Going back to work after having a baby might be the best choice you didn’t get to make.
I only have one child, but I have gone back to work twice. The first time was 12 weeks after her birth (against my will), and the second time was right before she turned 2 1/2 (hallelujah! I couldn’t start quicker!). With my working mom status back in full swing, I have to tell you about the bright sides of going back to work.
No mom wants to leave their kid, particularly not while they’re still small and sweet. But while the transition to working mom deserves time and respect, I want you to think of working motherhood as a blessing in disguise.
I’m sure you aren’t convinced, but you will be after reading this. I want to help new working moms realize the grass seriously isn’t greener. (it’s probably disguised with weeds).
Hard to believe? Hear me out:
Before going back to work after maternity leave, I was miserable. I cried through most of my maternity leave, and not because of my bleeding nipples. I cried because I didn’t have a choice. I was the breadwinner. My husband was in school. Our mortgage, groceries, car, health insurance, EVERYTHING depended on me keeping my job. It goes without saying, but I’m gonna say it: that decision was out of my hands.
And because of that, all I wanted to do was stay home with her.
The forbidden fruit of millennial motherhood.
I envied Instagram stories of weekday Target trips and routine tummy time. I researched milestones and thought about how I could help her reach them, and how proud I would be. I rattled off instructions and expectations to her caregivers. I held them responsible for her shortcomings and begrudgingly smiled for their progressions. I was pretty damn sure staying home was the solution to my problems.
You can guess where this is going…
The dark side of staying home with a baby
When my stay-at-home stars aligned, I embraced it. I try to embrace everything, really, but this was the cure to my working mom troubles and it. was. awesome.
I was more laid back, more loving, and more happy. But I was surprised to find out how hard it was to transition from working to… not working.
Sure, being a mom is the hardest job in the world, we’ve all heard this, and it’s true! Kinda.
Except it’s not a job. It’s more of a lifestyle. And frankly, the ideal stay-at-home mom life is NOT IDEAL.
These are the dark sides I saw after leaving traditional work to stay home with my baby.
Taking care of a baby is hard af
Duh. There’s a reason why caregivers can charge $1-$2k a month to take care of them. They are a full-time job. And it’s not a job for everyone.
I love my daughter, undeniably, and that might even make the job harder. Why? Because I’m so scared of screwing up and constantly realizing I have NO IDEA what I’m doing.
Aside from the loving the little thing, I am hardly qualified to provide full-time care for her. I can barely take care of myself at the ripe age of 28.
Having said that, leave it to the pros.
When I was pumping in a storage closet, I’d scour Pinterest for baby tips and organization tricks. They’re awfully inspiring and had me loving a make believe life I wished I was living, but I never had the time to implement them in the real world.
So leaving the workplace finally gave me the freedom I needed to become the domestic goddess I was meant to be.
I finally had time to do all of things I NEEDED to do.
- Laundry was always done
- Dishes never had a slumber party in the sink
- Exercise happened
- 3 nutritious home cooked meals a day
- Milestones were met & I was awarded mom of the year
JK… None of those things happened. Babies are a full-time job, remember?
These are only 5 of the most common unrealistic expectations I hear from working moms who wish they were at home.
Why doesn’t this work out like we hoped? See above (taking care of a baby is hard af).
Is it possible? Sure. But unless you lived like that before baby, you have a whole new lifestyle to adopt. And it turns out I don’t care if my laundry is never “done”. That’s one hill I’m willing to die on.
Budgeting, in general, sucks. We all wish we could just swipe that card mindlessly. It’s hard enough finding the time for a much needed (and deserved) massage or pedicure, but the money?
Everything gets harder when you start cutting your family’s income.
Staying home cuts the cost of working but there is no such thing as a free lunch. What are you really trading?
Decreased earning potential
Even though you might be saving money on gas and car servicing, your earning power shrinks when you leave the workforce. This is the harsh reality that kept me in the office for so long.
After working so hard, it’s hard to set it all on fire for a screaming, pooping mini. In fact, millennial women are opting out of starting families in droves. It’s pretty surprising. In the age of too much information, it’s become more and more clear that taking time off work (even a brief maternity leave) has a marked effect on earning potential.
Staying at work is tough, but leaving and expecting to pick up where you left off is virtually impossible.
“Talk to the baby” they say… “It’ll be fun!” they say….
That’s cool and all, but babies don’t talk and even when they do, you need peers!
I thought I’d roll into Target and be welcomed by a yoga pants clad mom gang with open arms. That’s the solution right? Mom friends?
Maybe, but not everyone is so fortunate. And as much as you think you hate your coworkers, we take adult conversations for granted.
