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Going back to work post baby

Rachel O'Reilly

By Courtney Ward

For many women who have careers when they get pregnant, the big question can be - what about work? When I got pregnant, I had so many emotions about it. I was ready for this next step in my life, but I didn’t really know how I would fit a baby into my already-hectic lifestyle. I spent countless hours mulling over this question, talking to friends and reading anything I could find on the subject. What I can tell you, after experiencing it myself, is that no matter how much you plan and try to anticipate how you will feel about the subject, it may all change after you have your baby.

When I had my little girl, we had some challenges with work that we couldn’t have foreseen. My husband was laid off from his job in animation and I had a short window of maternity leave. Since I couldn’t go back in a time machine and have my baby in France, where there are notoriously incredible parental support laws, I needed a plan. Luckily, I was able to really enjoy the break from work I did have, but I did spend a lot of time trying to figure out what I would do once that ran out.

While I was pregnant, I toured many day care centers around the area -- which was really frightening. The conditions varied a lot, as did the people running them. One time I literally almost tossed my cookies into my pamphlet as I tried to imagine leaving my future tiny baby there. After checking as many references as I could, I ended up choosing a place straight from my gut. During that time, I was planning to go back to work full time. However, that all changed.

After my maternity leave was up, I ended up quitting my job and taking a “part-time” job that was very close to home (my other job had a one-hour commute each way). This part time position seemed perfect, and I started when my baby was 3 months old. It was really hard to leave her, but knowing she was home with my husband helped. I was still breastfeeding so I had to pump a couple times a day and store the milk in the tiny fridge. It was a really small company, I was the only other woman, and they didn’t have anywhere for me to pump so I had to do so in the bathroom, which was right next to the CEO’s office. You could hear the pump going in the conference room too, with wood floors carrying the noise. It was not fun, to say the least.

I was grateful for the job close to home, but had a realization at a meeting, joining my CEO with a large medical company that ran two hours over. I was 45 minutes from my pump and home and my boobs were on the verge of exploding. As I twirled the company water bottle in my sweaty hand, I decided that it was time for a change.

Luckily, I heard back from my former company who offered me my job back, but this time, working from home. I accepted immediately. I was proud of myself for trying to go back to work and leave my child, even though it was a decision I made against my gut, but we didn’t have a lot of options.

I can say that I have successfully been working remotely ever since, and it has been the best thing for our family. It took some real getting used to at first, as the piles of dishes and laundry are distracting, but I learned how to call help when needed, and ignore the piles until the work is done. I also actually enjoy flipping on TV at night and powering through spreadsheets. Of course I have also had the mute on/off dance on conference calls where I had no babysitter and my baby really needed me - most working mothers can relate to this at some point or another. As a mother, one of the first things you’ll learn is how to be nimble and efficient.

The takeaway from all this is, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. You never know what a company will say or be open to.