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The Biggest Challenge After Becoming a Mother

Finding a balance between career and kids has been a long time battle for many mothers. The decision to continue to pursue a career or to spend those precious years at home when your kids are young is complicated to say the least. In my short two years as a parent, I’ve somehow managed to spend time as a full-time working mother, a part-time working mother, and a stay at home mother. Just to be sure the grass wasn’t greener, I apparently felt the need to test out every option before deciding what was going to be best for my family. Most recently, I’ve returned to work full time once again. But through it all, I’ve learned an important lesson. No matter what decision you make – to work or not to work – parenting is hard. It isn’t easy to be at home all day with crazed kiddos who’ve been cooped up with a bad case of cabin fever all winter. Similarly, it isn’t easy to work full time and to spend hours on end packing lunches and setting clothes out and fighting rush hour traffic on the way to drop the baby off at day care. Simply put, either way, it’s all hard as hell.

During the time when I was staying at home with my son, I wrote a post called “Things No One Told Me About Being a Stay at Home Mom.” It was a weird time for me. I was adjusting to motherhood in general and getting used to the fact that I had given up my career to be at home with my son (and two other children that I was nannying for, for a little extra cash). I found myself becoming jealous of my husband’s quiet commute to work, the fact that he could actually take a lunch break, and maybe even pee in peace once in a while. That post was probably the most honest thing I’ve ever shared and I was terrified of the negative feedback I was sure I’d receive. I figured I’d get people telling me to be grateful for the opportunity to choose to stay at home and to treasure the years when my son was little. I was shocked to read the comments that I received from so many other mothers who felt like they were also becoming maniacs from spending all day long taking care of kids. I realized that full-time, long term, stay-at-home-mothers are practically saints and I didn’t make the cut. I gave in and returned to work part in September.

SAHM

By January, I took on a full-time teaching position. I was thrilled to be able to regain my career (and to be able to have eight hours a day without succumbing to the constant demands of a toddler). I absolutely love my job and it’s been amazing, but that doesn’t mean that being a mother has become easier. There are times that I dread making lunches and ironing outfits before going to bed, which is probably what I should be doing right now… I hate having to wake my son up on the rare occasion that he actually sleeps past 6:00 just to rush him to get ready for daycare. And on the weeks that my husband is traveling for his job, I feel like I’m drowning in a pool of solo-parenting , counting the hours until he returns home to help me with the demands of our daily grind. It’s definitely tough, but the rewards out-weigh the challenges. I am a happier person and a more patient mother after having returned to my career.

wokring mom

Now that I’ve gotten a taste of both sides, I have the upmost respect for mothers who have taken on either role. Unfortunately, there is often a line drawn in the sand at the playground separating the working moms from the SAHMs. I’ve heard mothers who work full-time make negative comments about those who “just” stay-at-home. Additionally, I’ve listened to stay-at-home-moms judge others for leaving their children in the hands of daycare center for 8-9 hours a day.  The fact of the matter is that every mother is just trying to find a balance that works for her and her family – to figure out how to pay the bills, how to manage their kids, and how to maintain their sanity.

When a woman becomes a mother, there are a multitude of things to learn about raising an infant. But the breast feeding, the sleeping-training, and the bottle-weaning – all of that can be learned. Books, websites, and support groups can assist you in the basics of care-taking. For me, it’s finding the perfect balance between career and kids that has been the biggest challenge in becoming a mother. What I have learned is this – the grass is not any greener. Both working and being at home are equally amazing and challenging options. Both have pros and cons. Both are wonderful, difficult, and exhausting. I think it’s time that as a whole, we ban to together and support our fellow mothers no matter what decision we choose in regards to our families and our careers.

Maybe you spend your day battling a small brood of children who are capable of capsizing an entire household before 10:00am. Maybe you are that mother who pumps breast milk in your office with the shades closed while shooting off a few e-mails to your boss. Either way, kudos to you. In my book, you’re a kick ass mom who deserves a quiet bubble bath, an evening of relaxation, and a good night’s sleep (not that any of those things are actually attainable, but a mom can dream).

