It’s the moment you’ve been dreading since you held your baby in your arms for the very first time. Your maternity leave is ending which means this is one of the last precious maternity leave moments with just you and the tiny person who has become the center of your world.
You wonder how time has possibly passed so quickly. Wasn’t it just yesterday when you felt those first contractions or heard that first cry?
Time – something you never gave much thought to before – suddenly seems to be moving at an almost cruel pace.
The passing of time is now so evident in every new milestone, new memory, and new gummy grin.
What once seemed like a decent amount of time (let’s be real – maternity leave length can be vastly improved) now seems far too short.
For some, you might be so ready to get back to the office. You long for routine, structure, and let’s be honest – just plain adult interaction.
For others, you can’t imagine leaving your precious baby with anyone else and you are dreading your return to work.
And maybe for you, it’s a mix of both. You get tears in your eyes thinking about the end of this maternity leave with this baby, yet you also long for days filled with productivity, coffee breaks, and to-do lists that don’t include diaper changes or feedings.
Tip #1: Give yourself grace in the transition
Oh friend, know that I have been exactly where you are and you are not alone. Countless working moms have walked this path before you and your feelings are totally justified.
And you know what? You’re going to keep feeling all the things. You might absolutely dread your first day back at the office, but then surprise yourself with how much you enjoyed being back in your old stomping grounds.
Or it might be the exact opposite and you might absolutely hate it. Whatever your experience is when you return to work, please just give yourself grace in the transition.
This is a big change and you’ve already been through a major life change. Your hormones have been on a rollercoaster and your mama instincts are likely kicking into high gear.
Meanwhile, you might also be drowning in anxious thoughts wondering if your baby will be okay without you.
Here’s the truth – you are going to be just fine and your baby will also be fine. I promise.
There’s no magical point of arrival as a mom
I was stuck on the idea that my transition back to work, back to normal, and back to my “pre-baby” self would be relatively fast.
After all, I had done my due diligence in reading about the fourth trimester and the importance of rest and a slower pace of living during that season.
But as someone who naturally revolts against rest (enneagram type 3 – guilty as charged), my efforts to rest in those first few months were challenging at best. I finally reached 12 weeks postpartum and became frustrated with the lack of progress back to my “norm.”
I was still carrying around extra weight from my pregnancy, was more tired than I’d ever imagined was possible, and I didn’t have my new mom “system” yet figured out.
At the end of the day, I felt like I had reached my deadline but hadn’t met my goal.
What I began to realize in that season is that there is no magical point of arrival as a mom. Instead, I was learning things everyday – things about my baby, how to care for him, and how to care for myself.
I was a different person from who I was prior to becoming a mom, so my goal actually wasn’t even realistic – my old self was gone and my new self was here to stay.
And while this new self might not have the same abs as my prior self, this new person was so much more grace-filled, compassionate, and willing to stand in the messiness of life because of what motherhood was constantly teaching me.
Tip #2: View work through a lens of truth
I realize that some of you have jobs that you really dread going to each day and saying goodbye to your baby to spend 8+ hours in an environment that sucks the joy right out of you is downright terrible.
I’ve had jobs like that and I’ve felt those feelings. If that’s you, Mama, know that my heart truly goes out to you.
But also know that regardless of how much you might enjoy (or not enjoy) your current position, you are contributing to your family in a very significant way.
I don’t care if you make minimum wage or six figures, the fact that you are a woman who is working in our society is showing your child, young girls, and all other women in our world that you have talents to bring to the table and that a woman’s voice should be valued and seen in our world and in our workplaces.
You are contributing financially for your family, regardless of the amount, and though you might not be at home with your baby, you are certainly providing for your family in a meaningful way.
That’s something you should be so proud of. Don’t let the lie that you have to be home with your baby, that your baby won’t be okay without you, or that women can’t make a difference in the workplace steal one more ounce of your joy.
If you feel deeply called to the work you are doing, or even if you don’t and working is just something you have to do in your current season – believe the truth that you are bringing unique gifts, qualities, and perspectives to your workplace. These are helping to make our families, communities, and workplaces better because of you – and that’s a truth that will always stand.
Tip #3: Let go of expectations
If your work is something you enjoyed before your maternity leave, you’ll likely find that you still enjoy it after your maternity leave. In fact, you might even enjoy it more!
I personally found the support system of fellow moms at my workplace to be an unexpected gift for me as a young working mom.
And let’s be honest, just being able to drink warm coffee at the office again seemed like a luxury I hadn’t truly savored before!
When I returned to work, it was as if my mama superpowers really began to shine. Who I had become in the few short months of maternity leave transferred over into my daily work and I was able to work on a whole different level.
I was more efficient than before and was able to complete my work with greater focus and discipline. I was able to prioritize better and realize what truly mattered.
Moms are highly skilled in efficiency and prioritization because that’s simply what you have to do when raising little people in your home. You have some serious skills, Mama, so believe in yourself and know that you might even be better than before.
