The Working Mom Juggle Act: 4 Concerns of a New Mom Returning to Work

by Megan Mangiaracino

The Working Mom Juggle Act: 4 Concerns of a New Mom Returning to Work

Some of my darkest and most rewarding moments have been during my “working mom” chapter. I have moments when I feel like a meme – you know that one you’ve seen of the frazzled mom with 8 hands juggling a baby, a phone, a dirty diaper, a laptop and a grocery list. If only I could grow an extra arm or two… Even as I write this, I’m stopping for frequent bites of a plastic hot dog that is fresh off my son’s “grill”, I’m successfully avoiding mounds of laundry and texting my boss about tomorrow’s schedule.

Juggling family and career has been an ongoing education: on myself, my husband, my child, our society…but there’s no graduating with a shining degree. It truly is an imperfect journey and one that looks different for all. And yet, we share so many basic experiences, emotions, challenges, fears and joys.

When I first transitioned from maternity leave back to work, I had a lot of concerns/fears/items of apprehension. And now that I’m almost two years in, I’m reflecting back on those fears, and bringing new perspective to them.

Early concern: Will my baby feel loved and cared for, or “left” at daycare to fend for himself?

The decision to keep my son in daycare was primarily a financial one. A nanny wasn’t in the budget; daycare would be enough of a financial stretch. My nieces and nephew had all been in daycare and had great experiences, so it was always the plan.

Then baby B was born. And I became far more emotional around this decision. I was worried he wouldn’t be held or loved enough, that he might feel forgotten or abandoned…by me. A lot of tears were shed. A lot of peaking through the classroom window to see if he was being tended to (and he always was).

Later Reflection: This transition was primarily about me, not my baby.

I now know that the one who was struggling was me. Bennett transitioned beautifully, barely skipping a beat in his routine. He now loves school so much I have to convince him to come home with me. The enriching experiences he’s had, the friends he’s made (not to mention the parent friends we’ve met) have reinforced the decision.

Looking back, I probably wasn’t ready to be away from him full time when I went back to work. Perhaps I should have explored a more flexible work arrangement for a few months. Unfortunately, I did not have a paid maternity leave so we were down a salary and up a new mortgage and I needed to get back to work. Regardless, I made it through those hard first months, and more importantly, my son did great.

Every baby is different and the transition to a non-parent’s care could be harder than ours, but the lesson is universal. If you’ve done your research and found a great place or person that you trust, then chances are, your baby’s needs are 100% met and they feel very secure and loved.

Early concern: Will my employer still think I am committed?

Isn’t it sad that this was a very real concern of mine, and one that I believe many new mommas share? There was a hint of nervousness or worse – apology – when I communicated my pregnancy to my boss. Of course it begs the question, do men ever feel this way when announcing expecting daddy bliss? I’m guessing not…

To be fair, my boss and my employer met my announcement with joy and never-ending support. Nevertheless, I found myself worried that I wouldn’t be seen as the kickass, committed career woman I once saw myself as. And perhaps further, I was worried I wouldn’t see myself that way anymore either. We know that 35% of moms with children under 6 aren’t participating in the workforce. This statistic fuels that obligatory question pregnant moms receive at work “so are you planning to come back?” My advice to all those in positions of leadership: let’s change that question to “what do you need from me/us in order to return and be successful?”

Later Reflection: Regardless – I still kick ass!

In fact, I think I kick more ass at work now. Sure, I need a more flexible schedule, the option to work from home when needed, and the autonomy to manage my day. But because every hour at work is an hour away from my child, I am much more efficient. I’ve been lucky to work at family-friendly organizations that have supported my new mom needs as a whole, but it’s still been a growth journey to get comfortable with asking for what I need to be successful.

Regardless of how my employer “sees” me, I’ve learned to see myself as a successful and powerful professional who deserves the flexibility to also be a great mom.

Early concern: How will I survive work this week on [almost] no sleep?

They weren’t lying. And by “they” I mean everyone you’ve ever heard talking about no sleep for new parents. It doesn’t matter, it’s still shocking when you first experience it. Now, apparently there are incredible angel babies out there sent from sleep heaven, but that was not my B. And when you throw any sort of sickness into the mix, it’s a perfect a storm for bleary eyes at your 9am meeting.

I (sort of) remember one particularly harsh week, we had our biggest event of the year at work, B was sick and we were getting zero rest. How on earth will I survive this without either getting fired or falling asleep at the wheel?

Later Reflection: Your body is capable of amazing things.

You just do it. And you’ll astonish yourself. But a few things I learned along the way, really helped:

  • “Your turn” is a glorious phrase. My husband and I swapped it back and forth with our eyes closed and tongues hanging out for about 6 months. If you’re blessed with a parenting partner, I believe this has to be 50-50 for everyone to make it through.
  • When it’s really rough, let your boss know (if they’re cool). I was blessed to have an incredible boss at the time who was also a mom, so she was very supportive when I shared my sleep saga. If your boss knows that you’re facing sleep challenges at home, then they’ll hopefully be more forgiving when you forget about that overdue project update.
  • Going to bed at 8pm is truly joy-producing.
  • Coffee.

Early concern: Will I regret working rather than staying home?

It was always my plan to go back to work. But I’ll admit that I’ve fantasized about being a stay at home mom. I’d joyfully clean the house and cook dinner and play with my happy baby all day, right!? Yeah…I know enough about SAHM life to know that perfect image is a myth. That said, my maternity leave sent me into a tailspin of reevaluating my plans to go back to work. I enjoyed my time at home with B, and as my back to work date loomed, I was really struggling with that time being over. Also, my hormones didn’t help the situation. I was still up and down, and I’d find myself in tears googling call center work from home jobs wondering if I could work the night shift.

Later Reflection: It is about quality, not quantity.

When you look at how you spend your day as a working mom, you have no choice but to be intentional about every minute of it. I found that what I regret more than anything is when I get to the end of the day and I was going through the motions for dinner, bath time and bedtime and not in the moment with my son. For me, my evenings with my family are pretty sacred, and I’m committed to spending this quality time with them and without distractions. It’s about boundary setting – and no one will do it for you.

I cherish every minute I have with him and try to make the most of it – even something as simple as counting the trucks on the way to school, or singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” one more time when we should be getting in bed. I don’t regret going back to work right now. But I know I’ll regret it in the future if I didn’t take advantage of the time I do have with him, and make it meaningful

The juggle is shared.

Whether you work or not, the motherhood journey is full of twists and turns. Your child will surprise you. Your partner will surprise you. You will surprise you. And what we are concerned about today will undoubtedly morph into something else as our children grow. One day I’ll probably look back at this blog and think “I was worried about THAT?”

The important thing to remember is that we aren’t alone in our fears/anxiety/challenges. If you’re currently a momma who works hard for her money, the struggle is not only real, but it is shared.

What were your early concerns as a working mom? Looking back, what have you learned about the juggle? #babyboldly and share with other working mommas!

Bold Momma on the Blog Today

Megan is co-founder of Baby Boldly and a full-time nonprofit fundraiser in Florida. She has been married to Mike for 3 years and (if you don’t count her furbaby, Max) she became a mom to Bennett in 2017. Megan believes strongly in supporting women (especially working mothers), the power of optimism and generosity, and the sacred tradition of Showtunes Friday in her car.

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