While each is challenging, coming with its own set of positives and negatives, there is one truth when I reflect back on my experience as a whole.
When I was dealing with postpartum anxiety, it was the comforting schedule of work–of being obligated to turn up at a place outside of my home, and do work entirely unrelated to my child–that ended up partly saving my sanity.
That revelation was sparked by a recent conversation. I was talking with a friend about the most difficult transition when it comes to motherhood. What was hardest for you? she asked. Was it the transition from 0 to 1 kids; 1 to 2; or 2 to 3?
For me, there is no doubt about it: Having that first baby was the most difficult transition. There are so many reasons why.
Like, bone-tired, give-me-all-the-caffeine, Jesus-take-the-wheel exhausted. There is tired, then there is “Tired as a Mother.” Then there is “Tired as a First-Time Mother.”
With everything so new–from the baby’s schedule (or lack thereof), to your changing body, to your shellshocked partner, it’s a lot to handle.
Which brings me to the rest of the challenges…
You’re exhausted. Like, bone-tired, give-me-all-the-caffeine, Jesus-take-the-wheel exhausted. There is tired, then there is “Tired as a Mother.” Then there is “Tired as a First-Time Mother.”
I don’t mean this in a gangster, “Make him an offer he can’t refuse” kind of whacked… I mean whacked-OUT. Your hormones are crashing, your belly is still big even though you’ve already had the baby, you’re operating on nil sleep, and you probably now pee when you laugh. (No judging here!)
In short, the You that Was, is not the You that Is. And it takes a while to adjust to–and appreciate–the body that just spit out a (beautiful, sweet, but still exhausting) little human.
Yeah. No social life for you.
(You get that back when they get a little older. Promise!)
The baby’s schedule isn’t the only one that matters. I found that having something to do at a designated time–like, something I had to do or else I wouldn’t make money–was, well, money. It was awesome.
As it turns out, part of the cure for my postpartum anxiety was to get back into the “regularly scheduled programming” of my life. And I will always be immensely grateful that I had a job I loved so much where I could do just that.
There is only so much Baby Joy Joy one can take. Even if those mind-numbing videos are perfect to distract your little one so you can pee alone, a woman still needs some real-deal interaction with real-deal adults. You know, adults whose lives do not revolve around the answers to probing questions such as, What color was the baby’s poop today? And, When will my butt not feel like it’s on fire again?
Going to work was my only chance to interact with adults whose main task wasn’t wiping a butt or cajoling a small person to sleep.
We even did grown-up stuff like sit at desks! And write emails! And get coffee in the lunch room! Huzzah!
Before my first child, these were all small, otherwise-unnoticed elements of my regular workday. After I returned from maternity leave, they were my Moments of Glory.
Raise your hand if, after your first baby, you officially forgot the smell of fresh air and the color of the sky.
The isolation of new motherhood was no joke for me. I literally forgot that I could leave the house with the baby. Or rather, I didn’t forget; I just was so terrified to leave the safe cocoon of our house that I turned our home into a jail and locked myself in for almost 12 weeks.
I’m certain there were some hormonal things at work (have I mentioned yet how much I hate fluctuating hormones?), but looking back, I’m so grateful that work consistently reminded me that there were other things going on in the world outside of my little bubble.
Even though I made the decision to walk away from my career, I’m immensely grateful that I had a job I loved to return to.
Tell me: What was your experience going back to work–or not–after having kids? I’d love to hear more.