Monday, October 29, 2012

The Back-to-Work Conflict

Here's the back-to-work pep talk I'm giving myself:

I'm looking forward to getting back to work.  I really like my job.  I'm lucky to have flexible hours, colleagues I really like, students who sometimes frustrate but sometimes delight me, a cozy (and private) little office.  I'm so lucky to enjoy an academic schedule that gives me a winter break, a spring break, and three months off in the summer.  I've made arrangements so that I teach just three days a week in the spring so that I have more time at home.  I'm looking forward to getting up and putting on real clothes (ooh! a reason to buy new black boots!) and having structure to my day.  I'm one of those people who accomplishes so much more when I have more to do (because there's no time to procrastinate!).  I also crave that certain satisfaction of a job well done (a stack of papers graded, an article completed, even an inbox full of e-mails attended to) that is very difficult to achieve with the never-ending job of caring for a baby.  I also want to use the academic part of my brain that feels a little mushy since it hasn't been exercised much in the past four months.  There's a part of me that is itching to get back to it.

I've had four amazing months at home with Zuzu, and I have savored every minute of it, in part because I knew it wouldn't last forever.  I was lucky to get 18 full weeks with her, and despite all my worries, I really do believe that the experience of day care will be good for her, too.  I was amazed at the way she watched the other kids when we attended a La Leche meeting, and I know that she will be stimulated and entertained in a room with other kids.  I'm also confident that she will be well cared for.  The day care center we chose got glowing recommendations from other parents who've sent their children there.  We visited again this morning and I just sat and chatted with the three women who work in the baby room and when we left, I felt good about having them take care of my baby.  They all have years of experience and they obviously love those kids.  I like that the day care is small and I like that they are three responsible, caring adults taking care of the babies and that they've all been there for years.  I'm glad they were asking us so many questions about her typical routine and that they asked me to provide notes about how we usually do things at home.  They told me that they had a baby previously who struggled with the bottle and they even fed him with a dropper until he agreed to take the bottle!  I like that they are cloth-diaper friendly (very few daycare centers are!).  I also like that when Zuzu starts there will just be seven babies (including her) with three providers, and she will be the youngest by three months.  I think this means she's likely to get lots of special attention and plenty of holding as the other kids are already much more mobile and active.

When I was at the La Leche meeting, I mentioned my anxieties about going back to work.  I wasn't sure what I was expecting to hear, as most (all?) of the women there were stay-at-home moms, but one of the leaders said something that I thought was really remarkable.  She assured me that kids do really well in daycare (and that she'd heard really good things about the place we've chosen).  She also said that our society seems to think that what's "natural" is for a mom to stay home with her kids, but that traditionally raising children was always a social experience--it was not one isolated individual caring for a baby (or babies).  It was a multi-generational effort, so kids were used to many different caregivers and many kinds of love.  Especially since David and I don't have family in town, and most of our friends look like us, I really want Caroline to have a broader experience beyond hanging out with me.  I want her to be confident that when she is dropped off somewhere that Mommy will always come back.  I want her to feel secure even when I'm not right there with her.

I keep telling myself what my friend Kristin told me about day care--it's really good for kids to have different people love them in different ways.

And then there's the fact that I went to school for a very long time so that I could pursue a career that I love. It can be as frustrating at times as it is rewarding at other times, but I'm doing what I set out to do.  I want Caro to know that her mom's career is just as important as her dad's career.  I want her to see that the reason I enjoy the kind of flexibility my job provides is because I worked really hard to get here.  She will always be my first priority, but I want her to know that my job is interesting and important also.  I think that the part-time schedule I have worked out will the best of both worlds for us--it might mean sacrificing immediate advancement at work, and it will certainly mean that publishing academic articles will probably be put on the back burner for a while, but I'll get four days a week with her and three days a week at work, and that seems like the best way things could work out for me and my family.

So that's the pep talk.

And here's what I think about (and cry about) before I give myself that pep talk:

I lost my first baby.  She died before she born and I missed out on everything I wanted for her.  Shouldn't I give up my job so that I don't miss a moment with the baby we were lucky enough to bring home?  Isn't that the unspoken expectation of everyone (including me)?  Shouldn't I have had an epiphany that says nothing is as important as being there with my kid?  Shouldn't I be willing to cut coupons and skip big vacations if we could really make it on one income?  Why would I be so selfish as to go back to work?  By the time we pay for day care and gas money and professional wardrobe, am I really making that much money anyway?

