Getting Back to Work After Maternity Leave

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Popping another human being out of one’s body is not a matter of joke. Carrying that baby for 10 months, in that ever expanding belly, like my life depended on it (literally) was another level altogether. Leaving that crumply sweet little thing just as he was developing a personality, for something as basic and boring as earning a living and listening to one’s boss talk and set deadlines was not fun.

I had my baby boy Om on April 17th 2015, I had to go back to work on July 10th 2015. It was one of the toughest things I have had to do in my entire adult life. Maternity leave is one of those things which starts out with anxiety and as soon as you start to find joy, it’s time to get sucked back out into the cold hard work place.

I felt as if I was abandoning him, I felt inadequate and incompetent as a mother when it was time to go back to work.

I still remember my first day back, I must have called home at least twice every hour I was at work. I was a wreck. He was with my in-laws and my mother, but it felt wrong not being with him. I reached home in the evening and bawled my eyes out all my pent up emotions out for the world to see.  I did not let Om out of my sight for the rest of the night.

Om just turned 10 months last week, and I have gone to work everyday bar one, when he was feeling a little under the weather.  The thoughts of inadequacy and feelings of incompetence have now subsided, with only occasional flare ups.

I attribute a lot of the feelings that working mothers, especially Indian working mothers have, to mental conditioning. My mother is the epitome of the quintessential mother and home maker.  She did everything perfect, she was a stay at home mom giving us her 100% attention. Somewhere in my psyche, that is the mother I wanted to be for my child. Spending 10 hours away from home and my child every day is a far cry from that. My perception and reality didn’t match, resulting in tons of guilt feeling.

My mother told me that life would turn 180 degrees after a baby, in the smugness of youth I thought, she said the same thing when I got married and that didn’t change things drastically for me. Well, one tiny human being later, let me say, 180 degrees and then some.

My particular experience is mine alone, and each woman has her own unique journey. I want to share some things I have come to realize and learn along the way which might help in Getting Back to Work after Maternity Leave:

-Post-Partum depression is real and plays a big part in how you feel and deal with things after the baby comes.  Our mothers had the same feelings of being overwhelmed, they just didn’t talk about it because times were different and they didn’t have a name for it back then.  Post-Partum depression can be major or minor, it could be passing or long lasting. It can affect your mental health in ways that will not only influence your experience of going back to work, your interaction with the baby during maternity leave. Having a strong support system around, of family and friends, who will help and sympathize during your transition from staying home to going back to work is very important.

– Baby care is the most important element when I am at work. I was able to give my full attention back to work because I had my mother taking care of the baby. I had peace of mind. Sorting this out first and foremost helps to ease back into work.

-Speaking up when I was being judged, Oh and judged I was. The aunties, uncles, friends etc. questioned my decision to go back to work (in New York City). I spoke my mind and stood up for myself. I am lucky enough to have a choice on whether I wanted to go back to work or stay home, but many women are not as fortunate. Women need to work or want to work, whatever it is, the ground reality of today is women work and that’s that. My child will respect me for any choice I make (at least until I am in chargeJ, he will also appreciate an adequate college fund 🙂

-Sleepless nights play havoc on my work life, forgetfulness has a permanent place now, so I write down things like Amir Khan from Gajani, set reminders, believe me it has helped big time.

– Accepting that I am still the same person I was before the baby came, No fairy dust here to turn me into the perfect being just because I gave birth. I do not expect to be the perfect mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter and daughter-in-law. My flaws make me human to my child. I will make mistakes and that is OK because he is mine to mess upJ, no one likes living with saints anyways, it’s boring.

-Breathe. Deep. 5 minutes a day at least. I miss a bus or train to do that, preferably from the way back from work, not on the way to work! I catch a few Zzzs on my way to workJ

-Catch a movie, have a drink or two; three if I am feeling adventurous, buy a lipstick. Basically, I try and do something for myself, it makes me feel better about everything, work included.

-it’s Ok to feed baby high quality organic baby food that’s pre-packaged, I won’t be less of a mother since it is hard to cook every day with a full work schedule. Honestly, some of them taste great, I know because I had themJ

-My husband contributed in creating this sweet little screaming baby. He is key to my functioning and succeeding, in balancing work and home. We tackle together this crying, screaming baby many nights of the work week. We try to be kind to each other during these trying times, sleeplessness can bring on the nasty side so we tread carefully.

-Having a SENSE OF HUMOR, maybe I should have put this at the top. At 1 am in the morning, when I have vomit on my night shirt and hair, and I see the baby’s closed eyes, I turn from keeping the burp cloth down and he is looking at me with wide open eyes. At that moment all that helps is to see the humor in the situation. It also doesn’t hurt that Om gives me the sweetest smilesJ I have a feeling he knows that I am about to pull all my hair!

-I needed to get organized to function properly every day at work and home. I am at least 30 times more organized than I was.

-It’s Ok to feel horrible and guilty, I am allowed. My experience tells me things get better.

I went back to work after maternity leave still having overwhelming feelings of guilt, because I want to contribute economically to my family. I want to buy things for my baby without asking for money from my husband and most importantly because I want to learn new things, keep my brain active and use that education I worked so hard for. I want to have many things to talk about with my son as he is growing up. I don’t want the burden of my happiness on his tiny shoulder’s because I want to find happiness in many things, he just happens to be the most important of it all.

Our children will grow up in a society where two income households are no longer an exception, but the norm. I need my son to understand, as he grows up, that men and women are equals in every sense, he will not expect anything else from his future relationships. It goes true for women with daughters as well, girls will grow up knowing they have to be self-sufficient and not depend on a man for anything except love and commitment. This notion, along with some extra bucks for shopping and dining out, makes the whole experience of going back to work worth it.

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