Smart Women Speak: On Going Back To Work

May 15, 2017

This is my friend Kelly. Kelly is a hard working nurse practitioner living the farm life with her husband and two children in Eastern PA. She is smart, kind, and always makes the best book club drinks.

Q: What is something you’d say to a new mom leaving their baby for the first time to go back to work?

A: The first thing I would say is: it will get easier and it never gets easier. Leaving a baby for a career outside the home is tough. It takes commitment. It takes help from a lot of people. Give yourself grace as you adjust to being a new mother, learning a new normal, and finding a new routine.

When I had my first baby, I didn’t make it easy for myself. I chose to go back to work full time at a brand new job in an entirely different role as an nurse practitioner. I wanted to quit almost every day. However, I vowed to make it 6 months, and with the help of some really great people in my life, I did. 3 1/2 years later I’m still working in that position and I just transitioned back to work after my second baby.

I still struggle with feelings of guilt for being away from my babies. That part never gets easier. However, I know they are loved so much when I’m away by their grandmas and I can love them more when I am home. That’s the sacrifice I’m choosing to make right now for them.

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This is Emily. Emily is a military ER doctor who recently returned from a 6 month deployment to Afghanistan. She is one of the bravest people I know.

Q: What would you say to a new mother who is about to spend a lot of time apart from their child to go back to work?

A: Leaving your baby for the day to go back to work feels like an impossible thing to do. Leaving your baby for six months to deploy to Afghanistan feels like it might actually kill you. I know. I’ve done both. The two practices that have served me best as a working mom are gratitude and perspective. A dear friend gifted me a gratitude journal while I was in Afghanistan, instructing me to find one thing to be thankful for, every day. It was hard. Some days, the only thing I could find to be thankful for was that the day was over, meaning I was one day closer to going home. Other days, practicing gratitude shed light on just how great I had it, even though I was 8000 miles away from my family, watching my baby grow up over FaceTime. I had my health and all four of my limbs. I had a family to miss. I would be going home eventually. These were luxuries not afforded to everyone. My time in Afghanistan has shone perspective on all of life since. Once you’ve survived six months away from your baby, an 8-hour shift in the ER is no big deal. It’s still not nothing. It still hurts to miss milestones and firsts. It still destroys you to see the disappointment on their faces when they see you in your uniform and know you have to go to work. No amount of perspective makes being away from your baby ever feel totally okay. For me, knowing I’ll be home in a few hours—instead of in a few months—takes a little of the sting out of it. It still hurts, but you wear that hurt like a badge of honor, as proof that you love your babies well.

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This is my sister Kelly. Kelly has a lot of different roles in life that are wonderful and noteworthy (wife, mother, professional, friend), but if I had to choose my favorite it would be: Life Of The Party. Which is why I chose this photo of her soaring like an eagle instead of something beautiful and posed that she would probably prefer. Funniest person I know.

Q: What is something you’d say to a new mom leaving their baby for the first time to go back to work?

A: I almost turned around. How could I possibly leave the baby I just met with someone else for 40 hours a week? It seemed unthinkable. The fear of having to leave my son at daycare started months before he was born. I knew I’d have a short six weeks with him to learn how to be his mom, learn how to be awake during the day after being awake all night, learn how to deal with postpartum hormones in public, and learn how to walk up and down a flight of stairs without wincing. It was overwhelming. It was hard. In my case, it was unavoidable.

Things to remember: It’s harder for mama than it is for baby (baby won’t remember; they don’t even know where their hand is). Don’t focus on the 40 hours away. Focus on the weeknight cuddles and those blissful 48 weekend hours. Focus on how you’re supporting your family and how it’s okay if that means being away from your baby during the day.

It will get better. It will get better. It will get better.

I treat my daycare provider as a third parent. She’s there all week to help me raise my baby. It’s takes a village and I am so grateful for that.

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2 thoughts on “Smart Women Speak: On Going Back To Work

  1. Jasmin

    Thank you so much for this post. I head back to work (PGY2 Pediatrics) on Monday. My son will be 6 weeks old. I’m already dreading not being there for daytime snuggles, watching his personality evolve, and just admiring him. Thank you.

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