Going Back to Work

Going back to workWith my first child, I didn’t feel guilty at all about going back to work. I didn’t even cry when I dropped her off that first morning like I had read that I would on pretty much every mommy blog. I  felt like maybe something was wrong with me. Was I a sociopath? Didn’t I have feelings? I figured I must be the worst mom ever.

In hindsight, I know exactly why I felt fine going back to work—I had no idea what I was doing as a mom. My daughter was colicky and wanted to be held 24/7. She didn’t sleep well. I had no idea that was normal (or that baby carriers were a thing), so I felt like a failure. I was tired and overwhelmed by motherhood. Leaving her with a professional felt like the best thing I could possibly do at this point, and walking into work where I knew what to do and people listened, well, that was heaven.

The other thing that helped was that while I was still pregnant, I negotiated a more gentle plan for coming back to work than I would have had if I had not asked for one. I took my 6 weeks of paid short-term disability, and then asked to work half days from home each morning for six more weeks. My boss agreed, and so the first time I went back to work full time was when my daughter was 4 months old.

Strangely, when I went back to work after my second daughter —only part time this time, and when she was 10 months old, not 4—it was so much harder. I feel like it had a lot to do with my greater confidence as a mother this time. I really felt like I was the best person to meet her needs, so I was understandably nervous about being away, even though I had a very close friend watching her and now big sister to protect her, too.

Going back to work is such an individual decision. For some families, money just really doesn’t matter as long as they are together. For others, money stress is the worst possible kind and puts an unbearable strain on things. This can be true no matter what your socioeconomic status.

For other moms, the push to return to work may not be about money at all, but about reaching a goal you had before kids, or continuing the successful path you were on. We can be good parents in all different ways. I think when we get into trouble is when we try to be something we are not. When you are unhappy or stressed, your kids know. They see it in your eyes and hear it in your voice.

If there’s nothing else parenting has taught me, it’s that someone is always going to think you are making the wrong choice. You can’t please everyone, especially not every stranger you run into, every friend on the Internet or every family member who thinks they know best. So why try? Make the best decisions for you and your family, even if it looks a little different than what your parents did or what your generation are doing.

What I have learned is that being a mom gives me the drive to do what I need to do for my family. Whether that’s making the budget work so I can stay at home, working full time so I can focus only on my kids when I am with them, or writing blogs while they wiggle in my lap.

What we do at any one time may not be for everyone, but it works for us; that’s what’s important.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls who lives and works in Queensbury, New York. 

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