I've read all the depressing articles about how impossible it is for women to "have it all."  What if I can't make this work?  What if I end up slacking at work so I can hurry home and then feeling tired and rushed and frustrated at home because I have a bunch of work to do?  What if going back part-time keeps me from advancing to associate or full professor or department chair?  What if going back part-time makes Zuzu maladjusted and angry?  What if I fail at parenting and professoring?  (Oh, look.  I already failed at grammar!  And I'm an English professor!)

And the most pressing issue:  This is the one that can bring me to tears in a second.  This is the one that keeps me up at night.  This is the one that I can't rationalize or justify or pep-talk my way out of entirely.  What if she's really scared?  She's just a baby!  She needs her mama!  How will she understand that it's just temporary and I'm going to come back and get her?  She's really a mama's girl these days.  How will she adjust?  What if she gets hungry but she's so upset that she won't eat?  What if she cries so much that the caregivers dread seeing her?  What if she's sad the whole time I'm gone?  What if she thinks I've abandoned her and I don't love her anymore?  What if something happens and she needs me and I'm twenty-five minutes away?  She's my baby and I love her so much and I'm going to miss her so much.

Deep breath.

I think I need that pep talk again.

So that's the conversation my brain is having with itself these days.

If I were sure that she would adjust right away and enjoy day care (and, you know, eat enough to sustain her chubby cheeks), I would absolutely have no hesitation or worry about going back to work.  The truth is that I think a part-time schedule will be awesome and thoroughly enjoyable for me.  My biggest fear is that she will be scared or upset when I'm not there to fix it.

I know that it will just be a matter of transitioning and getting used to our new routine (that goes for both of us) and her getting to know the sweet ladies at the day care.  I know she can handle it.

I just hope I can handle it too.

I'd love your thoughts on this, but I'll be honest.  I'm feeling totally fragile, so if you cannot be supportive of the decision I have ALREADY MADE (meaning I am going back to work, albeit not full time for now), please keep your comments to yourself.  If you have gone back to work and made it work, I'd love to hear about it.  We're both going to be ok, right?

35 comments:

  1. Going back to work was the scariest thing I ever did. That being said, I needed it. I was soooo lonely at home with only Connor for company. I missed going to work. I cried that first night. But I got to go home and see my wonderful little man. His grandma kept him. He never really knew I was gone. He played, was bounced, and spoiled rotten. I missed him more than he missed me! Take a deep breath. Caro is in good hands.

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  3. You're going to be great.

    I had 2 kids in grad school, so I never knew academic work without them, and it has been easy peasy to add in more kids.

    Listen, you have a PhD. Of course you are going to go to work. You also have autonomy and flexibility and a really supportive partner. Those are the ingredients for having it all, IMO.

    When Harry was little we had a nanny, and then Ben started teaching at the community college level, and we flex our schedules to be home with the kids (which sounds lovely but is a major, major, major juggling act--lots of discussion about whose meeting is more important, etc). It sounds like your situation is terrific! And it will be lovely to have time to write and teach that is uninterrupted and so nicely compartmentalized.

    You are going to find a rhythm, and it's going to be wonderful-- even if it feels a little rocky at first.

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  4. My 3 year old has been in day care since she was 6 months and my 8 year old since 4 months. Both are happy, healthy, smart, social kids. Good day cares are great for kids. I'm professionally educated, and my job is important to me. My kids, both girls, see a mom who has a job she loves...I'm a social worker...and that's important too.

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  5. Brooke, the beautiful thing is that decisions are rarely permanent. If in fact you DO find yourself hating being back at work, what's the worst that'll happen of you change your mind? The world won't end. Life will go on, even if someone else occupies your little office and teaches students in your place. You absolutely deserve to give this a try...but please try not to beat yourself up, whether over guilt for finding your pep talk ringing true for you, or over for feeling like any kind of lesser woman if it doesn't.

    <3

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  6. I'm still 6 months away from returning to work, and I'm dreading it already. Like, I could cry thinking about it.

