I have two daughters. That means that twice now, I’ve done what I refer to as the “maternity leave mambo.” I battled internally and emotionally with these questions::
- What kind of childcare could we afford?
- Who would we trust to spend the majority of the day with our daughters?
- How much it would cost?
- How much time I should take off?
- Which parent would stay home when our kids got sick, etc…?
I am sure you could come up with 1,000 other questions that go through every new parent’s mind when they are faced with a decision of when and if to return to the labor force after having a child.
It takes a network of support to answer these questions.
Through some very open and honest conversations with several women in my life (and one very patient and supportive husband), I now have what I feel comfortable with as a balanced life. (Notice I did not say work-life balance because I think it’s bull.) But I feel whole and happy most of the time with my solution.
I want you to find your own advisory council and support team, so I have put together 5 roles that helped me on my “return to work” advisory board.
1. The Stay at Home Mom
Listen to this council member and ask what drives her nuts about her decision to stay home. Also, ask what she loves about that choice. Interrogate her on every possible fear you can come up with, and ask her what she would have done differently.
2. The Working Mom
See the above for reasoning, but also inquire about timelines and opportunities that she recommends you take advantage of. Having these two conversations can help you get a rounded perspective.
3. The Multiples Mom
If you are only planning on having one, then this council seat is still very important. This role should be played by a mom who has been there and done that and can give you the solid experience of being a veteran at the choices you are experiencing. One of the best parts of this role is that they hopefully know different childcare environments and can provide feedback about which options might be best for your family. If you plan on having multiple children, then this seat can give you some perspective on the aspect of having #2, 3, 4…and so on.
4. The Financial Advisor
This council member was able to compare my potential salary with the childcare options we were considering and give me some reality as to the consequences of either of my decisions. This woman was also able to give me some real ideas on how to improve the financial efficiency of my home in order for me to feel secure leading up to the transition and afterward in having a budget. This is a HUGE piece of my success and clarity in my choice.
5. The Out of State Mom
For me, this was a friend who lives across the country and was able to take a 50,000-foot view of my pregnancy and listen to conversations only to say, “Have you thought about this?” She could safely speak her mind since there were miles between us and since she was not in my life every single day. She often had very global questions and observations that were meaningful when put into consideration with those that were counseling me on a more daily basis.
What did I do?
I returned to work when our first daughter was 28 days old. I worked full time 8-10 hour days and stayed up all night nursing for almost 6 months. Then I switched it and worked evenings so I could be home during the day.
After 2 months, I was even more exhausted than when I was up with her nursing at night. In order to feel comfortable, we moved to a place where my parents could help out daily if necessary. Plus, I researched and even found a position where they offered on-site childcare so I felt better about returning to work.
With our second child, I had owned my own company for 2 years. I hired additional support within my company (which severely cut into my profits), but it also allowed me to continue to receive an income, have my clients supported, and spend time with my daughter. Then I eased my way back into meetings and back to work.
It was my choice though. I did not feel rushed; I felt empowered, and my council knew with clarity what it was that I wanted. And they were able to support me in achieving that.
I have one last question I’ll leave you with.
Close your eyes. Ask yourself this: if you had a magical wand and could wave it and have your optimal outcome what would it be? Share that with your council and make it happen!
Good luck! You’ve got this, momma!