Working Moms Pep Talk

When one mother wrote to the group worried about going back to work, positive responses came pouring in. Here, we pulled together their replies. In sum: you got this!

badass

 

 

 

As the original poster wrote:

"I'm a first time mom and y daughter is 5 months old. I've been back to work about a month, at 3 days a week. So far, it's been ok. I love my nanny and Genevieve seems happy and healthy in the current situation. I enjoy being back at work and using my brain.
I know what I'm about to type is the same scenario every working mom faces, but I just need to know — how do you do it?
I have to go back full-time in January. This is something I just can't wrap my head around. Right now, I'm still with her more time than not, but soon, she'll be spending most of her time with someone else. A wonderful someone else, but still — not me. And that someone else will be teaching her to eat solids, teaching her songs and words, will most likely see her crawl first, clap first, wave first, walk first. Just typing that brings tears to my eyes.
How do I wrap my head around this? How do I make it ok? How can I cram a full day of love and interaction into the hour and a half between when I get home and when she goes to bed? How do I feel like I'm the one raising her, not the nanny? How do you do it?"

 

Related reading:

http://www.parkslopeparents.com/Working-Mother-Topics/the-real-i-don-t-know-how-she-does-it-moms.html

 workingmom1

Replies:

“Oof. I know.  It's so, so hard.  I really recommend reading the book The Fifth Trimester, which is all about going back to work (and dealing with all the things - the emotions, the logistics, everything).   It feels impossible because everything feels and is so different and your priorities are so different, but I promise you will settle into a routine and your baby girl will know and feel all the love you have for her.”

 


workingmom3 

“Here is a few random thoughts:
- Can you arrange to work from home at least one day a week?
- Break your vacation days into single days off taken once per week (or even half days?) and spend them with your daughter.  I feel like at this young age better to have more time with mommy within a week, then two full weeks within a year.
- Enroll in classes (music, swim, baby yoga) to discover more exciting ways to bond with your baby.
- Keep breastfeeding if you can ... your baby will recognize you by the smell and feel the closeness.
- Take good care of yourself and rest enough so that you have the physical and emotional resources to interact with your daughter when given a chance.
- Ask the nanny to share photos and videos during the day.
- Where possible, introduce new things (e.g. new flavors of solids) on weekends when you are around. Accept that some things will slip through the cracks (hard to fully control what the nanny does), prepare to let go.
- Focus on how you can make the little time together more meaningful.  Whatever you feel makes you two bond (singing, unstructured play on the floor, baby yoga, dancing in front of a mirror together, finger painting, making a mess in the pantry ... whatever brings a smile to that precious little face).
- Plan fun weekends together (we’ve just tried a zoo and my son loved it!). A farmers market or Christmas fairs may be another good idea.  If you have to run errands, take your baby in a carrier everywhere.
- Not for everyone, but I co-sleep, which makes me feel less guilty about my son spending day hours away from me. Also, it’s so cozy, one of life’s greatest pleasures :)
- Not sure if it helps, but separated fathers get to see babies 2-3 times a week for 2-3 hours. Those who want to, are still able to develop a lifelong relationship!
- Accept the reality. If you cannot take more time off work, why stress over things you cannot have. Focus on your time with the little one and be grateful that she is in loving and capable hands when you are not around. You’ll catch up once she gets to the verbal stage which will let you connect on a deeper level. One thing I always tell myself, “No one in the world will care about my baby as much as I do.” Just find ways to convey that to her!”

 


 

“This is a very difficult and stressful situation that so many of us face. I went back to work full-time when my daughter was 4 months. A few things that helped me:

  1. Having a supportive and flexible employer was important too. I worked for a Fortune 100 company but one that was extremely flexible with working moms. I left at 5:30pm on the dot every single day and was able to work from home on Fridays. Working from home was really key to balancing being back at work full time. Is this something you might be able to do?

  2. [My daughter] was a late evening sleeper from when she was an infant. Her natural bedtime is between 9pm and 10pm. I know that it is much later than what most parents feel is normal or preferable. However, she also woke up later, making her total number of hours slept totally up to averages. Also, until a child is in daycare or school, it doesn't really matter what time the go to bed if they are making it up by sleeping in - this is just my personal opinion. This later bedtime gave us an opportunity for more time together in the evenings. Yes, my husband and I had less time for ourselves in the evening but we loved spending time with Mina after we got home. If your child's bedtime is much earlier, you can consider moving it even if by just 30-60 minutes. It can allow for that much more happiness/quality time.

  3. Outsourcing things like apartment cleaning, not worrying about elaborate dinners helped me have more time for [my daughter] when I got home and on weekends.

