If I could afford to stay at home with my children, I would. I like my job, don't get me wrong, but I wouldn't work full-time if I didn't have to. Instead I would focus my energy on running my house, taking care of my family, focusing on raising responsible and empathetic humans, and writing part-time. That's not possible, though, because without my salary we couldn't afford to buy groceries or own a home, let alone any extracurricular activities. But working outside of the house is tough, and every working mom wants pregnant women to know just how tough it can be.
When my daughter was born, the company I worked for offered just six weeks of maternity leave. My position was remote, though, so when my maternity leave ended I didn't technically have to leave my baby. I mean, I still had to work and hire a sitter, but I was physically close to my baby. I could pump in peace and spend my breaks holding her or rocking her to sleep. In other words, my work schedule was all very flexible. Eventually, however and when my daughter was 14 months, I switched jobs and had to send her to daycare. It was tough. Working full-time with a toddler was difficult, to be sure, but in many ways manageable.
When I was halfway through my pregnancy with my son, my contract for the position I held ended and I decided there was little use of trying to find another position since I was shortly due. (I also figured no one would hire a woman who was five months pregnant.) Shortly after I had my son, I started looking for work because we could not afford to live comfortably on one salary. It took over a year to find something stable. I cried the night before my first day back at work, out of both sadness and fear. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to effectively juggle two kids and all other household responsibilities with a full-time job. It's slightly easier with one kid who goes to daycare. It's completely different with two kids, one of whom has homework, field trips, and activities.
Juggling a full-time career and a family is tough and that is just one of the things a mother who works outside of the house wants pregnant women to know. I'm not trying to scare you, or to make you feel as helpless as I felt on more than on occasion. But maybe if you know these feelings are real and mutual, you'll be able to handle them more in stride than I did.
Maternity Leave Will Be Over Before You Know It
If you're lucky enough to work for a company that offers maternity leave (because, you know, the United States is the only developed country on Earth without mandatory paid maternity leave), then you should probably know that maternity leave usually ends before your body has had the chance to properly heal. So, if you are the few lucky ones with a fancy maternity leave policy, use it to the fullest, enjoy it, and take it easy.
Spend Time With Your Newborn
Spend as much time with your baby as humanly possible and as often as you want. Do whatever it is you want with that bundle of joy, because time is fleeting and one day that baby of yours will get on a yellow school bus and wave you off like you didn't spend nine months growing her in your belly (and another five years raising her and preparing her for this exact moment). Spend as much time learning about yourself and your baby and figuring out the parenting style that works best for you and your family. Take all the time you need (or as much as your maternity leave allows you).
Take Time For Yourself
While we are on the topic of spending time with your baby, please make sure to take some time for yourself, too. Go out for a drink with a friend, or go to a store all by yourself and spend an hour just browsing cute shoes. Find a nook in a bookstore, grab a coffee, and read something that ignites your spirit. Go get a pedicure. Happy mom means happy baby.
Daycare Can Be Really Beneficial
I know it's probably devastating to leave your child in the care of strangers, but daycare can be really beneficial to children. A study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health showed that children who attended a high-quality daycare were "less likely to act out," were "more socially aware," and performed slightly better in academics. So, while your heart may be aching when you drop off your kid, just know it's actually good for them to socialize with other kids and be in the care of professionals.
Going Back To Work Can Be Really Difficult
If you didn't suffer from postpartum depression, you might be slightly surprised as to just how sad and overwhelmed you are when you go back to work. Obviously everyone is different, but I had a really difficult time going back after I had my son. I cried before work, at work, after work, at home, and before I fell asleep. I cried so much the first few weeks, I really should have gone and talked to someone. But, I couldn't really afford it since my insurance didn't really cover mental health, so I just suffered in silence until (thankfully) it passed. And I'm not the only mother I know whom this happened to. Many of my friends faced the same kind of sadness when going back to work.
Everything Will Most Likely Be Overwhelming
Having a full-time job and running a household and being a mom is a lot. It sounds like a lot because it is a lot. There's very little of that so-called "work/life balance" involved, and you may feel like you're constantly playing catch-up. (Hint: we all are.)
I constantly feel like I'm missing out on something, or forgetting something, or running late to something. Juggling everything as a mom is a difficult task. You may feel overwhelmed and ready to lock yourself in the bathroom and cry from exhaustion, so make sure to ask for help whenever you need it and even when you think you don't need it.
Take Care Of Your Mental Health
I may sound repetitive, but I am not kidding when I say "take care of your mental health." Your mental health as a mother and as a woman will be challenged often. In addition to all the hormones raging through your body immediately postpartum, you will also feel many contradicting emotions. It is freaking hard to be a mom these days, and the expectations for perfection are unreal. The use of social media only hurts us by pitting us against each other, too. So, take care of yourself. You are worth it.
Pregnancy Is The Easiest Part Of Motherhood
I literally hate myself for saying this, because I honestly wanted to punch people in the throat when I was going through my horrendously difficult pregnancy and they had the galls to tell me the pregnancy was the easy part. But honestly? Yeah, pregnancy really is the easiest part of motherhood. I'm not trying to be "one of those people," I'm just being honest. I had a terrible pregnancy and I would still take the newborn stage over being pregnant ever again, but compared to the rest of motherhood, pregnancy is a breeze. Try to enjoy it and try not to rush towards the end of it.
Other Moms May Save You
Find some mom friends and stick with them. They will lift you up and commiserate at the same time. It will be tough, but we are all somehow making it through. Wine helps.
Watch Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Check out the entire Romper's Doula Diaries series and other videos on Facebook and the Bustle app across Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.