The other day I was talking to my friend Farideh about the challenge of being a new mom + an entrepreneur. She shared with me this quote, which pretty much sums it up: You want to work like you never had children and you want to be a mom like you don’t have a business.
Every mom/entrepreneur in the room is shaking her head up + down right now. I know it.
For months I’ve been dreading this day. The day I had to pick up my slack + get back to the office. The day I had to become both a girl boss AND a mom, like, AT THE SAME TIME. I mean, cuz I know how to do the girl boss thing on it’s own. Even mastered the mommy thing during maternity leave. But! BOTH. Damn it!!!
For months I’ve been dreading this day. The day I had to embody the challenge of wanting to work like I didn’t have a baby to love + wanting to be a mom like I didn’t have a creative empire to run.
It’s the whispers that affect me the most, ya’ know? The little voices inside my head that tell me what I could or should be doing. The gremlins that lure me out of gratitude + happiness. The mental script that teases me into comparing myself with strangers on the Internet. Those moms that are making homemade play dough + wearing Baby & Me matching outfits, while I’m here all like, “I got out of bed + brushed my hair. Go me!”
I guess it all comes back to fear. Fear of missing out. Missing out on being good enough. A good enough CEO. A good enough mom. It’s my struggle, and I suspect in some ways, it’s yours too. That fear of falling into the cracks of mediocrity… of abandoning our path… of walking out of our true calling… of giving up those precious moments that hold meaning to us so we can prove that we aren’t missing out.
And of course we know inside our hearts that we are everything. E-VERY-THING. That we are exactly where we need to be. On course. On track. Right here. Except when we skip a nap or breakfast because we said YES when we really meant NO. Those times, we really do miss out, on our own live.
Know what I discovered? That we cannot trade living life for what-if, because we’re afraid to miss out a big opportunity, the one that could be our big break. You know what my biggest break was this week? Watching Olivia say “PAH-pa-pa-pa-pa-PAAA-pa” for the first time.
In a way these past months have been about finding the courage to enjoy NOW for what is.
This is a stage. Just a stage. The checking-to-see-if-Olivia-is-still-breathing stage + the car-seat-tantrum stage + the shhhhhh-the-baby’s-sleeping stage. It’s all a stage. Everything’s a stage. And every stage has a beginning + an end. Just a couple of weeks ago we got over the sleeping-in-two-hour-intervals stage, and I tell you the truth: I miss it a lil’ bit because it means my baby’s all grown up. She was so tiny, like, yesterday. What happened?
The years are long, but the days go by so so fast you guys.
Maybe we become. Slowly. Perhaps at some point down the road we all the sudden become worthy to be called “ma-ma-ma-ma” + wear the superhuman boss boots.
Or maaaay-be we unbecome. Gently. Perhaps we unlearn how to be Robocop-woman, and we just are the journey.
I think it’s the latter.
I trust it’s the latter. Because everyday I close my calendar of perfectionism + give myself permission to stay one more hour in my pijamas (or three) + to snuggle Olivia until we both become one breath + to watch one more episode of Modern Family with hubby (or a whole season) + to have a grilled cheese sandwich in bed… it gets easier. Life does.
I trust that a place in a galaxy not that far away exist, where I don’t have to give up my passion projects + I don’t have to say good-bye to those chubby little hands that like crawling up my chest from 9 to 5 from Monday through Friday. I don’t want to.
I believe there is a place where girl boss meets super mommy, for tea + ginger cookies. And they get along.
The girl boss has the backbone to stay on course + the firmness to keep going for her dreams. The super mommy has the softness to be grateful + the heart to stay grounded. We need both to guide us home.
The girl boss reminds the super mommy of her mission in this world, which is greater than herself. And the super mommy reminds the girl boss that the world doesn’t need more successful people, what it needs is more unconditional lovers + more people who read “Once upon a time…” stories.
They need each other. The girl boss + the super mommy do. I really believe that now.
My Top 20 Comeback Tips
Coming back to work after hibernating in maternity la-la-land has been sweet n’ sour.
