Going back to work after my 3-month maternity leave was maybe one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. One aspect that made it a bit easier is that I didn't have a choice. I went to law school with the intent of always working full-time, climbing the corporate ladder into 1,900-billable-hour-a-year heaven.
Unfortunately when I became a mother, I didn't quite feel the same way anymore. Still, when you have over $100,000 worth of debt, you need to work just to pay it off.
Today my daughter is 21 months old and I feel like I have a grasp on this whole work/life thing. I love my job and I love being a mother. Even better than that, I'm pretty good at both. Below are five tips that I have taken from various people that have really helped me through the initial stage of going back to work and learning to be happy with my decision.
1.) Don't listen to everyone else's opinion. I feel like this tip can be used in every aspect of parenting. Before being a mother I constantly asked for people's opinions about my life. All of sudden when I became a mother, I realized I didn't even need to ask anymore -- people just tell you what they think. Thet tell you that you need to work to be happy. That you would go crazy all day with a child. Or, they tell you that you are not really a good parent if you choose money over "raising your baby." They say stuff like, "do you really want someone else raising your child?" Advice like this really needs to go in one ear and out the other. It's not productive. Instead, take a yoga class, or just sit quietly and YOU will determine what YOU need and what is right for your family.
2.) Have goals. When I went back to work my husband and I made a list of goals -- five year goals, 10 year goals, checklists, etc. Yes, I'm neurotic, but the benefit of being so neurotic is that you are able to really see what is important to you and your family. For us, we decided that we want a parent at home after 2:00 p.m. by the time our child is school age. This is not a possibility now because neither of us have flexible schedules, but it is something to work towards. You can't figure out how to get there if you don't know know where you're going.
3.) Keep it to yourself. When I first came back to work my boss would ask how I was doing and I would tell him, "This is really hard. I miss her so much." Mistake. He immediately pinned me as the "Mommy" -- meaning he more frequently than before my maternity leave explained to me that being an attorney was not easy. It required a lot of billable hours. If I didn't put 100 percent into it I wouldn't make partner at the same time that everyone else. Blah blah. At first I was really irritated -- my boss and I had always been great friends. Then I realized I was to blame. This was my boss, not my friend. And I am a mother, but not at work. This year I had the highest billable hours in my office for someone at my level. It wasn't because I was in the office more. In fact, the complete opposite. I worked roughly seven to eight hours a day in the office and the rest after my daughter went to bed. I was on a mission to prove that I could be mom and a stellar employee. Mission accomplished.