    And you know what it is that gets me? That I could lose everything tomorrow and that would be the end of that. That I could lose her too. It is enough to make me want to scream and cry and quit my job. The flip side? I could stay home and still lose her. YUP, that's what my brain does these days.

    But (deep breath) I have to believe it won't happen again. And I have to believe that I can go back to work and that Grace (and your Caro) will thrive by doing so. I honestly believe some interaction with other kids is helpful- new experiences, new words (!), etc. That's not a knock on moms who work within the home (my mom stayed home with us and it worked out just fine for us), it's just my justification for going back.

    That, and I make too much money to quit in all honesty. Not that money's everything, but it certainly does help to keep us in safe cars, in a comfortable home, and take Grace (and her future siblings) on nice trips, and keep her in Baby Gap and Baby Legs. ha.

    xox momma.

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  7. Sarah's third paragraph was the best. What a great definition of "having it all" - the "all" being the things that really matter, and not the image and the fluff.

    When you said you were scared of Caroline being scared - of you not being physically with her at every moment -that feeling is so real, and it is the reason why everyone cries at the beginning. It took me a long time to realize this, but I really feel like it is our greatest role and responsibility to allow our children into wider and wider circles of people - for their love, their influence and most importantly their support. We can never truly promise our children that we'll always be there - no matter how hard we wish and pray it each day. By letting her slowly and carefully open up to others - to caregivers, to friends, to their families, to school and church and play communities, to her neighbors and then the world around her - you are letting her know that she will always be surrounded by people who love her. And in the end, that gift really strengthens those ties to home, and to you. She's a lucky girl.

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  8. Hey Brooke,

    I am a loyal reader but rarely comment. However, this post really spoke to me.

    My baby is 1 month old and I am already having many of the same feelings. Like you, I have the ability to go back to work part-time, I'll have flexible hours, I like my job, like my coworkers, want a professional identity apart from my mommy identity, etc. And yet, I am dreading going back. I feel like it's selfish to go back just for the salary, and that if I was a better mom I'd make it work--sell the house and downsize, cancel cable, take fewer vacations, etc. It's so hard.

    Zuzu will be fine, as will my baby. I look back on my time in day care and preschool and I have nothing but fond memories. I LOVED the caregivers! Seriously, some of my earliest and happiest memories are of the things I did at preschool. It's funny because my mom said she agonized about working but it was only positive for me. Kids are social creatures and the interaction will be good for them. And getting time away will be good for you (and me), too--you'll come back energized and renewed.

    AND, remember what I keep telling myself: this decision doesn't have to last forever. If it doesn't work, you can always revisit it. It is not binding. You can always change your mind. But really, it will be fine. It will. Zuzu will thrive! Hang in there. It will be harder on us mommies than it will be on the babies.

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  9. I have been through ALL of these emotions in the last few weeks, and ultimately decided to quit my job for the time being. For a lot of reasons, it is the best thing for us right now, but I will confess that I do miss working, using my brain in other ways, and having more structure. Like Amy said, neither decision is permanent, which is what I tell myself on days when "all" I accomplished (besides caring for our daughter) was to half-heartedly make dinner.

    I also suffer from guilt from the other side....would she be 'better' with a family that had more disposable income, better health-care, a mom who has a growing 401(k)?

    She is going to be fine, and you are going to be fine, and hopefully you both can adapt quickly!

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  10. You are both going to be okay.

    I've gone back to work after maternity leave twice now, in much easier circumstances, and it was still hard at first. It's hard to leave your baby! I left my babies with my own MOM, and it was still hard. But, it gets easier every day. It really does. It's okay to be sad at first. Everyone is!

    I felt similarly about really liking my job and enjoying the sense of accomplishment that just doesn't happen with a baby. The best part of going back to work is getting a break from parenting and going home feeling recharged and ready to parent. And, I feel strongly that it's good for my kids to see both parents working and enjoying work.

    And of course she's going to need you - but she needs lots of different things from you, and one of those things is learning that she can trust other people and that you will always come back.

    My advice - plan something fun for your first day back at work (a great coffee drink, a nice lunch, chatting with your favorite colleague, anything you will look forward to). Give yourself permission to cry after the first drop-off. Have a good photo to show off to everyone you see. And celebrate when you get home to your beautiful girl!