After a long adjustment period, I really feel like I have found my happy rhythm. I don’t know that I’m quite there yet, since I still catch myself saying things like “I survived” or “Winter is coming”, but I’m definitively getting somewhere that’s not bad at all.
If you’re looking to return to work after a a sabbatical + you’re freaking out a little (or a lot), I made a list of a few things that helped me transition back into the keyboards. Smoothly. Without hyperventilating.
Here are some handy tips to make your return from maternity leave easier from a momma who’s just been there:
1. Plan It
If you don’t already run your life around a calendar now is the time to start. David and I both work + have a very hands-on approach to raising Olivia, so it’s nice to schedule date nights + trips. Things to look forward to in between the craziness of building our own brands + parenthood.
Of course, every family’s tolerance level is different. Ours, for example, doesn’t do well on a fixed hour-by-hour routine or controlled feeding feeding/napping schedule, but we have learned that we cannot go more than a week without a movie + we start to get really cranky if we don’t go to our beach house for long stretches of time. So, we make fun plans all the time. And those plans are locked down on the calendar.
We have also become very guarded of our social schedule + only plan for things we really REALLY want to do.
2. Share the Load
Whether you return to work 10 hours a week or 50, you will need to enlist the help of others to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Since we can’t add hours to our day when we return to work or have a Time-Turner like Hermione, we must make adjustments to our existing schedule to fit it all in.
I’m a big advocate of bring family onboard. I literally assign missions to everybody who offers a hand. My mom-in-law helps with the groceries. My sister is great at taking the night shift. Mom babysits during date nights. Auntie Kari distracts Olivia while mommy has lunch. Everyone has a role, an important role. It’s because of them that I’m still sane.
Like the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I see it unfolds in front of my very eyes everyday.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. It will not make you any less of a mother. I promise.
3. Find the Right Job
When I was returning to work, I made the mistake I see a lot of my gal pals make when going back. I undervalued myself. “I’ve been gone for 6 months.” “Everyone’s forgotten who I am.” “I have nothing to offer.”
Within weeks, I had mastered the art of working while Olivia was rolling around on her foamy play-thingy or family came to visit (ahem, ahem, babysit). Quickly I was feeling underutilized + bored. I had underestimated myself.
Being a mom doesn’t mean you’re all the sudden handicapped or sick. It just takes some re-adjustment + fine tuning.
Take some time to think about what you want to do + what your skills are + what your goals are for returning to work. Is this a return to full-time work that means pursuing a career until retirement, or is this a smaller return to increase your income while still prioritizing your family? What do you like to do? How much time can you give to a job? Can you work from home or would you rather separate the two?
Find a job that’s right for YOU. This is something you will want to talk with your partner, since it affect the whole family. So make sure to carve out time to involve hubby in the process.
4. Pass The Torch
Because I’m the boss of my own time, I tend to leave too many slots available for others people’s agendas + urgencies. I tend to overcommit. I’m that super volunteer people call when there’s an auction or a bake sale. It sucks.
Being a mom has taught me to let go of a few responsibilities, pass them on to someone else if you will. It’s been nice to finally have an excuse to excuse myself. Not that I needed one, but oh well.
5. Hire Help
Get someone in regularly to help out with cleaning + laundry + cooking or any day-to-day task that you dread doing now that time is of the essence.
Her name is Cati, our savor. She comes in weekdays from 8 to 5, and at the end of the day my floors are clean + the plants get watered + there’s homemade almond milk in the fridge. It’s AWESOME.
Plus, not only does hiring help alleviate your burden, you get to help out another working mom by hiring her. Extra AWESOME!
6. Don’t Worry
Try not to worry too much. Your baby will be fine + will not hold your ‘working mommy’ status against you. In fact, you well may turn out to be her role model. Take care + be kind to yourself. You deserve it!
7. Find Trustworthy Care Giver
Finding someone you can trust to take care of the baby in your absence is a big one. I feel very blessed to have family close by that I can count on to look after baby O when I have a doctor’s appointment or business meeting. You can always hire a nanny or find a close-by daycare, if family is not an option. But! Do your research + check references. Muy importante.
8. Pick the Feeding Method That’s Suits Your Family
I made the decision long ago that I wanted to breastfeed Olivia on demand. After overcoming a very rocky + painful start, I’m finally at that point were I really enjoy nursing. I LOVE that it requires no preparation, other than buttoning down my shirt. I LOVE that food is always available as long as we’re together. I LOVE how I feel when I see what my body is capable of doing.
Like that time we went to Vieques. Packing was so easy. And not having to worry about milk temperatures or sterilizing bottles at a remote hotel was lovely indeed.
Or like that other time we were stranded in traffic for 4 hours and 40 minutes coming back from the beach (a trip that usually takes us 1 hour + 20 minutes). No problem. Daddy just pulled over every time Oli wanted a little snack (wink). That was nice.
I really encourage expecting moms to think ahead + pick a feeding method that fits their lifestyle best.
Everyone knows I’m an avid list maker. Except now, besides making to-do lists, I make sure to circle in red the items that are top priority.
I’ve learned that not everything is an emergency, like updating my Facebook fanpage or alphabetizing my cookbook collection. If something can be done later, I put it on the back burner without guilt or shame. It’s an art. I think it comes with the hormones.
10. Learn to Say NO
When it comes to setting priorities + boundaries, I say NO many times. I’ve made it a habit.
Make NO your default setting. I know it sounds horrible, but look at it this way: Saying NO to stuff that’s not aligned with your big picture only means you get to say YES to what’s truly important. It’s called living with intention. And living in authenticity with your values is a beautiful thing.
11. Give Your Baby Quality Time
When I started taking a few clients here and there + getting back to blogging + going back to work in general after maternity leave, I made a pack with myself:
- Work stays in my studio.
- Set decent working hours.
- I will not take work home.
When I’m at work, I’m fully present. In my creative flow. The time I step out of my studio + enter my home, I devote it to my family. No working after dinner. No bringing my laptop to the beach. No inbox clean up in bed. No exceptions.
I think that’s one of the main reasons I don’t feel guilty about working or guilty about spending all this time with Olivia. It’s because I enjoy every instant I have with my virtual community + every slit second I get with my familia.
12. Have A Plan B
Sometimes, the best-laid plans can unravel. Tell me about is sistah!
It is possible that your nanny gets ill or the abuelita couldn’t get out of the office + cannot look after the baby as planned. Have a backup plan for such situations. I keep a little black book of options in case of emergencies – that friend you can always count on… that family member who keeps asking if you need an extra hand… that babysitter who can come to the rescue. It’s good to have options.
13. Look Your Best
You may have to buy a new wardrobe! Under no condition should you attempt to fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes. That’s a great recipe for disaster! Don’t go trying to stuff yourself into your pre-pregnancy clothes. Pick up some new clothes that will flatter your new body. You can also go for a haircut. Now will be a great time to try a new hairstyle. And while you are at it, get a facial + manicure + pedicure too!
14. Sleep, You’ll Need It
Once you return to work after maternity leave, you’ll truly understand what exhaustion feels like. Juggling work + family is one of the toughest jobs in the world. So, sleep whenever you can. That dirty bookshelf can be dusted later. That movie can be watched later. That pantry can be organized later. That homemade cake can be baked later. But you need sleep, NOW!
15. Practice Makes Almost Perfect
Before you jump into the workforce, do some practice runs. Let the babysitter try giving the baby milk out of a bottle. Let the nanny try bathing the baby without you. Let grandma put the baby to sleep without your aid. See what happens. Make adjustments. This will get you ready for the real thing.
16. Remember Why You Are Working
It may be because you need the money or because you need to work to stay sane. Whatever be the reason, remind yourself of it whenever you feel overwhelmed.
17. Let Go Of Momma Guilt
Guilt comes with the territory for most moms. Let go of it. Thousands of working moms manage to bring up amazing babies. My mom is a very successful lawyer. And I think she did pretty good.
Don’t beat yourself up. Be kind to yourself if you decide going back to work is the right thing for you.
