Surprise! I want to work!
A recent article on The Bump highlighted the 10 Biggest New Mom Surprises (and How to Deal). Amidst noisy poop and bad breastfeeding experiences they mentioned this nugget: "Going back to work is hard."
This is one of the top 10 surprises? Really? I have not yet met a single mom who is thinking about going back to work who hasn't thought the transition back will be hard. What surprised me? How much I WANTED to go back to work, even though I KNEW it was going to be hard.
I love The Bump - as much as I loved The Knot when I got married and The Nest when we were settling in to our new life as a married couple. I love their witty banter and the way they create community without being forceful. I had coffee a few months back with Carley Roney who co-founded the knot with her husband. She's an amazing mother, wife and business owner. She LIVES the 50/50 model. I am pretty sure that she expected going back to work post-baby would be hard. And I'm pretty sure she still didn't skip a beat when the time came to start working again.
We are all very willing to talk about how hard it is to leave our babies, but every time I mentioned how much a I wanted to go back to work, how hard it was for me to NOT be working, the conversation would get a little uncomfortable. "Won't you miss them?" "Do you have to?" Yes, I had to to go back to work. For ME.
But even though I was unwavering in my desire to start working again, I couldn't help feeling a bit guilty. I found myself hiding the fact that I just plain liked working because I was getting the impression that meant I was a bad mother. I knew in my heart of hearts that if I was a happy, engaged member of society, a contributing member to our family's income, and someone who was having an impact outside of our nuclear family, that I would be a better mother to my son. But I didn't feel like arguing that point with other mothers at the playground. I sadly perpetuated the conversation and let them believe that I needed to go back to work, or that I was only doing it to "keep busy" or "keep my toe in". I didn't tell them that financially we would survive without my income, or of my plans to build a large consulting company, or for world domination for that matter.
I am so grateful to have a husband who values my career - who understands that for me to be happy, I need to be engaged in a professional manner, creating something beyond me and my family. I am also grateful that he believes, as I do, that a mother isn't (and shouldn't be) the only person who can take care of my children.
It did not surprise me that going back to work was hard to manage or that I missed my baby when I was working. But I was surprised and delighted that my values became crystal clear once my first baby was born. No longer was it okay to just have a "job". If it was going to take me away from my babies, it had better be pretty darn meaningful work. Being a mother made me a better judge of how I was applying my skills, and how I was spending my time each day - allowing me the clarity to carefully engage in only those things that mattered. And one of those things that floated to the top of my list was, not surprisingly, my career. Rebecca Rodskog is a Change Management Coach and Consultant, an Actress, Speaker and Writer. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children. www.rodskog.com