Whether your only option was to spend two short weeks with your newborn or you were able to take a six-month break, going back to work after maternity leave is a tough transition. There’s the excitement of getting dressed, having adult conversations, and eating lunch without interruption that makes you so happy. And then there’s the sadness of leaving your baby in another person’s care and the inevitable worry that comes with it.
It doesn’t matter if you have to work, you want to work, you love your job, or you hate your job. It’s hard. Even if you love your job and work for a company that is flexible with working parents, like I do, it’s hard.
I remember coming back after four months off with my first son. On my first day I was greeted by flowers and pastries at my desk and so many welcoming faces that I hadn’t seen since I’d waddled out the door months prior. I loved being in the bright, happy office, catching up with friends and teammates. I felt a new sense of enthusiasm and excitement for my job. I also felt incredibly sad. I missed him. After months of constant touch and closeness, I didn’t just miss him, I physically craved his warm, wriggly little body.
I called my mom crying on lunch breaks, asking how I would ever be OK with leaving my firstborn. I texted my nanny for updates every hour. I scrolled through pictures of him on my phone while I pumped. The minute the clock hit five, I dashed out the door and ran to the bus to get home to see him. After a few days, the lunch-break tears stopped, but weeks later I still couldn’t shake feeling conflicted as I settled into my new working-mom role. I loved my job and I loved my baby, and I couldn’t figure out how to be OK with both.
After work one day, I joined a group of editors for a much-anticipated movie screening. Two and a half years later, I have no idea what movie we saw, but I remember the exact conversation I had with POPSUGAR founder and President Lisa Sugar as we walked to the theater. At the time she had three young children, one almost the exact same age as mine, and, obviously, an extremely successful career. She asked me about the baby and how it was going being back at work. I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings, so I’m sure it was obvious in my response that it had been difficult for me.
Lisa’s answer was simple: some days you’ll wish you were home with your kids, and some days you’ll be so glad to be in the office.
That’s it. It wasn’t a magic solution to the daily dilemmas of a working mother. It wasn’t even necessarily advice. But it was just what I needed. An acknowledgment that it’s all OK. Some days you’ll want to be cuddled up with your babies, and some days you’ll want to sit in front of a computer without a dirty diaper in sight. There will be days you wish you were at the park instead of at your desk and days you can’t get out the door and into the office fast enough. It’s normal. It’s not easy and you might not ever feel like it is, but Lisa’s candid words are a great reminder. It’s normal. And it’s OK.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim