On Going Back to Work After Baby #2

1.07.2018


I have written a lot about working motherhood over the last two years (here is why), and I have been wanting to write a post about how it has been going now that have been back to work in the office full time for over a month now.

Just as a quick recap, I have been with the same company for four years now. It is a small nonprofit with less than 15 employees, and so my maternity leave did not fall under the official US policy, and I basically “negotiated” the terms of my leave. Both times, I have been extremely thankful and blessed to be able to work from home full time for a few months before returning to the office, which gave me more time at home with my babies. I took 6 weeks of maternity leave with R and 8 weeks with J, but I was able to work from home for almost 4 months after that. Both started full-time daycare when they were around 5 months old.

I won’t go into specifically what it was like for me to return to work after having R. If you are interested, you can go here to see a list of the posts I've written about working motherhood over the past few years. The simplest way to say it is, it was the hardest and most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. I dealt with jealousy, anger, bitterness, and just plain sadness over the fact that I wasn’t able to stay at home with R. There was also a lot of guilt. 

I always feel a little bit silly talking about how hard being at work was for me, because in the grand scheme of life, everyone was healthy and generally happy, and there was a lot to be thankful for. But it really was a very difficult and challenging time.

If I’m being totally honest, I get kind of annoyed when I hear about someone (whether someone I know in real life or someone online) who planned to definitely totally yes-I’m-doing-it come back to work after having a baby and then when it comes time to actually do it, suddenly announces that (surprise!) they are quitting their job! And then everyone sends the heartiest congratulations, leaving comments like “babies don’t keep” and “stay with them while they’re young” and “it goes by so fast” and “I don’t regret quitting my job to stay at home."

And I’m happy for them too, but for someone who really wanted to be able to stay at home once the time came, those comments are hard to see. Not everyone has a choice about whether or not they work, but you feel like a terrible mother because they are making it work and you just couldn’t. Or maybe you could, but you didn’t feel like that was the best choice for your family at that moment in time.

I wanted to write about returning to work for the second time, but I have been having trouble putting into words all that I’m processing. In some ways it’s easier, and I will talk about that in a minute, but I will tell you that it’s never easy to leave my babies in the morning. I hate saying goodbye. I hate missing them every day. That part isn’t easy at all. R has been going through a phase where she screams and cries when I drop her off every single day. She’s fine as soon as I am out of eyesight, and she’s always having fun when I pick her up so I know she likes it there, but man I hate walking away when she’s shouting for mama. J doesn’t cry for me (yet), but it’s worse in some ways with him because he’s so snuggly and cute and so little, and I just don’t want to leave him period.

It’s also exhausting to remember all that I need to take with me every day. I take five bags every morning: my purse, my pumping bag, my lunch, R’s backpack, and J’s diaper bag. Now that I have two kids, I have to remember socks for both and shoes for R, diapers/wipes if daycare told me they were out, pullups for naptime for R and extra underwear and pants in case she has an accident. A coat for going outside. A paci for J. Bottles and pump parts.
My wallet. My keys.

I’ve forgotten shoes for R and only realized it when I got to daycare and had to go all the way home. I’ve forgotten her coat and had to borrow one from the lost and found. I’ve forgotten extra diapers and had to make an emergency trip to the nearest Walmart. I almost forgot J’s paci once and had to turn around just as I exited my neighborhood. Just last week I got all the way to work before realizing I had the pump but no bottles. One time, I had the pump and the bottles, but I didn’t have that tiny white piece that goes on the bottom, rendering the entire thing useless. I MEAN HONESTLY.

I don’t think any of that will get easier, but each time I forget something I vow to never forget it again, so maybe at some point I’ll run out of things to forget and always remember everything? One can hope.

All of that to say, I am in such a better place emotionally about it all this time around. I’d like to proudly state how much I’ve grown and how much of a better person I am than I was two years ago, but the truth is, I really can’t attribute my attitude change to anything other than the direct answer to many tearful prayers. God has truly given me such a peace during this time, and it's hard to even explain.

When someone asks me how work is going, I don’t know what to say. It’s going well, but it’s also hard, and I can’t sum it up into the quick answer I know they’re looking for. I hate leaving my babies, but I have zero guilt about it this time. Truly I don’t, and that has been the most freeing feeling. I used to feel so terrible for leaving R at daycare and not being with her full time like some moms are, and I just don't have any of those feelings anymore.

I’m not saying necessarily that daycare is better for a child than staying at home with a parent, but I don't think it's worse. I have the gift of perspective with R having been at daycare for two years now, and I think it has been so good for her. I love that she gets out and plays with others, that she is okay with other people watching her, that she has friends and makes crafts with paint that I don’t have to clean up. I am excited for the same with J.

Two years ago I was Googling articles about having your kid in daycare and crying every time I thought about it because it sounded like I was sentencing my daughter to this terrible thing. Everyone has their own personal comfort level with childcare, and depending on where you live, your choices will obviously be different, but I am proud to be a daycare mom and will talk about how awesome I think it is to anyone who asks me. I have prayed many prayers of thanksgiving because the Lord provided such a wonderful place for our children to go. I don’t take it for granted.

Daycare has also been so good for me too, and I can see growth in myself in how I’ve responded to J starting daycare. Things that would have totally wrecked me are just not even a thing. As an example, the first week J was at daycare, he would refuse his bottle and then drink maybe 1-2 ounces. Since it was a bottle of thawed breastmilk, it couldn’t be reused, and they would toss the leftover 2-3 ounces. I would have been freaking.out. about R not getting enough to eat and about wasted milk, etc., but I knew that he just needed to adjust and it wasn’t that big of a deal, and sure enough the next week he was drinking the whole bottle!

In general I am much less angsty about working this time. I still feel jealousy sometimes about moms who are able to stay at home, but I’m not angry about it, and that has made a huge difference. I truly believe that the Lord has placed me in a season of work, and I want to honor that. I am intentional about the time I spend with my children and I miss them a lot, but I also enjoy my job and like my coworkers, and I don’t hate going to work. 

I am, overall, in a much healthier place and mind-set about my role as a mom and as an employee than I was two years ago.

People like to comment that quitting your job to stay at home requires a lot of faith and trust in God to provide for your needs, and that’s very true. But not quitting your job to stay at home requires a lot of faith and trust in God also—mainly to provide for my children’s needs since I can’t always be there for them. And that’s been a good lesson for me in my own journey of motherhood, one that a mom in a different situation might not have the chance to learn and one that I feel thankful to be able to practice.

I am seeing fruits of my testing over the last couple of years, and I am thankful for what I’ve been learning and will continue to learn during this time in my life. Is it difficult to be away from my children so much? Completely. Do I have days that are harder than others? Of course. Am I never jealous? NOPE. 

Being a working mom is very challenging, and I don't always respond well to it. But I am at peace with where God has placed me right now. I don’t feel any guilt about being a working mom, only thankfulness that we love our daycare and I love my job, and thankfulness that I can see the answer to my prayers for contentment, even if not in quite the way I might have wanted.

If you have sent me an email, text, comment, message, or prayed a prayer for me over the past two years, thank you truly from the bottom of my heart. I have felt prayed for and loved during this season, and it truly means so much to me.

In closing, I came across this article recently on the Christian subculture and the stay-at-home mom and think it's one of the best writing I've seen on the topic. This quote (below) particularly stuck out to me as something that I want to focus on as I move forward in this journey:

Let's become less concerned with asking “does she work?” and more concerned with asking “how can we help her mother?” Let's become less preoccupied with a mother’s physical proximity to the home and more concerned with her spiritual proximity to God.

I pray that I can be this kind of friend and encouragement to other moms in my life, whatever kind of work they do. If you need encouragement, a listening ear, have any questions about working motherhood, or just want to chat, please feel free to email me.