Yes, becoming a mom can be an upgrade for your career. In fact, I believe it actually is.
And if work is just something that you have to do for financial reasons, then know that you are providing for your family in such an amazing way and you can do this.
There are so many women who have walked this path before you and on the days when you feel like you just can’t do it any longer, give yourself permission to ugly cry and let all the feelings out.
Some days will feel like you’re in the midst of the dream-life you pictured and some days will feel like the exact opposite. All of those things are okay and you are not alone in any of this, friend.
Tip #4: Embrace the chaos
In the spirit of letting go of expectations, let the motto “embrace the chaos” become your new anthem. Motherhood is chaotic and working motherhood can sometimes be even more chaotic.
Instead of trying to control, just embrace it and see how it makes you thrive.
I’m preaching to the choir on this one because prior to actually becoming a mom, my naive vision of working motherhood involved me (in cute heels – obviously) prancing out the door with my adorable baby in tote and a coffee in hand. Daycare drop off would be a breeze and I’d arrive at the office feeling refreshed and ready to conquer the day.
That vision is downright comical to me now. Reality was pure chaos which looked something like me frantically getting ready for work while holding a baby in one hand and mascara in another.
My go to hairdo became whatever I could do in 2 minutes (thank you high bun!) and I was lucky if I was wearing a shirt that didn’t have bits of spit up, breast milk, or diaper cream visible.
My drives to daycare and work were usually straight out of a car heist movie because I was almost always running behind.
Daycare drop off was always the worst part of my day (cue the tears) and I’d hurriedly run into my office just in time for my first meeting, slightly out of breath, with no beloved coffee in hand.
Truth be told, it was a good morning if I’d even had a sip of water at that point. See what I mean about reality being pure chaos?
Don’t expect an ideal that isn’t possible
But here’s another reality – my mornings felt chaotic because I had false expectations of an ideal that wasn’t possible. In my short time as a mom, I’ve learned that virtually no woman has the ideal morning I envisioned – especially not during that first year of motherhood.
Everyone is trying to survive those early morning hours. We’re all sleep deprived, dreaming of warm coffee, and just trying our best.
If I had expected that to be reality rather than the picture perfect images I saw of motherhood on Instagram or Pinterest, I’m convinced that my return to work would have been easier because I would have been ready for the chaos.
I would have embraced it rather than trying to problem solve my way out of the chaos with one change here and one change there.
It’s kind of like jumping into a lake or ocean for the very first time when the temperatures finally warm up. You know the water will be cold, but you expect and embrace the chill. It’s refreshing, awakening, and even delightful!
I’m convinced the same can be true for us as moms, no matter what your morning might currently look like. There is so much to delight in during this season of motherhood, despite how chaotic it might sometimes feel.
Tip #5: Don’t go alone
I remember exactly what I said when I revealed my struggle to a trusted colleague who was also a working mom. I said, “I feel like I’m just barely surviving in every area of life right now.”
Have you ever felt this too? I felt like I was drowning and gasping for air. I hadn’t yet found a magical system that worked for me as a working mom (as if that even exists!) and though I was trying my best at work, it sometimes felt like I had lost my mojo and was falling into an abyss of career suicide.
I was really struggling with the constant distraction of having to pump every 3 hours at the office while worrying that I might get a call from daycare any second that my baby was ill or wasn’t doing well at their center.
At home, my house was a mess, laundry was always piled high, and I had recently announced to my husband that we would be eating scrambled eggs for dinner every night because that was easiest and I just couldn’t plan real meals for one more week. Dream wife, right?
I was around 6 months postpartum when I opened up to my friend, and I can still feel the sting of hopelessness I felt in that moment. But then my friend said something I’ll never forget – she said, “Oh, me too. I totally felt like that when I was in your season and sometimes I still feel like that. All of my working mom friends say the same thing.”
SHUT THE FRONT DOOR. There were other women who felt this way? I wasn’t crazy? I wasn’t somehow just not cut out for the whole working mom life in a way that others were? This was an epiphany to me and it brought so much hope to my heart.
Isn’t it amazing how powerful the simple words of “me too” can be to a struggling soul? Here I was, thinking that I was all alone in my struggle and was somehow missing all the insights on how to thrive in this season despite my well researched efforts.
Turns out that my experience was totally normal and it was a mind blowing revelation to me.
Join the tribe and find support
So how can this revelation help you?
Find someone to be real with, and if you can find a fellow working mom, that’s even better!
Too often we isolate ourselves inside our struggles when hope can be found through simply having someone who can listen and tell you, “me too.”
And if you don’t have someone in real life that you can be real with, know that you can find your support here! Comment below about your own struggle and follow us on Instagram for real time conversations via the internet with women who are going through the exact same thing as you.
Together, we can be the tribe for each other that supports one another in this messy and beautiful thing called working motherhood.