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  11. The daycare sounds awesome.

    Caro will do fine, I promise. I worked in daycare for years and the babies all did great. The kids who have a hard time are the ones who are 2+ and have never been without their mom before, and even that kid did ok eventually. I really do think it's good for them, and for you. You will appreciate your time with her so much more. It really will be fine.

    And I agree, these decisions aren't permanent and won't permanently scar either of you! It will be okay Dr.Brooke!

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  12. Brooke,

    I follow your blog religiously and am greatly inspired by you. I know you will get through this and write many funny and heartfelt anecdotes about it. I have a 2 year old and went back to work a few weeks after her second birthday. It wasn't any easier than if she were 3 months or 12 months or I am guessing 5 years old. The truth is that I lost many nights of sleep worrying about how she will handle the separation (after all she's 2 and is more than able to tell the difference between awesome mom love vs. caretaker (albeit a very good one) love. I lived through it and she adjusted within a week. She is enjoying her time away from home, I am bringing in some extra cash get to participate in real grown-up social time (and outfits that don't involve sweat pants)all while knowing that when I get home our time together will be special as we both cherish this time a lot more now. I wish you lots of strength as you move forward in this chapter of parenthood, but just as someone else here said, these decisions are not set in stone, you can always renege. Stay strong and keep us posted.

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  13. I like my job, I went to school for a long time to have a career, one that's flexible and I enjoy. I like using my brain and helping people as a medical professional. That being said... I wish I was independently wealthy so I didn't have to work and I could stay home full time.

    I stayed home with Kai for 1.5 years. I don't have that luxury this time and I don't want to lose this job. I work 2 days a week and will start again in 1month. It freaks me out. I interview someone this week. I want an in home day care because I think it is a more nuturing environment. But it doesn't make it less hard. I feel what you feel and worry about what you worry about. I think we are doing the best we can in our situations. Highly educated and dedicated mothers. The crux and the beauty Is in our love. Our big big love. It will be okay but it's not okay until it is okay... And that is a matter of time. I wil l be writing sone sobbing soggy post about thus as my time approaches and I will be working 2 days a week.

    This so hard and I wish it was easier even if we are liking what we do. It's still hard. I'm acknowledging you because I'm right there with you.

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  14. Oh Brooke. It is SO hard to leave them at first. It really is. I made my husband take E to daycare for the first few weeks when he started, even.

    I have done the part-time thing at first, too. L was in daycare from about 9 to 2 every day. That worked really well for us -- I was able to get some work done and not always feel like I should be trying to get writing done when I was with her and she got social time and new foods and cool crafts and songs. I feel like because we had daycare (and a daycare that I felt good about leaving her at), we were both able to thrive better and I was able to be more patient and attentive during the times that I was with her. And having the time with L made the school work less stressful in a way because it puts all that academic stuff into a different perspective. Honestly, I think part-time daycare offered us the best of both worlds. L and I loved (and still love) it. Hopefully it will be the same for you guys once you settle in to it all! XO

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  15. So many of those "pros" remind me so much of ones I told myself. :) Of course, my cons aren't nearly as strong as yours; my baby was merely long-awaited and at times unhoped for. But I can tell you that once you do actually go back to work, the pros really will come to the fore, and the cons will slowly reduce, especially as you start seeing how well she does in daycare -- not just hearing how well others do in day care (that's not the same!). But I can say, it is easier to make the adjustment when they are younger rather than when they are older. Gwen was 3.5 months when she started daycare, 4 afternoons a week. She was young enough that she didn't really have a concept of me leaving/not being there, and since she's grown up with this being a regular routine, she has never had a problem with me leaving her. And it's not just familiarity with the caretaker and the surroundings -- last week when we were in Heidelberg, the days I was at a conference, I made arrangements with the university day care there to drop her off for two days, and she did just fine. We also visited a couple of daycares (since we're moving there in January), and the caretakers all commented on how relaxed and calm and ready to dig into the toys she seemed; in Germany, most kids don't start daycare until around 1 year, and thus have a lot harder time adjusting to it.

