There were times over my 12 weeks where I felt like returning to work was going to be a really great move because it would restore some balance in my life, as well as re-engage me mentally. There were other days when I would just cry and agonize over how much time I was going to miss with my son. Fears bounced around my head like, “is he going to like his care provider more than me?”, “am I going to miss major milestones?”, “will he remember that I am his mommy?”, “will he cry when I drop him off in the morning?”, “will he get sick?”.
I can remember my very last full week with him and as we were breastfeeding, I would look at his sweet face and the tears would just stream down my cheeks. It felt awful to think about replacing such a tender moment with a mechanical breast pump in a small white room at the office.
I was so anxious as we neared the end of that last full week together and started preparing his things for his first week at daycare. The first morning of daycare was one of the hardest times of my life. That was the first time I had been apart from my son. I remember not putting make-up on because I was crying before we even got there. As we left him, I cried and cried and cried. That day couldn’t go by fast enough for me but our daycare did send us photos throughout the day (she knew I was a wreck) and before I knew it, it was time to pick him up.
Each day from that point on got incrementally easier. As I saw that he was ok and I saw the love in the eyes of his care provider and that he was in good hands, I was able to relax more. I find myself having more energy during my play time with him and really cherish every waking moment of our time together, especially because it is less. I still have tough days when I question whether or not I am making the right choice or I feel jealous of my care provider that she gets 11 hours with him and I get 3 awake hours. These are tough feelings and decisions but in the end right now, this is the right choice for our family.
Whatever you decide is right for your family, easing back into work is difficult. Hopefully reading this will help you feel like you are not alone in your thoughts and fears.
Here are things that I think really helped me:
1. I created a memo documenting how I did everything with my son from changing his diaper to calming him. It was probably overkill for our provider but it helped make me feel a little more in control. Writing it was therapeutic.
2. We visited our provider twice over my maternity leave. Once to introduce our son and then a second time a few days before he started to drop everything off and go over my memo in an attempt to make the first day easier, and it did.
3. We asked for occasional updates, especially in the first few weeks. Getting a photo in a text or e-mail of your baby smiling, really eases fears.
4. Try to get a schedule going before they start daycare and ask your provider to try and stick to it. We established a routine of sleep, eat, activity and repeat, gave some guidelines but then also gave her the freedom to read our son and make adjustments as she felt fit.
5. Start with a short week. I went back to work for 2 days my first week which made it a lot easier to get through.
Good luck and be strong, mommies!!
Colleen lives in Buffalo with her husband and son on a small hobby farm out in Buffalo, MN. She works full time at a national fire protection company based in New Brighton. When she isn't working, her little family enjoys quiet time together and has a ton of fun raising bees and chickens.