Imagine me sitting across from you, sipping a warm cup of coffee, and giving you a big hug. Today was a big day – your first day back at work following maternity leave – and you’re probably feeling ALL THE FEELS right now.
Some of you may have had a great day. You felt like a part of yourself that had gone missing amidst all the diapers, feedings, and onesies was suddenly found.
You returned to a workplace of familiar faces – maybe even friends – and savored every second of adult conversation. Wearing real pants made you feel like a million bucks and you might have even worn heels or lipstick for the first time in months. Yes, that bombshell looking back at you in the mirror is you, friend.
If this was your experience, I’m sending you all the praise hands and I’m truly SO THRILLED for you. You are creating an amazing legacy for your family of what it looks like to passionately pursue a career while loving your family well and being a great mom. In addition, you’re showing all the women behind you that you can be both an amazing professional AND an amazing mom. That matters more than you’ll ever realize.
It’s okay to not be okay
For others of you, today might have been a really hard day.
Getting out the door in the morning felt like a feat in itself (and it was – so good for you!), but nothing could have prepared you for the emotions you felt when you had to say goodbye to your adorable little baby and walk out the door to work.
It may have felt like your heart was being ripped into a million tiny pieces and you were flooded with anxiety, guilt, and just plain sadness. Maybe you don’t like your job or maybe you just never imagined yourself being a working mom and you long to stay at home with your kids someday.
You probably had some really good moments today when you were able to pull yourself together and remember parts of what your pre-mom self did at work each day.
But you likely also found yourself blinking away the tears as you glanced at pictures of your baby throughout the day when all you wanted to do was turn around and run right back to your baby.
You deserve to feel seen, known, and accepted
I hope so badly that whatever your experience was today, that you felt seen, known, and accepted.
Hopefully you have coworkers who welcomed you back as the new woman that you now are. Hopefully you have a manager who asked about your baby and gave you space to process this massive life change that you are experiencing. And hopefully you are part of a team that celebrates families and patiently glanced through the hundreds of baby photos that now live on your phone.
The unfortunate reality is that the situation I just described was not the reality for most of you. I know this because you’ve told me what your experience was really like.
You’ve told me about the managers who say nothing when you return and the coworkers who don’t ask a single question about your baby.
You’ve told me about how challenging it can be to be a working parent and how painstakingly lonely it can sometimes feel.
There is a tribe of working moms right beside you on this wild adventure
Though you might feel alone right now, know that you are not. Isolation is a weapon of destruction and it’s a lie that you are the only one who has ever gone through what you are experiencing.
The reality is that there is a tribe of fellow working moms who are right beside you, joining hands each day in this wild adventure of working motherhood.
Yes, today might have been rough, but it will get better – we promise. We’ve walked this road before you, we’ve cried in daycare parking lots, and we’ve walked into our workplaces step by step, even when our hearts begged us to turn around.
Share your emotions and let someone else into your journey
We also know that today isn’t a day for a sermon on the power of a working mom.
You don’t want to hear about the data that has shown that being a working mom actually benefits your kids in countless ways, because in this moment, perhaps all you want to do is cry.
And you know what? You should do that. Have a big ugly cry session tonight because today was a big day and you felt ALL THE FEELS. Take a warm bath, read a book – do whatever helps you relax.
If you have a spouse, talk to them about how your day really was and cherish the fact that you have someone with listening ears upon whom your words can fall.
Don’t forget – you can do this
But then, friend, take a look inside yourself and realize who you really are. You are strong, powerful, and so capable of whatever you put your mind to.
If that means being a working mom for the course of your career or just for right now, you can do this. You have a tribe of women who have been where you are and they’re cheering you along every step of the way.
You’ve got this.
Tell us – what was your first day back after maternity leave like?