This week, after a tough fourth trimester during covid-19 with my new son Brooks, I went back to work. At home. WFH and Zoom jokes aside, this is my second child, my second maternity leave, and my second time going back to work. I’ve done this before. I felt (more) prepared. I’ve got this. Ha. Well, this week I remembered that there is no playbook for working moms. Not the first time, not the second time. Maybe never? The one thing I do have is an incredible community of fellow working mamas, and being able to learn from them and share with them has given me comfort, support, and the courage to charge ahead. They’ve been invaluable to me on this journey so now I want to share them, and their stories, with all of you – check out our big announcement at the end.
First Time Surprises
I so distinctly remember the first time I went through all of this. The first time I dropped off my older son, Hudson, at daycare was one of my hardest days as a mom. And I was totally blindsided by it. Of course I love my son, but I did not love maternity leave. So I expected to feel at least some sense of relief to drop him off and head to the office. I was so wrong.
Not five minutes later I pulled over the car, tears streaming down my face, and my mind racing… Was he safe? Would they comfort him when he was sad? Would he come to love his teachers more than me? Shit, and what about work? How will I catch up on everything that I missed? Will my team still need me? Did they learn to get by without me? How would I be able to focus on work if all I could think about was Hudson? Woah. And then, I went to the office. It definitely wasn’t my most productive day, but I did make it through without more tears. And then I made it through the first week. It was really hard, but every week got a tiny bit easier. I think my memory (or my lack of sleep) softened some of the hardest parts – which is probably why I thought I would be more prepared the second time around.
Round Two Realities
Monday brought me right back. I thought having those experiences under my belt would calm my fears and give me confidence as I did it all over again. Well I’ve made it to day 4, and while I can’t say that I’m thriving… I am surviving. My brain seems foggy, going on only 5 hours of sleep, and I feel like I’m moving at half speed. Is it really Thursday? Slowly but surely I’m catching up on what I missed and remembering to turn off the video feed when nursing and pumping during full days of Zoom meetings.
And I’ve realized that the playbook that I thought I had in my back pocket – about juggling work and motherhood no longer applies. The rules to the game feel different, or maybe it’s even a whole different game. Either way, I definitely don’t have this all figured out. I just have a whole new set of questions. Can I get away with showering every other day? Is Hudson jealous of all the time and attention that Brooks is getting? Will my team still respect me? How bad is it to just eat energy bars for two out of three meals? Everyone seems to have learned to get by without me, do they still need me?
And just as the anxiety and the stress start to snowball, I remember my incredible community of fellow working mamas. There are tons of badass, hard-working moms out there putting one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, figuring out how to make it work. They don’t have a playbook either, but we do have each other and that’s something to lean into.
Introducing “Work Like a Mother”
Every working mom has a story to share. The poignant stories and small victories, the harsh realities and unspoken truths; these experiences come to define us, and sharing these stories is important. I personally feel so lucky to have been able to learn from working moms who went before me. And now I want to pay it forward.
That’s why I’m so excited to announce my new original series, “Work Like a Mother.” Each week we’ll bring you one conversation with an inspirational working mom. We’ll discuss the personal struggles that are shared by so many and spoken by so few; the raw, tough, unglamorous stories that define this journey for each of us. We’ll hear stories of post-baby career changes, questions about self-identity, mom-guilt, mom-brain, sleep deprivation, and finding a renewed sense of purpose. Each of us is changed in our own way, and we all have a story to share.
First episode coming to IGTV on July 10th. If you don’t already, follow us to join me on this journey, together.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.