    In the last few weeks, we've gone from half days only to a few full days, which means I can actually get 8 hours (or in the case of today, 9!) at the office; today they had a photographer coming to take pictures, so even kids who normally come only in the afternoons were allowed to come all day without having to pay extra. When I dropped her off, I held her hand so she could show off her mad almost walking skillz, she walked across the room until she got distracted by a toy when she dropped my hand and sat down; I unpacked her things from her bag, and then called to get her attention. She looked at me, waved, and turned back to the book she'd pulled off the shelf. She was too engrossed in it to even noticed I left.

    It warmed my heart, as funny as that might sound.

    Good luck. It does get better. And you'll not regret giving Caro such a good example of work/mom/life balance.

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  16. I want to echo what your friend Kristin says about daycare. I told myself before E started daycare that it could only be a good thing to have more people in her world who loved her, but after she started I really started to believe it: her teachers loved her and hugged her and cheered for her and her confidence grew. It feels important to me that she knows that she is loved inside her family and out. She has also had so much fun with all her little friends. She goes to kindergarten next year and I am already nostalgic every time I go to pick her up at her daycare. That said, there are still plenty of times when I wish I could afford not to work, to stay home with her as much as possible in this last year before she goes off to be a bone fide school kid.

    I will get my PhD at the end of this year. E was born mid-way through my third year and I have been pregnant 5 times since then. 3 miscarriages, 1 stillborn beauty of a daughter and one probably doomed pregnancy underway and all my zip for the academic career has gone out of me. But, after all that work, I will have to do something. Reading your description of your work environment makes me feel a little hope - at the universities I've been affiliated with the dream of a cozy little office, flexibility and time seems to have vanished under pressures to bring in huge money and have some kind of corporate impact (gag) but maybe there are still places out there where I can find something that will work for me...

    I look forward to reading about your experiences as a parenter and professorer!

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  17. Hi Brooke,

    First time I am making a comment (since I am now a blogger). I think you will have the best of both worlds working part time. You get to spend most of the time with baby Caroline and also have some adult time (career) for you. Your job doesn't required you to work weekends, holidays,evenings...which is awesome. I only came back to work because my job is also flexible (working from home). Baby Caroline will be just fine, my boys love going to daycare. You might get a little time to get used to...but you will be fine too!

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  18. I've been on maternity leave and returned back to work twice, and the second time was harder because I was now leaving two kids behind (my kids are only 20 months apart).

    It was SO good for me to have my brain used for something other than mommy things. And my girls barely skipped a beat. Sure, there were a few days of tears, but it quickly went away. Their caretakers loved them, and it showed.

    In fact, I'm still good friends with my 4 year old's former infant room teachers.

    Caroline, and you, will be fine.

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  19. it will be okay! i have a little one who is about a month younger than caro and had to go back to work at 8 weeks. i also have a great part time set up that i am thrilled about, but the beginning just hurt. it is a weird visceral ache for the first few times and i cried off and on during that first week. what everyone says is true, though- it does get better... and the grass is always greener. somedays i dread going to work and other days i feel like i am dying for my husband to come home so i can just relax for a minute. as renel says above, that is the crux. it is hard to ever be fully happy any where now that i have a little guy at home, but at the same time my joy is so much more complete.
    on a side note, i was coming here to comment for the first time this morning. hopefully not in a creepy way- but i thought of you and this community last night. i am a pediatrician at and we had a beautiful little newborn girl pass away shortly after birth. it was expected, but obviously nothing can prepare anyone. i had posts and sentences and reminders and so many things i have learned from reading this blog and others streaming through my mind as i cared for this family and their little babe. i tried hard to not say anything stupid or hurtful and just let them be whatever they needed to be. i hated knowing from reading here what was ahead for this sweet family, but was so glad i knew something so that i could better support them. i hate that you or anyone has to know such pain, but i am so grateful that you are willing to share and teach so that hopefully myself and others can be better prepared to not be a burden when families are experiencing such a loss. i know it is impossible to truly "help" in that situation- but not being a burden seems like a fair goal. ugh. life sucks and is totally unfair sometimes. there is just no way around that.

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  20. The same day A started preschool at 4, I started college. It was the scariest thing in the world to leave her with strangers to take care of her and she called me once and I called them twice, but we survived. We were also in the midst of a custody case though, A had been kidnapped by her mom two days prior.