  4. Our nanny was amazing in everything - taking care of [my daughter] but also setting appropriate boundaries. I fully realize that she may have been the one who saw my daughter do things for the first time. But you know what she did - she never told me. She let me and my husband enjoy the precious moments as ours whenever our daughter did these things in the evenings or on weekends, so we could claim them as our own. It is a simple thing but is a big reason why I never felt like I was missing these milestones.

Hope some of these are helpful!”

 


 

“Regarding firsts, I found it helpful to have the mindset of the first time I see the new thing IS the first time. Not to delude myself into an alternate reality, but the first time you see your child walk or eat or speak, etc, really is the first time for YOU, and it will be very special. That matters so much more than the possibility that it also happened without you there. As in all things, perspective matters.”

 


 

“I've been back at full-time work for 4 months (since my twins were about 5 months old).  It is hard, but the anxiety/anticipation of what you're describing was a lot harder than actually doing it is.  I know others have much more experience than I do, but here are a couple of thoughts:

  1. I thought I would be at the office early every morning because I thought that's what parents did -- we're up anyway, right?  Instead, I spend more time in the mornings than in the evenings with my boys. I like to stay and chat with our nanny and play with her and the boys while we go over how their night went, their development, etc.  It makes me feel much more involved.  When I get home in the evening, usually either my husband has already relieved the nanny or I get home right about when it's time for her to leave, so I appreciate this time with her and them.  Unless I have an early morning meeting or something, I typically stay home until they go down for their morning nap.  I don't know if your work schedule has any flexibility, but if I had the option of spending quality morning time with them but missing their fussy evening time, I'd pick mornings!  Either way, if you can have a chunk of time with [your child] and the nanny, I find that really helps me.
  2. Sometimes I tell our nanny that I noticed one of them doing something for the first time and she smiles in a way that makes me think he's been doing it for a while, but not in front of me.  I don't really mind as much as I thought I would because, in all the chaos of our lives, there's no telling when the 'first' time they did something was anyway.  For example, one of them just started clapping, but for all I know he's been doing that in the crib, when I was in the bathroom, at his brother when he does something funny but I wasn't looking, etc.  I've also noticed they are most adventurous when they think no one is looking -- for example, I rarely actually see one of them crawl, but I know he can because when I leave the room and come back, he's moved totally across the room.  So chances are good I'd miss plenty of 'firsts' if I was home all day, anyway.  And their look of immense, beaming pride when they pull to stand has not gone away -- I have no clue when the first time they did that was, but it was a while ago, yet every time seems like the first time to them and it's something to celebrate!
  3. [Your child is] napping and asleep for a few of the hours you're gone.  You're not missing as much as it feels like (even though, I know, you're still missing things -- this is just something I like to remind myself). 
  4. You probably already do this, but pictures and texts throughout the day are great.  I have made it really clear that there's nothing I don't want to hear about, and nothing is ever 'interrupting' my work day or bothering me. 
  5. You can cram so much love and interaction into those two weekend days, really (but no pressure to like orchestrate fun allll the time, just hanging around the apartment is so great).  We have outsourced as much of the errands/chores that we used to do on the weekends as we can so that we can spend more time just being a family.  If there's something you really want to be the first to do with her -- for me that was the swings -- just make that clear to your nanny and do it on the weekend.  
  6. If there is something special during the week that you can miss work for sometimes, it is worth it. Example: my boys go to a class on Wednesday mornings with the nanny and my husband (when he can make it, which is most of the time) and he loves it.  

 

Related PSP reading: Missing Firsts

 


 

“It’s so so hard, and it really does get better.  It gets easier.  It’s so hard to believe people when they say that but it’s true. 
I remind myself that I am the one there for her every night, and every wake up, and every middle of the night crying cuddling need. She will have all sorts of different teachers throughout her life who will be with her during the day, and they will change (Nanny to preschool to 1st grade, and so on...), but you are her MOM.  It’s like work - I spend all day with these other people, but my family is my family.
I agree about the work from home thing, if you can do even once every other Friday it will feel better. 
I found we love our nanny so much that I have felt grateful for the things she has brought to our lives!  Like potty training!
You can feel as sad as you want to as you go through the transition, and it will just get better.  I promise.”

 


 

“I had the very same feelings and still do. I try to remind myself that it "takes a village" and perhaps before modern times, groups of women/men were sharing the children-rearing more. And maybe this idea of "co-mothering" is positive. More love for my son. Another culture to be exposed to.
I also think about my mom who was a stay-at-home mom, but also didn't have the time or the know-how for self-care and was depressed being a bit isolated. It's not always ideal the other way around. Not that I would repeat this pattern had I stayed at home.
On a more practical note, the WFH day once a week is a blessing and can make or break a job. I was actually quitting, when my boss suggested a better work-life balance.”