18. There Is Life Besides The Baby (Hard To Believe, I Know)
No matter how much you love your baby, don’t make it the topic of all conversations. Your life may revolve around your baby, but others have different priorities.
Don’t blame your colleagues for not being interested in what your baby ate for dinner. Don’t blame your friends for not asking you to show them baby pictures. Don’t blame your husband if he wants to talk about something other than the baby’s poo color that day.
19. Don’t Compare Yourself With That Other Moms
Parenting is hard. Don’t compare. Make the best of the situation you + your partner picked. You will soon get into a routine. I promise it gets easier. I swear it gets easier.
20. Get Comfortable With The Stillness
My biggest shock getting back to work was realizing I would never be back, like as the Mayi from before Olivia I mean. Cuz, I used to be one of those bosses that was on call all the freaking time. For e-mails. For customer orders. For comments. For social media questions. For interviews. For round ups. For blog tours. For all nighters. For a catch up chat on Google Hangouts. I was there. Busy busy busy.
By removing all that busy work from my schedule I feared that my brand would fall apart. That I would no longer have friends. That I would PUFF, disappear from the radar.
For the first time in my life, I was forced to make room for emptiness. For alone time. For introspection. For my thoughts. Like when I’m nursing Olivia, I literally can’t do anything else. Don’t believe me? Go ask my Coordinator of Messy, Amanda Sue Howell. It’s true. Every time I try to send her a voice note to catch up on work while I’m breastfeeding or playing with Olivia, she let’s us know she’s not having the multi-tasking thing on her watch.
Being present requires work. Not busy work. Soul work.
In the words of Paul Jarvis (if you’re not signed up to his newsletter, you’re missing out big time): “When your work requires you to be creative, you need to be alone with your thoughts. You can’t get around it. You need the mental space to create.”
We prefer to fill up our days with social media + e-mails + WhatsApp messages + chores. It feels productive. But busyness rarely equals creativity.
Motherhood brings with it mandatory calmness. And with it the boundless possibility of an imaginative mind + an innovative spirit. We must sit though the discomfort, sometimes minutes… hours at a time just watching the baby sleep or ironing cute little clothes. It’s part of the job. And it pays creative dividends.
Stillness is not the ultimate punishment. It feels like it, but it’s the necessary path to true creative work that matters. Just wait + see all the stuff that I have lined up for us from all this quite time. Stay tuned!
Ultimately thou, there is no amount of preparation that can fully prepare you for the transition from full-time momma bear to world domination biz lady. I think the hardest part with any comeback is always the learning-to-trust-the-mess part.
Trust your husband to take care of things in my absence. So what if he put on the diaper wrong? Let him bond with the baby while you catch your breath!
Trust your mom/mom-in-law/sister/nanny to take care of things in my absence. So they don’t sing like you or dance like you or play like you? Do not micromanage! Your baby doesn’t need mommy clones. What your baby needs is a fun grandma. A crazy aunt. A silly God Mother. A loving cousin that sometimes doesn’t want to share his toys. That’s what will ultimately prepare the baby for the world. Diversity will.
Trust yourself to take care of things to the best of my abilities with a sense of worthiness. If you feel like you are not being as productive at work as you were before, don’t worry. You have just become a mother for God’s sake. It is a HUGE accomplishment. Give yourself time. And talk to other women who are going thought this process. It helps.
Trust. Takes practice.
To wrap up, here’s my final confession: I’ve changed. I’m more loose in the joints + chubbier on the cheeks + my eyes are a bit more wrinkly. In a lot of ways I’m uglier. Except to people who understand. Who get it. Who know what I’ve been through. To them, I’m prettier than ever before.
I’ll take it. It was all worth it.
It’s been therapeutic to write this. It really has. Thanks for sticking around till the end. Means so much to have a space to share this metaphorical Everest climb with.
Now I would like to hear from you. Are you returning to work after maternity leave? What is it you are worried about the most? What has helped you make the transition easier? Share it in the comments!
*This post is sponsored by Kate Spade NY. All content + ideas + words are my own.