30 comments:

  1. I know this is such a trivial point to focus on but the preparing to go to work in the morning (the feeding, dressing, packing 8,000 bags) was quite possibly the most stressful part about working full-time. I totally get that. It’s atill stressful these days, but I have a lot more flexibility than I used to so it’s more annoying than anything.

    I’m so glad you’ve found peace. I’m constantly wondering when is going to be the right time for me to return to work full-time. It plagues my mind constantly and I just don’t know the answer. We’re just trying to do the best thing we can each day. Sounds like you guys are in a similar place in that regard :)

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    1. I think we are all just trying to do the best we can! And yes it is so much to remember each day. Mornings are crazy.

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  2. I’m so glad you are feeling better this time around. My youngest isn’t in daycare yet, but I’m sure it will be easier this time around just because I know his teachers. They are great and I trust them. Last tims, I was leaving my kid with strangers, this tims it will be with friends.

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  3. I don't even have words for how much I loved reading this and how excited I am that you have no guilt. Truly that has to be so freeing and a huge weight lifted off of you. I love reading about motherhood from you, and am so glad the kids love their daycare.

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    1. Thank you! Yes it’s so nice to not have the guilt weighing on me. And I do love our daycare!

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  4. I love that you included how not every mother has the choice to work or stay at home and some need to work. I think that's important because people don't always share every detail of their life. You never know what happens behind closed doors!
    I'm just in charge of me and I still forget stuff. I was halfway to work this morning when I realized I forgot my security badge which meant I had to go all the way home. Just as I was about to pull in, I found the badge in my coat pocket. It's tough for us woman to remember everything and try to help others get out the door too!

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    1. Yes! So many things to remember each day! I try to get organized the night before, but there are still things that have to wait until the morning and it can get crazy!

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  5. Peace! Prayers answered! That is so wonderful. Of course it’s still not easy but that feeling of peace must be such a blessing.

    I love the quote you shared about how can we help her mother. That is how it’s supposed to be.

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  6. All of this is great!! So glad you are at peace with where you are at in your life!! If I were to have a second child I for sure wouldn't freak out as much about stuff, totally true on that! Those sweet daycare girls love Bowen to pieces and I am so thankful for that. They have him on a better schedule than I do for sure..haha

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  7. this is probably one of my favorite posts of yours! especially this gem: "not everyone has a choice about whether or not they work, but you feel like a terrible mother because they are making it work and you just couldn’t. or maybe you could, but you didn’t feel like that was the best choice for your family at that moment in time." SO GOOD! it's evident that the Lord has been working through you these past couple of years. this gives me hope that some of my motherhood struggles won't last forever. (or i will learn how to deal instead of stressing all the live long day!)

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  8. Freeing yourself from the guilt is definitely the biggest blessing, because I know how strong Mom Guilt is and how much it can eat at you. Also, so happy that you found the perfect daycare for you and your babies. I think the lesson of being able to trust safe adults other than your parents and family is so important and one that I know will be really tough for me too.

    As far as your feelings go around being a working mom (mostly how they were went you went back to work with R), that's EXACTLY how I felt about breastfeeding; the jealousy that other moms could get it work and make it look easy, the guilt of not being able to provide more than 4 months of breastmilk for my baby, the sadness of losing out on what I perceived (at the time) to be the best bonding time with her, and the exhaustion of trying to get it to work. I am out of the breastfeeding/pumping trenches now and I feel like a cloud has been lifted, but I won't soon forget how hard it was. This line is totally how I felt, "Not everyone has a choice about whether not they work (insert breastfeed or making breastfeeding work), but you feel like a terrible mother because they are making it work and you couldn't." Yes. Yes. Yes. Even though I know I wasn't the only person who couldn't breastfeed and I won't be the last, it's still a rather lonely situation to be, and I'm sure you felt the same way with being a working mom. I'm so thrilled that I'm in a much better place about it now and that you are finding your peace too. Motherhood is hard, but man are the babies worth it.

