Returning to Work

Full disclosure. I started this draft in January, before COVID-19, before all of our worlds turned upside down, and before I started working from home more often.

Being a working mom was something I was very scared to address. In fact, every time I thought about it, I was filled with anxiety. For my entire working career, I’ve been able to focus as needed to work.

Hey wait, as I’m writing this, I’m remembering that I did my entire Master’s program while working full time. Still, I’ve never had to be a worker while also having a BABY so that’s still a big deal.

I was scared I wouldn’t be able to focus on work. I was scared I would have a hard time setting boundaries (story of my life). I was scared I wouldn’t be able to nurse anymore. I was scared my team would be like, “we didn’t miss you that much over your maternity leave”. I was scared to be a part-time mom and a part-time employee and be bad at both.

I’m writing this so I can look back and remember these fears, which now feel so far away. Because the reality was, I like working. I love being a mom. And I can do both things, as long as I focus on true prioritization.

What I Have Going for Me

I do have to say that I have a lot of blessings around me when it came to going back to work as a working mom, and I fully recognize the privilege that I had when it comes to being a working mom:

  1. I have an amazing partner in Josh. He’s a wonderful husband and wonderful dad, and VERY hands on with Ava (especially at night, which allows me to get more sleep)
  2. We live in a small, southern town that has relatively inexpensive childcare (one of the daycares we were interested in had a cost of $150 a WEEK for a baby, and it included diapers. One of my friends in a big city pays $400 a week.)
  3. I have a job that I truly love, with a team that I also love.
  4. I have a GREAT boss, who is also a working mom, and she has been so supportive of this path forward.
  5. I work for a great company that is focused on the work/non-work balance and transition for all parents, especially moms.
  6. Josh works from home, in our wonderful upstairs office.
  7. Maternity leave apparently showed my team how much they miss me while I’m not there. I am not trying to brag, but rather I’m just grateful that they see that I bring value to this site, and since I returned, they have been more like “YAY YOU’RE BACK”, which has helped me with boundaries and times, etc.
  8. Josh and my jobs give us an opportunity to afford a nanny, since we couldn’t find availability in our favorite daycare (fills up very fast).
  9. I was able to take the full 3+ months off, and then we had family members staggered (my mom offered two weeks, so did my dad, and so did Josh’s mom) before Josh’s last 3 weeks off, so Ava didn’t need childcare until she was almost SIX MONTHS.

So all of this built up to give me one of the best returns to work that anyone could ever ask for. Still, I was terrified.

Now, my days look different than they used to. I used to stay at work until my to-do list was done, even if it meant leaving late. I didn’t often work from home, despite my job being relatively easy to do from home (using remote log-ins, VPN, etc.). I was able to go to all the meetings, and schedule stuff after work without much thought.

Now, my days are different. I spend a decent amount of time pumping in my office and washing my pumping parts (the worst). I leave on time almost every day, even if it means leaving stuff on my to-do list. I call into meetings when I can.

(NOTE: Now that we’re in COVID-19, I’ve been working from home a LOT more, and soon will be working almost exclusively from home. Again, I recognize the privilege of this opportunity that so many moms don’t get!)

What I’ve Learned About Myself

What I’ve learned about myself as a working mom:

  1. Being a working mom has made me more bold. I’m on our local Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and they asked if I would participate/lead a campaign. Past Jenna would have said YES because I tried to say yes to everything when I could because #boundariesissue, but not anymore. Now, I feel empowered to say, “I can support from 8-4, but outside of those times, I can’t. I have a new baby at home.” I set boundaries that allow me to come home to my little one every night.
  2. I love being a mom, and I like working. I think I can be the best mom I can be by working in a job I love, and having a village of people to continue to love Ava and give her the best situation possible.
  3. It’s okay to not be everything to everyone. That is not an easy thing for me to say, because I’m an Enneagram Type 2 wing 3, which means I both want to be loved and valued, and I have a hard time saying no to people. I wanted to be the world’s most perfect mom and the world’s best worker, and I’m learning now that I can be a great mom and great at my job, as long as I don’t set myself up to fail with bad boundaries or ridiculous expectations.

I’m going to do a sample day-in-the-life, but for now, I just want this blog to serve as a reminder that there are a million ways to be a good mom, and this one is mine. <3

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