 


 

“To double down on what [a previous poster] said on firsts: when I went back to work, I was lucky enough to have my night-working-husband at home with them during the day...but I STILL felt like I was missing out. Because even if he wasn't a nanny, it still wasn't me doing all those things for the first time. I still struggle with feeling a little jealous/left out (though now it's about field trips and conversations at school drop-off, rather than solids or first steps), but ultimately it helps to remember that your kids will do things and experience things that are unique in each of their relationships and that's okay. I try to focus on the special times I get with them solo, and remind myself that the reason I love people in my own life is because I have those unique connections and memories with each person - it's good to spread those bonds around.”

 


 

“I've been there and am still there (son is 2.5 years old!). I really feel for you...
What's helped me is accepting the fact that our nanny is my son's main caregiver (and thus deserves the very best of treatment). We joke (but it's true) that our nanny is rank No. 1 in our household (son is No. 0) and then it was me because I breastfed (but now I've been relegated to my husband's level!).
Although pumping is so hard and annoying, breastfeeding helps. If you can't pump at work, just doing it directly in the morning and evening helps in my experience.
Agree with [a previous poster] that co-sleeping helps, although it's not for everyone. Also agree that moving bedtime to later helps (but would really depend on the kid - some kids end up waking up too early if bedtime is too late for the kid).
Wishing you the very best.”

 


 

“would like to echo [what the previous poster said] that the anticipation of it is MUCH worse than the reality! I was so nervous as I headed back but the two weeks leading up to it were harder than going back!”

 


 

“First, as a practical thing during the day when you’re back, it’s fine to encourage your nanny to encourage your child to nap twice during the day – aka as much as they want.  If you can deal with the sleep deprivation you can time shift.  For MANY years my son was up at 6 a.m. or earlier and went to bed at 9 p.m. or later (even as a baby) and so I’d spend 2-3 hours with him morning and night and all weekend and I’d be exhausted but not feel like I was missing time with him.  Some babies sleep more than others.  My son only had a bedtime before 9 when he gave up the 2nd nap at around age 2 and couldn’t make it that long, and went to bed around 8.  Then there was the point where he was ready to give up all naps so was up till 10 p.m. nightly, which was great but tiring for us.  I also nursed till he was one year old or so, so he would nurse early in the morning and at night and on weekends, which also helped me feel closer while working. (he didn’t want to wean when I was ready, but that’s for another thread)  If your baby needs to go to bed at 7:30 and you get home at 6:30, that might be another story.  See how it plays out?
I also suggest that you both lean in to going back to work AND keep asking yourself how you feel about being away for chunks of your baby’s days.  Your viewpoint will probably change dozens of times in upcoming weeks and you may settle on NOT wanting to miss it and needing more time with your baby.  Or you may relish the time you’re at work and find it easier than being a full-time caregiver (or even a part-time employee).  I struggled a lot with this stuff and for me, in the end, I liked continuing to work.  But it could have gone the other way and almost has off and on over the years.
There’s also the practical aspect of, we live in NYC and many families need two wage earners.  If you’re a single parent then presumably your earnings would be higher than what you pay your nanny so it may just be practical for you to keep working.  It was for me, although I sometimes would step back and figure out what the net costs were of not working and whether they allowed us to remain in NYC or would require a move to a lower-cost area.
Another thing that occurred to me is, if you have a partner, to ask how are they handling the same issues around the nanny?   I had some of the same issues when my now-12 year old son was a baby.  My then-husband didn’t.  I was reading Clinton’s book What Happened and she talks about the “emotional work” that women do and it really rung true for me.  I am the one who signs up for summer camps and after-school and the dental appointments and haircut appointments etc. etc. (ad infinitum), even though he and I both work the same amount of hours and are committed to our careers.  Now I’m the one signing up for high school tours… And I was the one who was sad when my nanny was so excited when our son was the first to see him crawl.  At the time I joked that I wish she had just NOT told us when he crawled while he was at work.  Let us think we saw it first.  (which is a viable approach, really!)”