The Full Circle

Before my son was born, I planned to take an eight week maternity leave from my job before returning back to working full time. Maybe even less, if I felt so inclined. I loved my job and I was very career oriented. I couldn’t imagine spending so much time away from what I had worked so hard for over the past several years. At that time, I worked as the Center Director of a local children’s center that offered preschool and child care services. I was responsible for all daily operations of the center, ensuring that we followed each and every detailed state regulation, and managing a staff of thirty employees. It was a challenge, but I loved it. I was very proud of my center and my staff. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly the kind of position that allowed me to take too many days off at one time, much less a lengthy maternity leave. I was afraid that in my absence, things would fall through the cracks. Not to mention, I’ve never stayed at home for eight weeks with a newborn baby and I figured that I’d be itching to get out of the house.

It’s amazing how motherhood can change a person. In the hours before my son was born, I sat in my hospital bed, talking to my Assistant Director on the phone in between contractions to make sure she was ready to take over for me. I was worried about work and wanted to make sure we had tied up any loose ends. After what seemed like a very long weekend, my 9 lb. 2 oz. son finally made his grand entrance and surprisingly, I didn’t think about work again for the next eight weeks.

It’s not that I didn’t care about my job and how things were going, but I had a lot of other shit going on. In the beginning, I was focusing mostly on how to walk up and down the stairs without an excruciating amount of pain and blood loss and trying not to pee every time I coughed, laughed, or sneezed. Over the next month, I spent the remainder of my time trying to figure out how to breastfeed in public without flashing my breasts to the entire world and what to do when my newborn shits all over the car seat while out running errands (in some cases, even an extensive amount of wipes are not effective).

The day that I returned to work was one of the weirdest, saddest days of my life. I’m not an overly emotional person and thus I blame the hormones, of course. I dropped him off that morning and entered my office for the first time in eight weeks. I didn’t know what to do with myself. My Assistant Director had done an amazing job covering for me. She made sure my first day back wasn’t completely overwhelming in regards to the work load. There weren’t huge piles of shit for me to take care of. There weren’t any major issues I needed to address. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I thought that bringing my baby to the day care where I worked would be the perfect situation for me. However, without a lot to do to keep me busy that first day, I sat in my office, listening to my eight week old baby crying down the hall and spent the majority of my energy (which I had very little of at the time) resisting the urge to run to him. After about four hours into my day, I pretty much decided that this wasn’t going to work out.

It wasn’t even just the emotional side of things. The UPS campaign, “We Love Logistics” made me want to punch someone in the face. I fucking hated the logistics of being a working mother. I hated trying to get myself ready and the baby packed while my husband traveled for work. I hated trying to find someone to watch the baby after work for me so that I could stay late for staff meetings. I hated pumping in my office and storing little baggies of breast milk in the staff lounge refrigerator. I know that there are a lot of women that are able to make the transition to becoming a working mother easily and smoothly, but I was not one of them. And so, four months in, I put my career on hold to get my shit together.

Over the 16 months following my resignation, I held all kinds of titles such as stay-at-home mom, work-at-home mom, mommy/nanny, part-time working mom, etc.  I did a complete full circle when it comes to roles as a mother. I have to say, they all have their challenges. Being at home with children all day was not always easier than going to work full time. It’s been two years since I became a parent and I am JUST finally starting to feel like I’m adjusting. I’m happy to announce that tomorrow is my first day back in the saddle as a full time working mother. It’s taken me two years to trust someone else to take good care of my son and to not feel guilty for pursuing a career. And you know what?? I think I’m even going to make UPS proud. It’s only 2:00pm and I’ve already got our bags and lunches packed and clothes laid out for the morning. Who loves logistics now?

ups

I’d love to hear about your experience as a working mother, stay at home mother, or some crazy combination in between! Leave me a comment below about how you adjusted and any advice you have for my return to work!