Back to Work
If you’d told me at the beginning of the year that I’d spend my maternity leave polishing my resume and applying for new jobs, I probably would have laughed at you. I loved my job. The work was satisfying, and I had some really great coworkers. When I started to get burnt out on the daily grind, my manager found other projects for me to work on, allowing me to network with other departments and sharpen my writing and editing skills. I had wonderful flexibility when it came to being able to work from home with a sick kiddo or taking personal time for appointments. My manager and I developed a great professional relationship and even became good friends. It wasn’t a perfect job, but I was happy there, and I was in no hurry to leave.
Back in January, I started working from home full time. I cleaned up our home office, which previously was primarily used as a stroller parking garage and clutter collector, and set up a really nice workspace. Being on daycare dropoff duty meant I didn’t get to be lazy about showering in the mornings, but not going into an office meant it was totally okay to spend my days in yoga pants or my most comfortable (although somewhat tattered) jeans. I got to cook myself whatever I wanted for lunch instead of settling for something I could warm up in a breakroom microwave. (This was Tim’s least favorite aspect of my working from home, as it meant I generated quite a few more dirty dishes for him to deal with.) When Tim and Alexander got home at 4:00, I got to cover Alexander in hugs and kisses, and listen to my two favorite boys play together down the hall during my last hour of work. It was wonderful.
Working from home also meant an easier transition back to work at the end of my maternity leave. The plan was, when I started working again in July, Tim would still be on summer vacation, so he’d be home with Emily, and my going back to work would only take me down the hall from her, not across town. Plus, my last month of leave would overlap with Tim’s first month of summer break, which essentially meant I’d get the whole summer at home with my family. It was going to be amazing.
However, for reasons that aren’t worth getting into, it became apparent a few months ago that it was time to start looking for other career opportunities. And so, although job hunting was one of the last ways I expected to spend my maternity leave, that’s exactly what I did. I knew that applying for jobs shortly after Emily was born meant there was a possibility I’d have to end my maternity leave early if I was offered a job before my leave was over, but I needed to be smart about my situation and do what was best for all of us in the long run.
So when a company offered me a great position several weeks into my job search, I accepted. I asked to push my start date back by two weeks so Emily wouldn’t have to go to daycare while we waited for Tim to finish out the school year, and the company immediately agreed. I spent the last few weeks of my maternity leave soaking up as many baby snuggles as I possibly could between filling out new-hire paperwork and shopping for work clothes that fit my post-baby body. Tim finished work for the summer the last week of May, and I started my new job Monday, June 2.
Starting a new job and going back to work after maternity leave are both anxiety-filled events on their own. Tackling both of them at the same time kicked my stress and uncertainty up to a whole new level. Along with my new-job/back-to-work anxiety, I also struggled with (am still struggling with, if we’re being honest) sadness about ending my maternity leave three weeks earlier than planned and giving up my summer at home with Tim and the kids. I was really looking forward to having a whole summer of family time. Instead, I had only a few days with everyone home together. Throw some extra-fragile postpartum emotions into the mix, and…well. There have been some tears.
Hard as it is to give up my summer family plans, there are so many positives to focus on. Tim is home taking care of Emily through June and July, and it helps tremendously knowing she’s in such good hands. With Alexander only going to daycare part time during the summer, the three of them will really get to bond. And even though I don’t get to be home with everyone, at least I can look forward to lots of family lunch dates over the summer.
On the work front, I am very excited about my new job. It has many of the same qualities I loved about my last job, along with increased job security and opportunity for growth. It’s a slight step up in pay and responsibility, which is always a good direction to move. My first several days have gone really well, and it seems like I’m working with a fantastic group of people. It’s good to be back in an office environment, working side-by-side with my colleagues instead of communicating exclusively over phone and email. This is a good step for my career in a lot of ways, no question.
My maternity leave and subsequent return to work definitely turned out to be much different than I expected. But I know I’m doing the right thing for my family, and I feel good about what the future has in store for us.