I am lucky to be able to work part-time. I am lucky that I got to take 12 weeks of maternity leave (mostly unpaid). I am lucky (and a little bitter) that my husband also got 12 weeks of paternity leave (all paid). I am lucky I had an uncomplicated delivery that resulted in a very healthy baby. All that being said, it still doesn’t feel like enough. Women are expected to go back to work after having a baby as if nothing happened. The job expectations don’t change, yet the reality is our whole world has.
How do we juggle it all?
I wish I had an answer, but here are a few things that have helped me so far:
Set boundaries. You need to set clear and realistic expectations for yourself at the workplace and at home. Don’t be afraid to say no to projects that require late nights and hard deadlines that you won’t be able to meet without a lot of stress. This is something I am struggling with, mostly because I am not sticking to the boundaries I have set up. For example, I am still taking on projects and answering emails outside of my agreed upon hours. While I am sure my workplace appreciates it, I am starting to feel burnt out.
Find a caretaker that you are comfortable with. Whether it is a daycare center, a nanny, or a relative, finding someone to watch your baby that you trust is so important. Leaving your baby in someone else’s care for the first time can cause anxiety. However, knowing your baby is with someone who will give them the best care possible helps make the transition a little easier. We ended up touring several daycares until we found the perfect fit.
Prep the night before. This has been a complete game-changer for me. I used to wait until the last possible minute in the morning to get everything ready for work. Now that I am a mom, I find it much less stressful if I have everything packed and ready to go when I wake up. I like to make lunches, put clothes out, pack my bags, and prepare my son’s things for daycare the night before. It’s much easier to just grab everything and go in the morning, especially on days where I haven’t gotten much sleep the night before.
Sleep. This is a big one for me. I am definitely someone who needs sleep to function. Unfortunately, the time most moms go back to work at 12 weeks, also aligns with the beginning of the 4-month sleep regression. Around the time I started back at work, my son went from sleeping in 6-7 hour chunks to waking up every 2-3 hours. At first, I was trying to power through and do all the night wake-ups myself. However, I quickly found that this method was not going to be sustainable long term. So now, on work nights my husband and I take sleeping shifts. I typically go to bed around 9 and take all wake-ups after 1 AM. My husband gives our son his last bottle sometime between 10-11 PM and then takes over again at 5 AM if needed. This has worked out well for us because it ensures we both are getting at least some sleep.
Meal prep. This is something new for me, but I am really enjoying it. On Sundays, while my husband is watching the baby and football, I spend a couple of hours preparing our lunches and dinners for the week. I have become a huge fan of drive-up grocery pick-up since having our son. I can add things to the shopping list throughout the week so all I have to do is pick it up on Sunday when I am ready to start cooking. Once I have all the food, I pre-cook and slice everything I can think of so that I can save time throughout the week. I then divide all the food into containers so that it can be easily prepared throughout the week. This method does require a little more time on the front end when it comes to meal planning and preparing, but it really pays off later in the week.
Do a trial run. This sounds a little silly, but hear me out. The week before I dropped my son off to daycare for the first time I woke up and pretended as though I would be heading to work. I would wake up early and get fully dressed for the day. I would feed my son and get him ready as well. I even went so far as to get us and all my stuff into the car as if I were heading to work. We would go to Starbucks or the library instead of work, but this process helped me feel confident and ready once I did go back to work.
Ask for help. This one is probably the hardest, but please don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether you need your partner to take some shifts at night so you can get more sleep or your boss to adjust your start time so it works better with daycare drop off – the most important step is to simply ask. I like to put myself in the other person’s shoes; if they asked me for help would I be willing? If the answer is yes, then I think it is fair to ask that person for help from time to time. Being honest and open with what you need often creates a much smoother transition for all parties involved.