 


 

“This feeling is so common and I know we all go through it when we return to work. On top of feeling like I was missing out on my babies, the lack of structural support in the workplace and how foggy my brain was made me really think about quitting and being a stay at home mom. What helped me keep working and sort of let go of these feelings was:

  1. I work from home Tuesdays and Fridays, so I went to singalongs and spent a lot of time with them then. But it was also really nice not being the primary caregiver during that time. Now that they're 13 months, I actually don't go to singalongs anymore (except the one I host in my apartment). I had to work from home during my 3rd trimester because I was too big to go in, so my boss knew that I'd still be productive at home. I would try to use that as an argument to get some days at home.

  2. I'm not sure why, but I'm fine missing the "firsts" because the first time I see something is already pretty exciting. When my nanny told me that my girl (I have b/g twins) started walking, I was really excited to see it, and when I saw it, it wasn't less special.

  3. I also changed the way I see my nanny - she wasn't raising my children, we were doing this together and I didn't have any negative feelings about that. I really appreciate that she is a true professional and is much more detail oriented than I am. There have been times that my kids have had marks/bruises/scars on their face that I didn't notice all day and she would come in and immediately say, "what happened to his face?" It felt like they were in better hands with her than with me, and she took them out way more than I would be inclined to if I were at home with them.

I know this is a tough phase and I'm wishing you the best through it.

 


 

“Someone may have mentioned this, but make that hour-and-a-half count!  No phone or email...You'll be surprised at how connected you can still feel to your child with as little as an hour of quality time together.  Cuddle, read, whatever makes you feel connected....Just. Be. Present!  I probably give more of my attention in that short time span than I would on a day when i'm home all day and trying to juggle other things.  In fact, my own mother, who was a SAHM, says she is amazed by the fact that somehow my husband and I manage to "spend more time" with our kids than she did with us...and I think she is talking about how we try to make those moments count.  The weekends are great for quality time too.  (And...there are actually many Mondays when I'm ready to get back into the office!) ;)
As my kids are now a bit older, (5 and 3), in that short evening time period, i'm able to read to them, find out what they did in school, what made them happy or sad, etc (not to mention the "running hug" I still get most days when I come home!).  They're so excited to tell me about it all.  I was also worried about my kids spending more time with the nanny than with me....but I've learned that (while we are lucky to have an amazing and loving nanny) there's no love/influence like that of a mommy's.  No one can compete with you in your role as "mom" even if they tried.  :)  
Hang in there.  Good luck.”

 


 workingmoms4

“It’s always so heartening to hear everyone say they had a similar experience! When [my child] was three months old I went back to work 3 days a week and then a month later I was back up to full time. I often tell people that the transition from 3 days a week to full time was the hardest for me. Not to have any downtime to squeeze in all those things I didn’t manage to get done on a day I was working (putting that load of laundry on, exploring a new park or just enjoying spending time together). Let’s just say there were a couple of nights of tears and frustration as I tried to figure out that new routine and learn to let some stuff go.
I totally agree with all the suggestions of trying to work from home one day, although if your little one is anything like mine I don’t get much done when I WFH and he isn’t at nursery. Also, in terms of firsts like starting solids or changing feeding times it’s your call when to start it, what to start with and whether you want to go the baby-led weaning route or not. So even if your Nanny is doing the day shift you’re still setting the path for her growth and development. And I agree on the suggestions to start new things on the weekends or maybe with dinner or breakfast if you are able to do those meals as well as getting pictures during the day. Honestly, the app my nursery uses with the photos is the biggest thing to control my sanity even now he’s been there for almost 6 months.
And the biggest thing which will helps is when several months down the line you come home and her little face will light up seeing you. It just helps reinforce that no matter who loves her and cares for her all day she’ll know who her “Mama” is.”


 

“One thing that really helped me was thinking about the unique things my daughter's nanny can provide beyond what I am reasonably able to do day-to-day. For example, when I am home with my daughter, I am balancing caring for her, household chores, errands, my relationship with my husband and friends, etc. But when our nanny is with her, her job is 100% to care for my daughter. In other words, she can give her uninterrupted attention in a way I sometimes can't. And our nanny is constantly looking for playdates, activities, etc. for my daughter with the type of focus ones bring to a job, but that would be hard for me to sustain every day. I try not to think of time with our nanny as taking away from time I spend with her, but as adding enrichment to my daughter's life.”

 


 

“Is there any possibility you could work remotely one day per week or ask for a flex schedule? Any bit of extra time with your child will make a difference.
I have a 4 day/week schedule that allows me to see my daughter more and although my career advancement is unfortunately on hold as a result, it was well worth it to me. I know this isn't an option for everyone, though.
All the best.”

