I recently visited my cousin who had an adorable baby girl. On my last day there, she was preparing to return to work for the first time since having her daughter. When I heard her thoughts and fears, I was reminded of how similarly I felt, even though it was several years previous.
Nothing provoked more guilt and self-doubt than my decision to return to work outside the home. I wish I could turn back time and share all that I have learned with my younger self.
If you are preparing to return to work after baby, it is completely normal to be paralyzed by mom guilt, regret the day you made the decision to keep your job and feel completely torn between not wanting to leave your baby and running out the door for some adult conversation. It’s all normal and we’ve all been there.
Normal Thought 1: Why did I have/adopt children only to leave them to be raised by someone else?
I remember leaving our daughter, who had been adopted three months previous, at daycare the first day. I drove away thinking “Three years of paperwork, fingerprints and homestudies and I left her to be raised by someone else.” This is obviously not true. You are probably at work 40 hours a week and home for so much more. Even when you are at work, you are still mothering. You are thinking about your baby, checking in, wondering how she is doing. It’s totally normal to feel like returning to work means you are leaving your child to be raised by strangers, but they are a partner in your parenting, not a replacement.
Normal Thought 2: They (or I) will not survive if I am gone for that long.
The mother/child bond is amazing. Even in our adoption process, I was strongly attached to my children early on. When I left daycare, I was convinced that my daughter was crying for hours on end, curled up in the fetal position and in complete distress in my absence. The reality was that drop off was hard, but after that she was engaged in sensory activities, learning to play and get along with others. Eventually, I was so busy at work, the obsessive thoughts about our demise were more passing than prevalent. It’s the hardest thing in the world, but it will become routine.
Normal Thought 3: I can’t do this.
New routines, a busy and hurried morning, feeling drained at the end of the day — everything about returning to work is new and overwhelming. It’s okay to have days (or weeks) where you say to yourself, “I can’t do this for one more day.” Adjusting to the new routine of being a mom, being a single mom, a mom and wife and/or a working mom means there are new routines and schedules for everyone and that can be exhausting and completely nerve-wracking. Just stay the course, as new routines become old, you will feel more confident and competent.
Not every mom can, will or should return to work. Plenty of mothers feel the desire and need to stay at home and that is perfectly okay. But, for those moms that are either in a position where they have to return to work or feel that they do need to keep their job for personal, family or other reasons, the transition can be a tough one. Understanding that all these feelings are normal and part of the process makes the adjustment just a bit easier. Be patient and gentle with yourself during your return to work after baby.