was, but I wasn’t willing to sacrifice family time, either. Knowing now how difficult it is to work long hours and travel while nursing, I could be more deliberate in choosing a job that supported the home life I wanted—not just monetarily, but holistically. Having enough time off not just for vacations but also for those (many) days when your kids come home with the daycare cough or sniffle. Getting a flex schedule in order to beat the rush hour commute. Not having to start thinking about dinner at 7pm when we’re all cranky and hangry and getting the kids to bed late. Asking about the possibility of telecommuting, even once a week. These were things I would never have asked for before.
I think sometimes, as moms, we feel almost apologetic for not being able to commit as much time to work as others do. We feel guilt on both sides: at work and at home. So, when it comes to a question of compensation, we’re uncomfortable asking for more unless we’ve somehow proved ourselves more than capable, even if we’re killing ourselves to do it. But, I think it’s important that we take a step back and consider how much we have accomplished, and how much our experience is worth—not just at work but at home. Organization? I figure out meals and schedule playdates, parties, lessons while helping to make sure the house doesn’t look like a tornado’s blown through it. Communication? I translate toddler-ese and coordinate with my husband, sitter/nanny/helpful family members. Negotiation? Getting a four-year-old to wear a warm enough jacket in winter when she thinks she can get by with a Queen Elsa dress (Queen Elsa doesn’t wear a coat, I mean…) and to eat enough of her meal before getting dessert beats asking for a raise or promotion any day. Creativity? Keeping said toddler entertained while waiting in line for something. We juggle a lot, ladies, and that should never be discounted. If anything, motherhood shows we can handle more, not less.
So, I will soon be back at work. I’m happy to say I found a place that is family-friendly, and that has offered me enough flexibility in my schedule to ease my anxiety over being away from home again. They are even willing to wait a few months until I’m comfortable putting my son in daycare. The decision to return to work has been made infinitely easier knowing that my home life won’t be thrown for a complete loop. It’ll still take some adjustment, I’m sure, but I’m confident things will work out well.
What have your return to work experiences been? What did you find worked best for you and what would you have done differently? Curious minds want to know!