A Working Mom’s Survival Guide

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By Beth D.

Whether you go back to work at 6 weeks, 12 weeks, or 1 year postpartum, the transition is hard. There’s guilt over leaving your baby. Or there’s guilt over perhaps not feeling as guilty as you think you should. There are new schedules, changes in routine, and adjustment to the “new norm.”

I should preface this article by saying that my job is slightly different than most. I am a public school teacher, which makes my “working mom” situation a little more manageable, in my opinion. I always have an end in sight, whether it’s a couple of weeks off around Christmas, or the Summer Break I’m eagerly awaiting at the moment (3 days, but who’s counting?). My day also goes by so quickly that I don’t have time to think about that aforementioned guilt factor.

I started back at work after my third child about a month ago. With each of my children, I got to take 12 weeks of maternity leave, slightly longer with my 2nd because he was born during the summer (again - 3 DAYS TO GO). Each time it’s just as hard, but I’ve learned a few things over the years that have made the transition back to work a little bit easier:

When in doubt, do it the night before.

Mornings with a baby are chaotic at best, so anything you can do the night before to prepare for the next day will help. Take a shower, prep bottles, make your lunch, lay out your clothes, pack the diaper bag… you get the gist. Spending a little extra time before you sink into the couch from exhaustion is well worth it!

The early bird gets the worm.

Sleep is precious to any mom, new or not, but getting up and getting ready before the kids wake up is definitely worth the 30 minutes. Playing peek-a-boo while you try to put on mascara is a good way to poke your eye out, and getting dressed with a baby hanging from your leg requires serious balance that I just don’t have at 6:30 in the morning.

Two words: crock pot.

I get home around 5:30, and even before I had older kids to cook for, I didn’t (and don’t!) much like waiting until 8:00 to eat dinner. The word “hangry” comes to mind, and that’s not a pleasant situation for anyone. However, I don’t want to spend my few hours before my kids go to bed stressing over the stove. Enter, the crock pot. Slow cooker meals are a weekly staple at our house. We also pick meals that can be partially prepped the night before - chopping, measuring, etc.

Splurge on the extra pump parts.

If you are nursing, you’ll be experiencing the joy of pumping at work. Also, the joy of eating lunch while hooked up to a whirring machine. Also, the joy of being walked in on by the custodian. But, I digress. If you get an extra few sets of bottles to pump into or shields to attach to your breast pump, you can avoid washing all those pieces each and every night. Most can be found on Amazon. Definitely well worth it!

Lower your expectations.

You are not going to be perfect - not at being a mom, not at your job - when you’re balancing both. I’ve come to the realization that I am not the super teacher that leads committees, applies for grant funding, and mentors new teachers. I am a good teacher that works hard and helps my students learn. I’ve also come to the realization that I am not the super mom that cooks organic, made from scratch meals and pinterests (that’s a verb now, right?) amazing ideas for every holiday. I am a good mom that loves my kids and often leaves the house with dirty breakfast dishes sitting in the sink.

When all is said and done, going back to work really comes down to time management. Do your best to make the most efficient use of what little free time you have. Try not to over complicate your life with non-essential commitments, and don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. And somewhere in the mix, make sure you find a little time for yourself.