Survival Guide: Returning to Work After Baby

^ Embarrassing selfie #1 of 3 in this post. Worth the read for this alone, friends.
^ Embarrassing selfie #1 of 3 in this post. Worth the read for this alone, friends.

Maybe you’ve dreamed of being a stay-at-home-parent (SAHP) for ages but it’s just not going to work out. Maybe you (*gasp*) canNOT wait to get back to work. Or maybe, like me, you fall somewhere in between. No matter where you are on the continuum, if you are entering the world of the working mom when your undoubtedly way-too-short maternity leave ends, here are some tips that I picked up along the way to maintain your supermom status.

1. Plan (EARLY) for childcare.

This may seem obvious (rephrase: this is obvious), but first time parents often have no clue how difficult it is to secure child care that is A) affordable, B) reliable, and C) works with your schedule. And then there are waitlists.

Untitled design
My dear husband and C, shortly after Lee volunteered as tribute… uh, I mean to stay home.

I was never wild about the idea of being a full time SAHP, but the thought of leaving my made-from-scratch infant with someone I didn’t know juiced up my postpartum anxiety so high I was twitching. My lovely husband (who had no idea what he was getting himself into), luckily was able to stay home with our son. We’ve since found a local college student (among several nurses from work, my sister, and a neighbor) to fill in the gaps when he has class or a meeting.

C Visists Mama at Work
ProTip: be sure your child care provider will bring your baby for surprise visits at work!

Your thoughts on childcare will likely change several (hundred) times from the moment you find out you’re pregnant until the day finally comes that you actually need it. Start a list ASAP of what type of environment you envision, what your and your partner’s work schedules will require in terms of days and hours, if other kids’ schedules will impact the new baby, and the financial requirements or limitations of all of these elements. Don’t limit yourself to what is the traditional or easy answer, though. Think outside the box and find your family’s solution. I recommend checking out Chattanooga Moms Blog Guide and for more ideas.


Bathtime with Dad
SAHD exclusive: bathe baby and do laundry simultaneously.

2. Repeat after me: “I am not a bad parent. Everything is FINE.”

There is an insane amount of guilt swirling around the mom that makes the decision to leave her sweet angel and re-enter the workplace, some of it from the world around her but the vast majority comes from within. I knew that I needed to go back to work for no less than 738 different reasons (top 3: food, house, sanity and not always in that order). BUT, giving up the primary caregiver role that I’d held since conception, through 39 weeks of hellacious pregnancy, and 14 (mostly) precious weeks on the outside to the only person that could possibly love C more than I do, was much easier in theory than reality. There were tears, arguments, more tears, anger. How could he possibly know how to do this as well as (I thought) I did? And WHY did I feel the need to get back to adult life as I previously knew it–did this make me a bad mom?

But then I realized, not being physically present for every second of his life makes me no less of a mother than if I were. In fact, I am probably a BETTER parent than I would be if I were with him 24/7. And turns out his father, although a very different parent than I, has managed to keep him alive and the house from burning down for the 4,000-ish hours that I’ve worked since he was born. See, EVERYONE IS FINE, even me.

On Tuesday and Thursday mornings (if I'm home) I get to drink my coffee in peace and do whatever the heck I want for FOUR hours thanks to Parents' Day Out!
Selfie #3. You’re welcome.

3. Take some time off from adulting.

For me, the most difficult thing about being a working mama is remembering that I deserve some time off occasionally. At one time it was completely normal for me to work three, four, even seven 12 hour shifts in a row and then consume myself with mom and wife duties for the entirety of my time off. I love my family so so much, but sometimes mama just needs a break (and some hot coffee…and wine). Sure, guilt is an issue, but if we don’t take care of ourselves, how are we going to be our best wife- and mother-self? Not possible. The numbers just don’t work out, trust me, I HAVE TRIED. We really seemed to find the balance here when C started to attend a local Parents’ Day Out program. If I’m magically off work (usually one of the two days that he goes each week) I get FOUR hours to drink my coffee in peace and do whatever the heck I want. So take some time, go to the gym or get a pedicure. I promise the guilt will only last about five minutes.