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  9. I loved reading this so much, and could 100% relate to it. I too am always a little spicy towards people who take their maternity leave just for the $ then SURPRISE they're staying home because "I just couldn't leave my baby, wah wah wah." I just can't handle it sometimes! I think being a working mother makes you so strong, and so appreciative of the time you DO spend with your little ones. I'm so glad you are feeling much more optimistic and positive, and at PEACE this time around. What a blessing from the Lord that is!

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  10. Once again - one of your posts hits home and I immediately want to be your best friend. You have an amazing way with words and as a FT working mom - I look up to you so much. I want to get to where you are. As I prepare for baby #2 I can only hope and pray I lose the guilt when it's time for me to return to work (because like you - I can't stay home...no matter how many times I evaluate an re-evaluate things...it's just not happening for our family.) So please continue to write posts like this - they make me feel a little less alone (all my friends either only work PT or stay home so I'm the black sheep because I work FT)

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  11. LOL - "makes crafts with paint that I don’t have to clean up" <-- Possibly my #1 favorite thing about daycare/preschool. :-)
    And seriously, ALL THE THINGS required to get out the door is so overwhelming sometimes. There was rejoicing throughout the land the day I finished with the pump forever.
    So glad that you have found peace and growth with this difficult subject - And thanks as always for your honest and insightful comments.

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  12. I can’t love this enough. I’m in AWE of everything you accomplish every day. My heat has ached for you and now it’s bursting with joy for your answered prayer. This is so encouraging. Thank you, as always, for sharing.

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  13. I don't think you ever reach a point of not forgetting something. I've forgotten my entire pump before, or the bottles, or a part, or the plug...and I work 30 minutes from my house. There's a Walmart in between my house and work, and I've gotten bottles there, but they don't carry pump parts. (ASK ME HOW I KNOW!) I did keep a manual pump in my car, just in case. Eventually I purchased an extra plug (there may have also been an incident where the plug ended up in the cat's water bowl - ruining the plug.)

    I now have TONS of extra parts, and I stopped pumping a few months ago (my daughter is 20 months.)

    But I still have the pump in the trunk of my car. And I have no idea why.

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  14. my son will be 2 in may and has been in daycare since he was 4 months old. i SO resonate with this, even though i haven't gone through the daycare struggle/guilt/jealousy thing with 2 kids...just one for now. :) on hard days i am thankful for the crafts i don't have to clean up (or prepare or plan or...), the dirty diapers i don't have to change, and the food on the floor i don't have to pick up. it's the little things. also, so far, we have minimal 'witching hour' type struggles in the evening because my husband and i have tried to be super intentional about focusing on our son and on family time from the 4:30-7 window between arriving home and bedtime. i especially love your point that NOT quitting your job also requires faith and trust in God. i pray so much for my son, and so intentionally in ways that i think i would take for granted if i stayed home with him.

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  15. I love the sentiments in the article you mentioned at the end: that goes for so many choices that a mom may/may not be making. Asking ourselves whether so-and-so is raising her child right by doing XYZ does little good for her or us, but asking "how can we support her" may do a world of difference for the both of us.

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  16. Oh my, you are such a rockstar for not just managing working mom life but for also having to remember that laundry list of gear and supplies every time you head out the door with the kids! I struggle to remember the basic necessities for one kid and myself when we go out the door, so it blows my mind that you have to remember this all.
    As always, even though I'm a stay-at-home mom, I love the perspective you bring to this whole realm of discussion!

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  17. Although it isn't easy I am glad things are going better for you this time. I don't know how you remember all that stuff for daycare either. That sounds like a royal pain in the rear. Maybe a working Mom has a system that could help you.

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  18. Thank you so much for sharing this. I love that you are so at peace with your choice.

