9 Things I wish I knew before I became a working Mom
Working Moms are truly the unrecognized superheros of american households. They can stay up all night with sick kids, nail presentations, get everyone to appointments/sports practice, make dinner, fold a load of laundry, and put everyone to bed.. in one day. Some work by choice and some work out of necessity. Whichever reason they deserve serious respect and recognition.
I was a working mom for a total of 4 grueling weeks, and I can’t say its something I would want to do again. I have even gone as far to referring to my WOHM (work outside the home mom) days as the ‘dark days’. Here is what I learned about what it was like, and what I wish people had told me.
1. The dinner, bath, book, and bed mad dash
This was something I just wasn’t prepared for. Every night was a mad dash to get dinner on the table and start the bedtime routine in a timely manner. I would leave the office at 3:30 sharp and get to daycare by 3:45, 4 then spend about 15-20 minutes saying hi to my kid, talking to teachers, gathering her stuff, I would get home around 4:30 with my husband and try to tire out two dogs, nurse a baby who wouldn’t eat all day, cook dinner, eat, and try to keep a clean house… all by 6:30 to keep up with a bedtime routine so many sleep experts recommend. It was overwhelming to say the least.
2. Pumping can drive you to tears
If it’s because your sad to be away from your baby, having trouble keeping up with their milk needs, forgot a part, or are experiencing “dysphoric letdown” a condition which pumping can make you sad, it can happen. (Read more about Dysphoric letdown here https://kellymom.com/bf/concerns/mother/d-mer/) The first week or so I enjoyed pumping in peace and taking a deep breath, but as time went on I had trouble keeping up. Before I knew it my freezer stash was gone and I was pumping just enough for the next day. Once I got over the mom guilt for not providing enough breastmilk, I started sending my daughter to daycare with the milk I could pump and formula for backup.
I should also add that I was very lucky to have an employer that was so supportive of my lactation needs, but there are many women working for employers who are not, and they don’t receive adequete time and spaces to pump, thus jeapordizing their milk supply and forcing them to turn to formula before mom or baby is ready.
3. The drive between work and daycare is the only time you will get to yourself
It’s true! and no matter how loud you turn up that radio, you are running through your never ending to do list in your head, planning dinners, thinking about the day ahead, and generally wondering how in the fuck you are you going to do it all.. even with a supportive partner.. who has his own never ending to do list.
Or you are pumping because you are trying sooo hard to keep up your milk supply, because we as mother’s put so much pressure on ourselves to breastfeed for as long as we possibly can…even when it damn near kills us.
4. Your nights are spent getting everything ready for the next day
After a long day there is nothing better than taking a shower and kicking up your feet. But now you have to wash ALL the bottles, wash your pump parts, gather all the milk for tomorrow, make lunches, and pack the diaper bag. Don’t forget about your own laundry and needs too!
I remember after a rough day taking apart all the bottles on the counter to wash and bursting into tears. I had just put the baby to bed, cooked and cleaned up dinner, and now I had to wash all of these bottles I needed for tomorrow. Eventually I learned a lot of them are top rack dishwasher safe (check the manual!) , but you can never have too many bottles.
5. You will feel like your entire office is judging you
When I went back to work I had what some would refer to as “dream hours” I worked Tuesday-Thursday 8:30-3:30, I had a four day weekend every weekend and got to leave a bit early on Wednesday. I felt jealousy from coworkers over my strict hours that I could not work outside of and when I dashed out the door at 3:30 on the dot… but then I remembered what they didn’t know…
- I had specific contracted hours with daycare that I would have to pay extra for not complying with
- The one day I would leave early was for an important errand like a car repair or something I forgot at the store and I would still run into the daycare breathless in the nick of time
- When I called to check on my daughter at lunch I heard her crying in the background and I spent the day with a heavy heart
It turned out that none of my coworkers were judging me, a lot of them were parents too but the paranoia and guilt was real!
6. Saying “no” has never been easier
Before I became a mother I was always a “yes” girl. I said yes to every project I was offered, created additional projects, took on new cases, and helped on projects I wasn’t even required to. After I had my daughter I learned how easy it was to just say “no”, as a parent you have to set limits for yourself, your child, and your work.
7. It takes a while for a little one to adjust to a daycare setting
I thought babies loved daycare, I was picturing dropping my baby off to a room full of happy infants with a bright and cheery lady that would play on the floor with the babies all day. There would be story time, she would play with other babies and make new friends, hell, maybe she would even get on a reliable nap schedule!….this is going to be much better than her sitting in the bouncy seat and watching me clean all day… NOPE!
Daycare is an extremely stimulating environment. In the state of NH childcare centers are only required to have a 4:1 staff to infant ratio, so thats 4 babies for one person. Of course crying babies are tended to, but probably not as fast as they are at home with mom. Its a big adjustment to a new space and new people without their favorite person or the one they feel most safe with. Take comfort in knowing eventually they will eat and adjust but it won’t happen right away.
8. There will be illnesses and MANY sleepless nights
It seemed like every time I went to pick up my daughter, there was another notice posted about a confirmed illness. She caught the flu after a daycare trial run and my husband and I slept in shifts watching her breathe in the swing.
When she had RSV we did the same, luckily it turned out to be a mild case, however I laid awake and stared at her in the crib until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, I was too scared she could go into respiratory distress any second. It seemed like we were at the doctor every week for something!
9. They will make up for what they don’t eat.. all.night.long
This is one I was NOT prepared for. My daughter refused almost every bottle at daycare, some days she would eat 2 oz some days 4oz and there was one day she ate nothing.. and I mean absolutely NOTHING. On days she refused to eat she would eat all night, resulting in many sleepless nights and exhausting days. There was nothing worse than being up all night with a hungry baby and then waking up at the crack of dawn to get ready for work… but I did it, and too many mothers do.
Pain and simple, being a working Mom isn’t easy. Eventually you find your groove and you make it work, or you throw in the towel, but you need to do what is best for you and your family. Working moms need more credit than we give them. Be patient, be kind, and always suggest ordering takeout.