The unexpected perks of being a working mom
The first time around, there were tears… lots of them. But after “living my dream” of stay-at-home momming, I HAPPILY tossed my rose colored glasses aside and fully embraced the business casual dress code and increased daycare costs.
These are all the reasons why working is great for me, and might even make me a better mom.
Two words: free. time.
More than anything, this is taken for granted as a new working mom.
I love my daughter so much. TOO much sometimes. It’s overwhelming. But you know what’s nice? Going to the bathroom by yourself.
And jumping in the car in 3 seconds.
And eating lunch at a table… with silverware.
Daycare is expensive, yes. And if you look too close, it can be hard to justify sacrificing so much of your pay just to let someone ELSE take care of your baby.
But remember the part about leaving it to the pros? And slicing your future earnings?
The leftover cash, no matter how little there might be, is yours and is ultimately helping, not hurting your bottom line. Here’s my unsolicited advice to you:
Use that little bit to spoil yourself, because this phase might be temporary but the stress is current. And it’s WAY harder to justify indulgences when you’re a full-time mom with no job.
There are positive effects on babies (yes, multiple!)
Thank GOD! Amirite? Working moms are NOT the monsters society wants us to believe they are!
Actually, working mothers impact their children in awesome, progressive ways. So you can stop worrying about not being there nonstop.
This study is interesting (and I’ve referenced it before), but the key takeaways are this:
Girls raised by working mothers are more likely to lead in the workplace, and boys raised by working mothers are more likely to share the work at home (YASSSS!).
Gives you a reason to shave your legs
In addition to shaving your legs, (although that is debate-ably unnecessary) taking care of your appearance in general is pretty dang tricky when you’re constantly pulled apart by baby hands.
I used to hate the obligation to look “presentable” for dozens of people I wasn’t trying to impress, but it’s way too easy to just…. not brush your hair when you aren’t planning on seeing anyone.
This isn’t really about hairy legs or a perfectly coiffed ‘do, it’s about self-esteem.
Going to work forces you to take a few extra minutes in front of the mirror and reflect on what YOU need to do to feel good about yourself.
Keeps you out of MuMus
Perpetual pajama style is cool, until the rare occasion you need to wear normal clothes and your body won’t work with ANYTHING.
It might feel shitty at first when you’re overflowing in business casual attire, but trust me on this one: you will thank yourself!
Living in lounge wear disguises the less flattering features of your figure which is awesome in the short term. Being forced to get up, get dressed, and be SEEN made me recognize where I cut corners on physical health.
And here’s a shocker: it’s not all about weight. My posture went to HELL when I was at home. Way too much lounging goes on.
Calls for a divided chore-load at home
Housework is not women’s work, but I’m going to argue that being at home all day keeps the archaic gender stereotypes alive and I don’t like that shit.
My rule is this: more time at home calls for more housework. If I worked part-time, I would pick up more housework.
Since both of us work full-time, chores are split evenly.
My husband didn’t *love* that arrangement in the beginning, but I hate housework just as much as he does and you can’t argue with logic.
Going back to work is the perfect chance to change up household responsibilities #sorrynotsorry
Working mom friends
We all know that having a baby is a surefire way to cut down the size of your social circle. We’re social creatures and need some company, so courting commences and the awkward act of making mom friends ensues.
But finding mom friends is tricky. Making friends as an adult is already a little strange, but filling those open slots in your circle is even harder when you’re still learning how to live on little sleep. Hell, I’m still evaluating who I am since I added “Mom” to my resume.
Working makes it easier because of all the things I mentioned above! You have similar schedules and share the same working mom woes (and pros). The best friendships are the ones which build each other up, and there is no where to go but up when you’re both navigating the nuances of working motherhood.
Yes there’s a similar experience when you’re at home with the babe, and any mom friends are happily accepted! However, not all stay at home moms are created equally. That deserves it’s own post, so hold that thought.
At the end of the day, working moms look out for each other. There’s less judgement and more support for working moms, and it deserves some accolades.
We’re all in this together.
Which of these perks have you taken for granted? Which did I miss?
See, I need you! I need you to help keep me sane and remind me of stuff I leave out. I don’t have my crap together any more than the rest of us just because I’ve cranked out 2000 words about how awesome it is to be a working mom in my free time.
I’m imperfect. Very much so, actually. And I want to help other moms like you feel good about our decisions because they aren’t always our decisions (know what I mean?).
We’re doing the best we can, and looking for the bright sides in the mean time. So just know this: I feel you. You feel me?
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- What to Pack in your Pumping Bag
- 6 Steps to Return to Work after Maternity Leave (when you really don’t want to)
- How to create the Perfect Routine as a Working Mom