I did all I could to make it to the car without breaking down. I fumbled with my keys and held my breath just long enough to open the door, get in and close it before collapsing on the steering wheel in a heap of sobs. I felt as if I couldn't breathe thinking about what stood behind me. I didn't look back as I pulled out of the parking space, out of the parking lot, put on my blinker and sped away, frantically wiping tears from my blurred line of vision.
What stood behind me was a daycare center. It was a very nice daycare center, in a very nice part of town. That's what it actually was, but what it felt like to me was...it's hard to put words on it. I was a newly single mother, without even divorce papers to prove it, and yet I was being forced to move on with my life even though every moment felt like I was in limbo. I wore someone's last name who was sharing his bed with someone who wasn't me. I wore my wedding ring because I was legally still a wife, and yet it felt like a lie to do so. I was living in my parent's house with my children, ages 9 months and 25 months and spousal support was about to run out. It was time to get a job, and I was terrified.
Change is Inevitable
This wasn't what I had chosen. I chose marriage. I chose motherhood. I chose to be a stay-at-home-mother and had lived that lifestyle for more than two years. Now, I had no other choice but to go to work, which of course meant I had no choice but to select a childcare center to care for my precious babies so I could go and earn a living to put a roof over our heads. I remember everything I felt as a toured the center that day. It felt dirty, cold, and full of strangers wearing ill-fitting polo shirts with the company logo on it.
It will never be the same
I remember walking through the infant room where my 9 month old would spend his days. I talked with the teacher amidst cribs full of sleeping babies, while workers and parents walked through without attempting to hush their voices or soften the sounds of doors closing. "So, they just sleep in here with the lights on and all this noise?" I asked with a hushed voice. Her response seemed as if she was shouting compared to the whisper in which I spoke, "Oh yeah, they get used to it. Yours will in no time." I wanted to vomit.
All I could think was, you've got to be ****ing kidding me. How do I do this? How do I scrape up my pride and hand over my babies to these strangers? How do I go to work for 10 hours (counting the commute) a day knowing they're here in these institutional cribs without their blankets, without me shushing them to sleep, cutting up their grapes, kissing their boo-boos, playing with them on the floor and snuggling up with them and a sippy cup of milk after their naps? How? How?
The Reality of Going Back to Work After Baby
The reality is that whether it was that daycare center or another, I would have to choose a caregiver to watch over my children five days a week so I could go back to work. I did end up choosing that establishment, and it ended up being a perfect fit for my children, but getting used to it was challenging. I made the difficult choice to stop breastfeeding and put my 9 month old on formula, put my cloth diapers on a shelf and trust "perfect strangers" to do during the day what I no longer could.
Let's face it, these days, more and more women are the breadwinners for their families and the choice to become full-time stay-at-home mothers isn't an option. Or, maybe staying home isn't a desire of yours and you are passionate about building a career outside of the home. The vast majority of families require two incomes and there aren't always family members available to stay with your children and full-time nannies may not be an option either. The difficult reality for me was that one way or another, things were never going to be the same and we were all going to have to adapt.
And adapt we did. You know what kids are? Resilient. You know what we are? Resilient. My kids did things at daycare that were so good for them, like dress up for St. Patty's Day and sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat (which somehow I'd forgotten to teach them!). Turns out those teachers are pretty great, and the little friends they make are pretty precious.
Challenges of Going Back to Work After Baby
Going back to work after having children is challenging for most mothers. Now, I'm aware that I had a much longer opportunity to stay home with my children before having to return to work; some women must do this after a period of time as little as 6 weeks. No matter how soon it is, it can be very difficult and families face many challenges. For example:
- What kind of routines have you established to make the transition from home to work possible?
- If you're breastfeeding, do you plan to pump so your child can continue to drink breast milk exclusively?
- Have you established a sleeping routine that allows everyone to get enough rest to work and play effectively?
- How do you maximise quality time with your baby in the evenings?
Postpartum Doula Support Helps with the Transition
The Postpartum Doulas of Tulsa Family Doulas have specialized training for all kinds of situations, including the scenario where one or both parents must return to work after having a baby. We can help you bond with your baby and enjoy your maternity leave, while also preparing effectively for the transition of returning to work. It may be challenging, but a postpartum doula is there to help you have all the mental, physical and emotional skills you need to transition effectively and minimize the trauma for the whole family. Contact us today to find the postpartum support you need for returning to work after baby.