 


 workingmom2

“You asked "how do you do it?" Well the good news is - you're already doing it! You're a working mom 3 days a week!  Give yourself MAJOR credit for that!
I also third the comments that the anticipation of going back to work full time was way worse than the reality. Take things one day at a time and be gentle with yourself. There will be good and bad days both at work and at home (but there were before you had your daughter). Give yourself time to adjust to a new normal, take all of this advice but also know that you can get through it.
When I went back to work after my first, my 3 (male) bosses gave me flowers and a balloon. The balloon said "We're Sorry" and the card with the flowers said "... that you have to be here." Being a working mom is tough, but you will figure out what works best for your family. Good luck and keep doing the dang thing working mom!”

 


 

“You need a pep talk so here it is.
None of us is this perfect mom 24 hours a day. Motherhood is not an idyllic utopia. The singing, the teaching etc is also interspersed with crying and spit ups and laundry. A lot of full time moms are exhausted and indeed checked out.
I can honestly say I was an awesome idyllic mom the time I was with my kids. I sang. I fed. I read. I hugged. But I could only be so awesome and present as it was a couple of hours a day and weekends. So working allowed me to be a better mom than if I was a full time mom. So think about quality not quantity.
I am not sure of your financials but for me thinking of all the opportunities my kids have because of having 2 working parents took a lot of the guilt off.
Finally to echo others, the anticipation is so much worse than the reality.”

 


 

“You've already gotten so much great advice, so let me add one thing from a different perspective. I don't know what your situation was growing up - if your mom worked full time, was home with you, or something in between. But when I struggle around the things you named, I remind myself that my mother worked full time. We had a babysitter who took care of us until she was home, and no doubt she missed some firsts and it was hard for her. But as her kid, I can tell you that nobody else "raised" me, or surpassed her in my mind. She was loving, nurturing, infinitely patient, and so silly and fun, and as a working mom of two kids, she was also tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed at times.  But no matter what, she was the center of our family. The fact that we only had a couple hours together on weekdays didn't do anything to lessen that. I loved my mother more than anything in the world, and I can guarantee you that your sweet [child] is going to feel the same about you.”

 


 

“Outsource every chore possible so that you can make your time together really count. For us it meant a cleaning person and grocery delivery, items that ate away from our weekends when I went back to work with my #1. Make fun plans with your baby - brunch, trips to the museum, playground when it gets warm, baby concerts (check our Brooklyn Bowl kid series).
When you're home don't check your phone and really be with your baby. Hang out on the rug when she plays, have her in a bouncy chair in the kitchen when you cook and talk to her about what you're doing.”

 


 

“I second Megann who said that your first time seeing it is the first time. I suspect that my first child first let out his first laugh with our nanny but she never really told me out of kindess. So when I saw it for the first time.. it was magic nonetheless. Our nanny was also incredibly good at making our son excited/happy about every time I came home, so I always felt so welcomed and missed (in a good way).
I just got back to work with my second (4-m-o boy) , but my firstborn - who is now almost 5 -- we are incredibly close even though I worked nearly all of his life (with the exception of maternity leaves). And he grows up having a different sense of how household works, gender equality -- all that. (http://www.businessinsider.com/study-working-mothers-and-career-success-2015-5)
I had nannies, babysitters and caregivers growing up. But mom is mom and mom is the best -- and I was never confused by that; and I dont think your child will be.
In fact, because I get huge breaks from my kids while I am at work... time where I am dressed professionally, talking to grown-ups, able to fulfill a separate part of myself -- I find myself more present, excited, and engaged in my interactions with them early morning/at night/during the weekend. I've met at least one SAHD who feels guilty because he's not all there when he's taking care of his kids because he misses his professional/personal time.
All this to say - you're doing great and it does get easier.”

 


 

“Everyone has had such tremendous advice here. The only thing I have to add is this. I, like you, could not wrap my head around leaving my baby all day. I work a lot and am the breadwinner. I guess I could have worked less, but in my field part time is full time with less pay, and I know that earning a good living is important for us. And I agree with most of everything that everyone said here... but no matter how true those things are, I still felt like leaving my babies (I have 2 now 4 and 8) was incomprehensible. I had to grieve my loss and let myself cry about it. And find at least a few people who really got it, got that even though I was doing the right thing, even though the baby would be OK, even though, even though.... I wanted to be with my baby, and our society isn't set up to support working mothers or babies of working mothers in a way that gives the mother and baby a chance to be together a lot without the mothers career suffering. It's sad. And I needed to allow myself to have that sadness so I could work through it, and accept it. Those feelings still surface as I juggle 2 school age children and my very full career, but they are nowhere near as powerful as they were when I had babies. I believe nature puts those feelings there as a survival tool for the baby, fighting against it for me was futile. I had to mourn and accept.”