Before we get started reader, the topic of returning to work after baby has been a hot one for us at theCityMoms. We have a wonderfully diverse group of members from SAHMs, to full-time working moms, to stepmoms, and even some nannies. One of the most important things to us is supporting each member exactly where SHE is – in the decision to return to a job, never look back at a job, try something new, etc. Wherever she is, we are: We truly believe that every mom parents in her own perfect way. So read on, reader.

Before I became pregnant, I never considered not working once I had children. I knew full time SAHM life just wasn’t for me. I feared that I would feel isolated {even as play dates and moms groups like theCityMoms abound} and would lose a piece of my identity. I worried that I would feel under appreciated at home doing all those “invisible” things that just don’t get the outward rewarding that clocking in traditional hours do. That I would just not be good at entertaining children while trying to keep a clean house {because I would of course feel like that was my entire responsibility if I stayed home}.

Then I had a baby. And I still just knew that after 12 weeks at home I’d be ready to go back to work full time. I loved my job. I worked in a great, supportive environment. I liked having this sense of purpose.

sahm life - theCityMoms

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Then I had a baby. And 10 weeks flew by.

… I couldn’t stomach the thought of leaving my baby with strangers at daycare {what kind of mother was I?!} or not being in his presence his and my ENTIRE WAKING HOURS.

… I pulled up our online bank account, starting scribbling out budget sheets, inquired about insurance policy changes… we simply hadn’t planned on this.

… I cried myself to sleep at night and woke up in cold sweats wondering: Will they hold him enough?  Will they just let him cry? What if he doesn’t take a bottle from his caregivers?

What if he thinks I abandoned him??

I talked to my husband about my fears. We discussed various scenarios. We talked about me negotiating a flex schedule upon my return to work–to see if that helped with the transition. I took my baby boy to a “trial run” at daycare and sat and talked with the kind ladies who would be caring for him.

I felt a little better.

HAVE YOU READ? I’m a full-time working mom. And yes I’m proud.

I returned to work, knowing that 3 days per week I had the flexibility to see him earlier in the afternoon, to burrow my face into his soft warm neck, to tickle him until he giggled with delight.

And I talked with GROWN UPs at lunch time. And I ate lunch at a normal time. And I ate a full lunch. Not bits of crackers and cheese in between baby bounces and burps and breast-feeding.

I reconnected with co-workers and community partners. I got a cup of coffee on the way into the office and drank it STILL HOT. I tended to work emails and meetings and SAT BY MYSELF and listened to audio books on my commute and read books on my Kindle app during pump breaks and WORE THE SAME OUTFIT SANS SPIT UP all day.

I missed my baby but I also realized that in those few hours he was in someone else’s care, I was caring for myself a bit more, too. His huge smile at the end of the day MELTED MY HEART into a puddle that warmed my entire soul. His snuggles and giggles meant more than I ever thought possible. Weekends just the three of us were pure delight–doing nothing or everything–just being together.

And it was tough. TOUGH. TOUGH.

Pumping and washing pump parts and packing and re-packing the pump bag. And packing stored breast milk in the right increments. And trying to get out of the house on time. And worrying that he was going through breast milk too quickly. And wondering if I could keep up. And feeling emotionally and mentally exhausted at the end of the day. And wondering if I’d made the right choice.

Over time as each of these anxieties caught up with me, I was able to figure out a best case scenario, the thing that seemed to fit us best–a re-negotiated, temporary reduced schedule that allowed me a full day off each week–working a 75% schedule in the office.  

That scenario worked well and fulfilled both my desire to be about work that felt important and gave me a sense of identity outside of motherhood while also allowing for me to have an entire week day off with my little guy to just be and do and laugh and play and sometimes chore and sometimes not and to meet up for play dates and to try new parks and explore new places.

ANOTHER POST LIKE THIS: “I decided to go back to work” – one mom’s confession

The time came when I knew adding that 25% back into my week was not only something I was ready for, but was the schedule that would work best for our family. I’ve been back fully full time for over a year now, and while there are still challenges {some of which were there even at a reduced schedule}, if nothing else, my husband and I have figured out even more how to navigate dual working schedules and household and kiddo responsibilities. In some ways, he and I are working better together.

Overall, working full time while parenting is the decision that works for me and for us as a family. We have seen our kids thrive in daycare, learn a ton, and be genuinely happy with other caregivers.  I derive satisfaction and joy from a professional role that I feel suits me really well and keeps me feeling balanced {most of the time!}. Even on the toughest of days, I feel the balance of work and home life prepares me to be a better mom because it allows me to stretch my identity, to carve out time for myself {yes, even if that is listening to a podcast on my morning commute}, to widen our circle of caring people in our children’s lives, and to really consider what needs my attention at the end of the day.

This is not the choice that benefits everyone.

There is a lot to consider on all fronts of working vs. not working vs. part-time vs. flex scheduling.  If you are reading this and sitting in a place of doubt right now (in the midst of newborn sleep deprivation or that baby heading into kindergarten) and you are just not sure the next step to take {Return to work? Stay home full time? Work from the home?}, I invite you to consider the following: How does work–or spending dedicated time diving into on a passion of yours–help you be a better mom? I sometimes need to answer this question for myself everyday.

Perhaps it isn’t full time work that is calling you but it is finding a way to integrate a passion of yours into your daily or weekly routine. Perhaps that is the next best step for you. My story isn’t your story. But I invite you to reflect and consider and reach out to friends for their stories, too. Consider the multiple ways you can think about work–full time, flex schedule, part time, reduced time, from home. Think about what it is you want to still have the flexibility to do while also working… and will your work situation allow for that? What do you need to negotiate or consider (in addition to the financial benefits)? Approach your decision with care. Give yourself grace on days you aren’t sure it’s the right one. Take care of yourself, momma, in whatever way that means for you. Your children? They really will be alright.


Morgan Studer - theCityMomsABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Morgan Studer is a southern transplant in the Midwest who still considers 70 degrees jacket weather, and is always on the hunt for the best biscuits and gravy. Her day job in the higher education world connects her passions for continuous learning and personal growth with community engagement.

On weekends you’ll find her adventuring with her husband and two children, grabbing ice cream, Geocaching at a local park, or snuggling up with a few good books.

Morgan enjoys a hot cup of coffee, exploring new places on foot, and settling in for a good Netflix binge.