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  19. It's so good to see the change in you with daycare this time around. I know you were really struggling when you sent R to daycare and went back to work. I completely agree that you should feel NO guilt in daycare. I've read about so many benefits of daycare for kids. And, as I've mentioned, I was the child of two working parents and I certainly wasn't scarred ;)

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  20. This was beautifully written. Thank you! I totally agree with every word written and have felt many of those exact same feelings. Thankful for a great job and daycare yet longing so hard to be at home with my little one. My husband is self employed as we own a cattle ranch as well and so the pull to stay home and live our ranch life is strong. Each day is a practice of faith to know we are doing the best thing for our family. And thank you for wearing your faith proudly - because it speaks to me and I truly appreciate hearing it. That quote from that article is absolutely perfect. Thank you for sharing.

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  21. OH MY GOSH THE NUMBER OF BAGS. It's a task every morning to get those loaded in the car never mind the baby himself hahaha. Since I'm in psychology, I did a lot of reading about the effects of kids attending daycare and, really, it seems to be that what really matters is the quality of the daycare and the home environment, which gives me some peace about Asa being in daycare. I share your sentiments about drop-off never being easy and always missing him, but I also love my work and am a better mom when I can have some time to myself while Asa is at daycare. I have a lot of thoughts about this and how I have also struggled with some bitterness (e.g., the mom that complained about hating going to work everyday and then got the opportunity to stay home and now complains about how hard that is all the time... it is SO hard but so many women would love the opportunity) at times. My thoughts are all over the place on this but I am so happy to hear about how God has worked in your life in this regard, I need to hear about when God shows up in other's lives!

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  22. Peace, precious peace. I am so thankful to hear that you are in a place of peace right now, friend. So many answered prayers!

    Also, that article was enlightening to me. In the circles I've been part of, I actually have seen a lot more of people talking down to women who choose to stay home with their kids instead of returning to work. Sadly, even within Christian community. Our current church is one of my favorite places ever and I haven't heard anyone judging parents who choose one or the other. We have a good mix of work-outside-the-home parents and stay-at-home-parents (including some families where it's the dad staying home) which is probably part of the reason. Anyway, reading this article about venerating SAHMs opens my eyes to another level of why returning to work must have been so difficult for you with R. I do love the part you quoted from the author about asking ourselves how we can help our friends mother in whatever part of life they are in. <3

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  23. I am so glad that you are at a better place emotionally this time around going back to work. I remember when Zoe started daycare. I couldn't imagine how I was ever going to get through it. You told me that it would get better. Not easy. But better. You were right! I don't have a break down in my car after I leave her there and I know that her teachers are taking care of her while I am at work and she is making friends. She has learned so many things being there is seems pretty advanced for her age, so I am super thankful. We all need to be supportive of each others as moms :)

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  24. oh my lord THE STUFF. ALL THE STUFF TO REMEMBER. i don't even have to bring the kids anywhere, just get them ready for whoever is coming to the house, and i literally had to make a list of what i needed to bring with me (a physical list) and keep it next to the door so i didn't forget anything when i went to work. you are doing so good, and i am so happy that it's been less terrible for you this time around. experience is a weird thing when it does that, but it's great. i had a similar experience with william, i think because i knew it was going to be okay at the end of the day.

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  25. Ohhh, I am so so happy to hear that it's been a much better transition for you this time! What a wonderful relief. You know I grapple with many of the same things as a working mom, and I hope that my second time going back to work will also be easier, when my time comes. Caleb isn't in daycare (because my hubby works nights and my mom is retired), BUT I think daycare is absolutely awesome for kids. Socialization and learning is so necessary and often isn't done enough in the home.

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  26. I have to be honest, your attitude this time seems to be giving yourself much more grace. And I'm happy to see that! You are a great mom and doing a great job. We all forget things, I think it's just not something most share on social media. :)

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  27. To start out, I'm a total lurker normally and found your blog as a fellow runner years ago with your post on why marathons are as hard as childbirth �� I wanted to say thank you for this post! I'm a FTM to a 5 month old, and the return to work date has been at the top of my mind these past couple of weeks. I really needed your wisdom and encouragement right now to remind myself that going back to work in just 4 short weeks is the right decision. Thank you!!

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