Of all the descriptions we're given about returning to work after maternity leave, I don't think "scary" comes up often enough. Sure, we hear about "challenging" and "exhausting" and "gut-wrenching" on the regular, and even "freeing" and "exciting" and "fun," but I think "fear-inducing" should be on that list, too. For me, the weeks leading up to my return date were a time of uncertainty, discomfort (both physically and emotionally); It was me questioning my choices, and having serious doubt about my ability to function as an adult. This makes it sound a lot like starting high school, which, now that I think about it, was pretty much the exact same thing but 17 years apart and with a breast-pump bag instead of a Jansport backpack, and ballet flats instead of off-brand Doc Martens (no way was I ready for heels, either time).
The good news is, returning to work after maternity leave, much like starting high school, was not nearly as big of a deal as I expected it to be. In fact, there's an entire list of things that I was concerned about that pretty much ended up being non-issues. In case there's anyone out there with the same hesitations, allow me to share some of them with you:
"I'm Not Going To Be Able To Actually Do My Job"
Having never gone back to work after having a baby before, I had serious doubts about my ability to focus. Thankfully, once I managed to get out the door and into the office (an on-going challenge), it was usually OK.
"My Baby Will Miss Me Way Too Much, And Will Be Scarred By My Absence."
In those early months, my husband and/or my mother-in-law (typically the two people my son was usually with) were always kind enough to reassure me that my baby did not miss me too much, and that he only missed me "just enough" (whatever that beautiful lie meant).
"I Will Miss My Baby Way Too Much, And Will Be Scarred By His Absence."
It sometimes felt like too much, but I was usually able to keep my crying to a minimum so my co-workers weren't distracted. I'm kidding, I'm kidding. I missed my son a lot, but I was able to deal, just like every other mom I know. And having time where I was able to focus on adult tasks, and was responsible for changing exactly zero diapers? I mean, it didn't hurt.
"My Breast Milk Will Get Everywhere."
Shout-out to all the nursing moms: You have my heart and all my internet hugs. This one took some intense logistical management (and a very understanding boss), but I'm proud to be able to say that my breast milk never went anywhere I didn't want it to. Well, technically, it never went anywhere I didn't want it to in a situation that didn't allow me to clean it quickly without others seeing it, so I still count that as a win. (Also, note to other moms: Patterned shirts hide leaks better than plain ones.)
"I'm Going To Enjoy Working More Than I Should."
What even is that? "Too much?" But it's true, when I went back to work after my son was born, part of me was worried about the possibility of enjoying being away from my baby a little too much. I realize this is a complicated fear with layers rooted in feminism and societal expectations and leaning in and all the things that go along with that, but still... I worried about it. And like all the others, it was a non-issue. There are some perks to being a working mom, don't get me wrong, but I can't say I ever got too swept up in them.
"My Baby Won't Be Well Taken Care Of."
My anxious mind was really good at coming up with all kinds of scenarios that were definitely not rooted in reality. I had no reason to worry other than the fact that I was a new mom who was prone to worry anyway. Even now, I still struggle with this one a bit but typically push through it by reminding myself all the reasons I have to believe in the childcare choices we've made.
"I Will Go To Work With Spit-Up On My Clothes And No One Will Tell Me."
I'm certain that this actually did happen at one point, but everyone was too polite to point it out.
Images: Jeff Sheldon/Unsplash; Giphy(7)