Career and Motherhood: A first-time mom’s year in review
My son just turned one. Where does the time go? In the months leading up to his arrival, I was one of “those” women. You know, the ones with completely realistic expectations of juggling family and career. I knew that I could go back to work full-time after seven weeks off and still be on top of my game. My husband and I wouldn’t skip a beat. I would jump right into motherhood with my supermom cape and slay it. My kid would sleep through the night at six weeks and never cry, ever. I would spend way more time with my family than any other full-time working mother, you know, cause I have more minutes in my day than any other person on planet Earth. As you can imagine, my year has turned out differently than expected.
Disclaimer: If you are expecting your first child, I suggest you stop reading this immediately. Keep the dream alive! Otherwise, please feel free to point and laugh.
I went back to my high-demand job in Health Care Compliance after seven weeks of maternity leave. I felt ready physically and thought I was ready mentally. After a couple of weeks, the balls started to drop. I was handling a project that began before maternity leave, and I wanted to finish it. It required interactions with executives and board members, so it was vital that I have perfect work. Unfortunately, my mind was elsewhere. Between pumping every two hours and my need to go home on time, I was distracted. I would forget important details in my work and have to resend reports with corrections. Though the project was not a failure, I know I could have done better.
I decided to work from home two days a week. I figured I could do both: work and take care of him. Between napping, feeding, diapering and the like, I was lucky to get in six hours of work in on those days. The lack of focus resulted in me putting a couple of hours in on the weekend or after bedtime. This didn’t exactly check off my “work full time and spend time with family” box.
Those first few months back at work were an adjustment. I’ve since figured out productivity tricks, but it took some time. Mainly, I’ve changed my outlook. I’ve accepted that my priorities are elsewhere.
I finally talked to my boss and told her I need to slow down. She understood. I’m no longer chasing better projects or promotions. I’m handling my current workload well, and that’s all I need.
Motherhood is a different challenge. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I love it. So far I have imparted no permanent damage. Mom for the win! I haven’t slept a full eight hours in a year! Childcare is a juggling act between daycare wait lists, nanny demands and having no family in town. It also costs more than college tuition, so there’s that.
I have my share of mom-fail moments, like the time I fed him a moldy bell pepper. I swear I didn’t see the mold! Or the time I shoveled with him in the carrier and lightly bonked his head with the handle. He slept through it, but I cried. Or that time I rammed his foot into the dryer door, simultaneously breastfeeding and doing laundry. We both cried at that one.
But, I am here for him. Every night without fail we read a book, snuggle, sing a song and I tuck him in. Every morning I get to tickle him and have a gibberish conversation. I stay home when he is sick and can call the doctor with all the neuroses of a first-time parent. I wouldn’t change a single second.
These early childhood years are critical, and it’s time I won’t get back. My career will be ready to re-launch when the baby years transition into school days and teen years. At the end of the day, I want to sit on the carpet singing while my son bangs on bongos and my husband plays guitar. I don’t want to worry about a looming deadline or unsent email.