There aren’t many experiences in your life quite like becoming a mom for the first time. When my son came, the first three months of his life were a roller coaster of emotions for him, for me, for everyone. By month four, I had some of it figured out: I understood his cries, got him into a feeding and nap “schedule,” had my house in order. All of those major turning points that make you feel like, ‘Yes, I got this!’
And then I went back to work.
For me, returning to work was harder than being home with a newborn baby.
When you have a new baby, you expect your life to change dramatically. You may not know exactly how, but you know it will. But when it’s time to get back into those work pants and clock in, though, reality hits you: This part of your life hasn’t changed. You’re expected to do everything the same, except everything is not the same; not even a little.
My back-to-work-story goes like this:
I commute 45 minutes to work and show up at 8 a.m. On top of the commute which now includes an extra half hour for childcare drop-off, I also need to leave plenty of time to get myself ready, pump, pack our bags, feed him, change him, make sure my two cats are fed, make the coffee… the list goes on. I have to pack what was my entire morning during maternity leave into a two-hour window that starts at 5 a.m.
Then I work 8 hours, commute the 45 minutes back, and just when I think, “FINALLY! I get to rest,” my second job – the mommying – kicks in.
I would spend many evenings in tears because I just couldn’t figure it out; I didn’t know how to balance it. There were nights I was ready to sleep at eight o’clock. My infant son? He had other plans. In those first couple of months back to work, he wouldn’t be asleep until ten , which meant neither was I. It was tough, so tough.
And the worst part was it felt like it would never end.
Here’s the turning point in the story: It ends. It does. And you do figure it out.
Every single mom in the world has a different way they “figure it out.” These are the things that worked for me and they might work for you, too.
- Check in with yourself: physically, emotionally, mentally
I realized I was having a problem so I talked to my doctor about it: “Why was I so tired? Why was I crying all the time?” Her answer? It’s normal. That made me feel so much less alone; like I wasn’t incapable of being a mom because I was overwhelmed.
- Ask for help
I lean on my support system a lot. My husband and my family were (and still are) rock stars for helping me navigate early motherhood.
No matter who you have in your life supporting you – whether it’s a spouse, a friend, a parent, or just anyone you love deeply – bring them into your world. Let them understand how you’re feeling. Tell them you need help.
Need someone else to give the baby a bath? Pack a diaper bag? Make dinner? Ask. Don’t try to do it all. You’re supermom already; having some help doesn’t change that.
- Prioritize (and soften your expectations)
This one took some time to really sink in but ever since it did, I feel much less stressed. Doing things after work isn’t as important as finding the time to spend with your baby. I love a clean house as much as the next person, but if I can’t fit that into the schedule I want to have at night to make me feel relaxed and happy, then it can wait. That’s what weekends are for.
- Know you can do this, and know your baby loves you
Eventually, like all babies do, my son got on a regular schedule. While that does make being a working mom a little bit easier, nothing is easy about leaving your kid for ten hours a day. Nothing.
But it is possible. Mamas everywhere do it every day.
Sometimes when you get home after a tough work day, the baby won’t eat but will cry (a lot) and you might feel like the universe is against you. Remember to find your balance. What will help make this night better for you?
Take it one step, one day, at a time, mama. It gets easier; you can do it.
Alex lives in the glorious northern state of New Hampshire and is a new-ish first-time mom to a one-year-old little boy called Aidan. She has the world’s most beautiful dimples, a very hot brother, and is an amazing friend/writer/gift giver. We love her and so should you.
Wanna write for HTLYT? Send us an email or find us on social media! We buy each of our contributors a coffee and can get your words in front of an audience. Also, sometimes we get lazy and your posts give us days off. Praise.