I have to be honest: most of what I’m about to share with you didn’t come from my own doing. Going back to work after maternity leave was a really hard transition for me that I didn’t enjoy most days. I felt (and sometimes still do) that it was hard and overwhelming, and I lacked a full understanding of what it takes mentally, physically, and emotionally to juggle working and parenting.
I struggled quite a bit—often coming home in tears because I felt in over my head from trying to get it all done. Because of this, I often resented my job and the fact that I even had to work. I know that being able to work to provide financial stability for my family is a privilege, but in those moments where I didn’t know how I was going to be successful at both, I would’ve gladly handed over my job without a second thought.
Truthfully, I’m a working mom because I have to be, not because I want to be. I didn’t know it while I was pregnant, but once my son arrived, I wish I had made plans to stay home with him longer than I did. Unfortunately, that wasn’t and isn’t my reality, and I currently work full-time because I have to, just like many other working moms.
To manage the stress and my newly discovered postpartum depression and anxiety, I’ve been seeing a therapist weekly. So, the below suggestions are coming from my therapist. These are the exact ideas she’s given me to help me deal with the insane pressure that we deal with (from others and ourselves) around trying to find that perfect work-life balance. Not all of these will resonate with you, or even work for you, and that’s completely OK! Try them on as I did and see what works for you and leave the rest behind.
Create an inspirational mood board
Chances are, you have some precious people in your life that rely on you. For starters, your child relies on you, but you may also have a partner, extended family, or a community that may need you from time to time too. Also, don’t forget the most important person in this equation: you!
When you’re at work, think about who you’re doing this for. Creating a collage or a mood board of photos of you with your family, friends, or community is a great way to keep this top of mind and to be grateful that you have a job that allows you to help those closest to you.
Ask yourself what the money allows you to do
While money may not be a motivator for you to leave your child each and every day, we all can admit to some degree that money has helped us in our lives at one point or another. Maybe it’s to send your kiddo to a better fitting daycare, buy those killer boots you’ve been eyeing, to schedule a date night with your spouse or to buy a home one day—money can be a good enough reason to go back to work.
During those moments where you’d rather be anywhere else but at work, try reminding yourself what this job is affording you to do. Or, better yet, book something that the job will help pay for. You may not have your dream job, and that’s OK, but what dreams does this current job help you reach? Grab a sticky note and jot a few down and stick it somewhere you’ll see frequently.
Start speed friend-ing
While I’m happily married now, I always wondered what speed dating would’ve been like back in my 20s. You know, going into a bar, writing your name on a piece of paper, and having 3-5 minutes with multiple guys and see if any of them spark your fancy. (At least that’s how the movies say it goes!)
Making friends at work can give the job a whole new sense of purpose outside of the paycheck and the ongoing meetings. Find a few people in the office who seem like someone you’d enjoy having a conversation with and spark up a conversation. So often as moms, many of our conversations are with our spouses or children, so it can be refreshing to talk to another adult and find other things to relate to.
Daydream about your career
What do you want to be when you grow up? This is a question we’re often asked when we’re younger, but once we get to college, we’re supposed to already have that figured out, right? Says who? Whether you’re a working mom because you want to or because you have to, use some of your day to think about what you’d actually like to be doing 40+ hours a week.
At this point in my life, my partner and my children mean the world to me, and if I have to leave them behind every day, it would be nice if it was for something that brought me almost as much joy and fulfillment as being a wife and mother brings me.
Book your next getaway
Sometimes the easiest way to get through a tough day or week (at work or even home) is to have something to look forward to. Think about what would feel relaxing and rejuvenating for you right now and put a few plans in place to make it happen. Once you’ve decided, block off the time on your calendar and book those tickets! Or, if you’re doing a staycation, have fun making a little itinerary or agenda of what you’ll do closer to home.
No matter if you love your job and are excited to get back to work or you’re ready for a career change and wish you had more maternity leave left, juggling work and life can leave you overwhelmed, stretched too thin, and stressed out. In those first few months of going back to work, give yourself a lot (and I mean A LOT) of grace and room to stumble. It’s OK for you to feel like it’s too much sometimes because, at times, that’s true.
But remember when it gets tough, you’re doing an amazing thing for yourself and your family.