It seems there are many articles about stay at home moms and how they are yes indeed “working” mothers and DO have jobs, (it’s called being a full-time mommy) and they get no respect, etc., etc. I don’t use the etcs., lightly to insult or lessen the role of stay at home mom. I FULLY believe they are hardworking in that role and deserve way more credit than people give. I know for a fact it isn’t sitting around eating bon bons or watching Sex in the City reruns all day. Sure there might be a little of that (I admit to watching way more SVU marathons than I intended while on maternity leave), but yes Stay at Home moms are waiting in carpool lines, cleaning up spit up, washing bottles only for it to be time to fill another one, juggling laundry in one hand and trying not to step on Lego bricks in the other. I get it. It’s hard. We need to give those moms more credit.
However, I want to also take a minute to give a shout-out to the working mom who returns to her office job. Because again, stay-at-home moms DO have a job so I don’t say they aren’t working mothers. But I want to talk about those of us who have to leave the house from 8-5 each day. You don’t hear about those moms very often because it seems that I just read about how stay-at-home mom’s don’t get much respect, but there doesn’t seem to be much commentary on the return-to-office mom role.
IT’s also hard. It’s also demanding. It’s also a lot of guilt on many layers. Many of us aren’t fortunate to quit working. I personally don’t understand how people add a new family member and subtract income. Granted, I sometimes feel like my entire paycheck goes to daycare, but I still need the income to cover health insurance, diapers, wipes, and other necessities.
As a mother who can’t afford to stay at home, I had to go back to work at 9 weeks post-partum. I had worked so hard for those 8 or 9 weeks to learn who my son was and his favorite nursing positions, how to decipher it was going to be a burp or spit up (and you learn this by trial and error my friends), which songs on the swing he liked and which of my silly faces made him giggle the most. (it’s the one where I get in his face and blow kisses). See, it took me those 9 weeks just to start to get to know him and get a routine. The first 7 were complete chaos swirled with love in a beautiful storm. Neither of us knew anyone else but each other. We were bonding to the utmost levels because I knew it couldn’t last long.
I’m now back at work. I only get to see my baby a couple hours each day at most. In fact, last night when he woke at 2 a.m to feed, I was kind of excited to just hold and see him because I’d missed him all day. While stay-at-home moms often, at least me, get tired and want to hand the baby off sometimes when they’ve had enough, return-to-office moms can’t get enough. IT’s hard on both parties.
When I’ve been at home, nursing was no problem. I never wore a bra or sometimes even a shirt at home because it seemed I was always whipping out a boob. I had to remember that the UPS driver probably didn’t want to see me topless or breastfeeding (or maybe he does, who knows) so I had to at least keep a shirt downstairs. My point though, is that breastfeeding at home seemed so easy and doable, even when it was every 2.5 hours.
I didn’t brush my hair sometimes till mid-day. I never opened my makeup bag once. I ate breakfast in-between the baby’s feedings and sometimes we just snuggled in bed and wore our pajamas all day.
Now I’m back at work. I wear matching jewelry, cute shoes and pants with no elastic waist band. I’m in my business casual attire and I’m shutting my office door, taking off my shirt, my bra and putting on the hands-free bra (it does not suffice as an all-day bra by any means, esp if you are a DD or bigger), so there is that. I can’t explain how awkward it is to be taking off your clothes in your office. For some reason, nudity and my office don’t go together. Maybe if you’re the type who likes to have in-office romances it might, but I’m not into that. So I then pump in my office. Now, thankfully I have my own office and don’t have to go to a closet or other room. I can sit and type and continue my work, which is nice, while I pump. And I have a refrigerator in my office where I can store my milk. But again, it’s the sacrifice I make to keep breastfeeding my son, or at least giving him breastmilk, and I wash out the pump parts, get re-dressed, go back to work like no big deal, and do it again a few hours later.
Today I was at a conference 2 hours away from home. I pumped right before I got on the road and then had to leave the conference at lunch to go out to my car. I sat there, using my pump, trying to hide under a cover in the back of the parking lot. There was no bonding-with-my-baby feeling, no matter how hard I looked at his sweet photo. Instead I was alone with the rhythmic sounds of the pump, myriad cords and tubes that seemed robotic, and a little freezer bag I hoped would suffice and keep the milk cool until I returned home six hours later. This is the real portrait of a return-to-office mother who misses her baby terribly.
I llove my job and love where I work. I enjoy being successful and am trying to continue my career journey. I was elected today to the VP of Communications for a professional organization. This is a great new role for me and a new notch on the resume. But when asked to speak about myself, my first thought was “I have a 10-week old baby,” and of course a 3-year-old son. In many ways I am mother first and career woman second.
It stinks that we sometimes have to pick one or the other, career or kids. I like to think I have both but there is definitely a sacrifice. I drop my kids off at school at 7:30 in the morning and don’t see them till 5 that night. The teachers keeps track of how many diaper changes, bottles and naps my son had. Things until last week I was charting with military precision. Now, I have no idea unless I read the sheet. Tonight, my husband forgot the sheet and I feel like I lost an entire day of my son’s activity. Dramatic, yes, but it gives me peace to know he’s had naps or ate all his bottle versus a few ounces. Things you realize and recognize when you are stay-at-home mom.
At work, I enjoy being successful, using a different part of my brain and having adult conversations. I know that is things stay-at-home moms miss and often crave. Adult conversation. I’m sure it’s why or how playdates were invented. God knows I’d probably have to bring my 10 week old on a playdate now and again, before he could ever “play.” But I also know that as a return-to-office mommy, we crave the kisses, the pain of stepping on Lego Bricks and the ease of breastfeeding we once had. I have a lot of guilt some days wondering if can keep breastfeeding, because to be honest, pumping at work is just an entirely different beast. I feel guilty knowing daycare sees him more than I do. But then I look at my 3 year old and know how well adjusted he is. I know it will all be okay. And I know I am doing what I have to do to provide for my family. We could not live on one income and maintain the lifestyle we want to have for our kids. We want to give them music and sports and art lessons. We want to let them live in a safe neighborhood, save for their college and take them on vacation. For us to have these things, we must both work, and we are fortunate to have jobs we enjoy even if they aren’t going to make us millionaires.
But I hope those working moms out there, whether at home or in the office, realize that we ALL feel guilty or stressed, no matter where we work. So let’s take a minute to celebrate ALL mothers, in-home or in-office, for the great job we do. For doing what it takes to get the job done. We are all awesome!