Having a baby is really, really tough. I don't just mean the giving birth part (although that’s no picnic), but I'm talking about the wide range of emotions moms experience day in and day out. Some days I feel overwhelmed with happiness and fulfillment. On others, I might lean a little more towards tired and cranky, with a dash of “Why did I do this again?" But when I was wondering if I should go back to work after having my baby, I experienced the varying emotions at the same time.
My maternal pull was strong, but the call of a career was equally tempting. For me, the fact that I work for myself allowed me some flexibility regarding when, how, and if I wanted to go back to work at all. And while I ultimately decided that balancing working from home with parenting was the right choice for me, that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with guilt — I do nearly every day.
But for every minute that I feel guilty about ignoring my son in order to work (or vice versa), I feel a thrill of excitement every time I finish a project or land a new client. Balancing working and parenting is a complex juggling act and it’s different for everyone, and to prove that, I talked to several other women who returned to work after giving birth. While I found that our answers sometimes varied wildly, the one thing all of us ambitious moms have in common is that we're all committed to doing what we need to do in order to succeed.
Your Outlook On Your Workload Could Change
"I freelance and run an Etsy store in addition to working my full-time job, so I try really hard to not waste time thinking about all the things I can't do or all the resources I don't have. Instead, I focus on what I can do." —Emily F. Popek, owner of Bread and Roses Vintage
And You Might Feel Totally Guilt-Ridden
"At one point, my parents helped with the kids so I could work on my business's site from my home office. To be honest, I felt guilty. I was home and present, but not really there. I also felt guilty because I couldn't bring myself to go back to a big corporate job and miss out on seeing my kids." —Natasha Soleil, CEO/Founder of Univhers
Or You May Not Struggle At All
“As the owner of my own company, I wasn’t really able to take any time off for either child. With my first baby, my son Nico, I was sending emails from the delivery room. Returning home with my new baby was so exciting, and while of course I wanted to forget all about work and snuggle with him for hours, I got right back in the swing of things as soon as I returned home from the hospital. I actually feel fortunate that I never had to deal with the perils of returning to work. I have such a great team who supported me working from home after his birth so I could bond with him in my downtime." —Gina Nigrelli-Smith, founder of Jules Smith
You Could Feel A Sense Of Relief
"I felt really tired when I returned to work when my first was 9 weeks old. I felt unprepared to return to my classroom, but not worried or guilty about leaving my baby. I felt relieved to be back with other adults. Pumping in the copier room was annoying, but also gave me time to sit and just chill. I could pump three ounces from each side in under five minutes. I would just sit and stare at the clock on the fax machine. I’d do that two times a day. It was my zen time." —Kate Bowen, teacher
You May Feel Torn Between Two Priorities
"I worked until having my daughter — she came about a week earlier than expected — and I wasn't able to take time off. Being that I own my own business, there was no one else to fill in. A day after Marlowe was born, an email came in with urgent requests from our investor. So, I was emailing and working from my hospital bed. I will always look back on that time with a sense that I was robbed from special moments with my baby. It was unfortunate timing, and because of where we were in our business, I couldn't push it off a few weeks. I always feel guilty that I didn't allow more time for both of my kiddos, but as an entrepreneur there really was no choice in it." —Ali Elman, co-founder of BASE COAT Nail Salon
And You May Find A New Source Of Motivation
"I've gone back to work twice. The first time was 10 weeks after our oldest son was born, and I felt devastated and guilty. The second time was with the launch of Taylor Wilkinson Designs. We now have three children, ages 8 to 13 years. They are older, but the guilt is still there. I've missed football games and book fairs and dinners. And yes, I feel guilty about all that, but a lot of my work is for them.
"They motivate my success in many ways. I want them to see what can happen when you work really hard for something. I want them to see that you can thrive professionally and still be a decent, kind, and honest person. Mainly, I want them to know they are loved and are the inspirations for everything I do." —Taylor Wilkinson, founder of Taylor Wilkinson Designs