    I think your normal, healthy baby girl is going to do just fine.

    I would suggest sleeping with a receiving blanket a few nights before and leaving it with her at daycare so she has your scent. You can sleep with the blanket each night and send it with her during the day.

    We also paid for the video subscription so I could log in and see A any time I wanted. If you have that, it can help ease your mind.

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  21. I'm a lurker, and you don't know me, but I thought I'd leave a comment since you asked! I also am a university professor, I have two kids -- five and one, and I work a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule and am home Tuesday and Thursday (as well as Saturday and Sunday, of course). When I had my first baby, I was right at the beginning of a year long sabbatical, and my second was born at the end of March and I didn't go back until September. I loved being at home with them, much more than I thought I would, so going back to work both times was super hard -- lots of crying, mostly from me, not them. But like you, I love my job, I love the flexibility, I love the vacations and summers off, and I love that it lets me spend so much time with my kids. My experience has been wonderful, and I have no doubt yours will too.
    Christina

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  22. Brooke - I haven't read all of the comments because I have to go teach a class in 10 minutes (6-9pm - who crated that form of torture?), but I saw your post and felt compelled to comment.

    I read every word you write. I have for almost 2 years now. I rarely comment, and when I do it's usually as "anonymous".

    I too am a university professor (well Assistant Professor, if we're being technical). I work at Penn State and am in my 3rd year on the tenure track (I worked for 2 years at another university before beginning at Penn State). I have two children, a 4 year old and a 2 year old.

    I want to make sure you know that you can do this.

    I want you to know how much your words and doubts and concerns about leaving Caro resonate with me.

    It will be hard to leave her (at least it was for me - much harder on me than it was on either child).

    I also want you to know that it will be challenging. When I was first back to work after my first baby was born I felt like I wasn't good at either thing (parenting or teaching/researching). There are still times when I feel like I am not enough for either role, but it does work out. I choose to believe that my children will see me as a woman who worked hard at both roles and I hope that will inspire them to work hard at whatever they choose to take on in life.

    I am sure Caro will feel the same admiration for you.

    You are doing what is best. She will thrive, and so will you. You are an excellent mother.

    You are both going to be okay.

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  23. I LOVE what other people have contributed! You are getting lots of words of wisdom. I just kinda wrote about this. A little different since he is a toddler but still dealing with separation. One of my best friends here in Cbus has a part time teaching gig and it seems ideal to me in many ways. It's such a nice combination of professional time and home time. But you are so right that its good for Caroline to learn to trust other people and to observe and get used to other kids. Adjustments always suck. But I have confidence that you guys will get through it!

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  24. I haven't read all the comments either, though I will endeavour to later. I just want to say from the other side of the fence, as someone who did go back to work, it is still hard. I don't think there is any easy answer in a situation like this, that's why I'd rather just support every mum in the decisions they make, as we all damn well do the best we can. I'm lucky here in Aus. Hope died and I still got 14 weeks paid leave, then 12 months unpaid leave after that. And I took it all. When my leave was up, Angus was just about due so I ended up resigning. I thought I might look for a job when he was about one, then just after his first birthday, I found myself knocked up again so I continued to stay home. And here I am, still home with an almost three year old and just turned one year old and we're battling along. I think most think that because I'm home, we must be doing pretty well, but the truth is that's far from the case. Yes, we can make ends meet with one wage, but only just. We live in a very small two bedroom home with a tiny back yard and we have one car between us and we scrimp and save every single week. Going back to work would probably solve so many problems for us, as money ends up being a huge stress in our lives and the cause of far too much tension, but day care is expensive, especially with two kids, so at this point it really doesn't seem worth it. I know I am lucky and I do treasure the time at home with my babies, but I also feel like I am going a bit insane, as I haven't worked for over four years now and I do feel my skills dwindling and I do miss the adult time and stimulation. No matter what we do, we make sacrifices, and no matter what anyone thinks, we can't have it all.
    I know this much - you are and will continue to do a fantastic job as a mother, wife and employee (not always necessarily in that order!) xo

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  25. I've been reading and enjoying your blog for the past year, but have never commented. I had my Owen a month after your Caroline, and your blog has been a very helpful resource to me (your birth story and your bumgenius entries in particular). I also have a literature Ph.D., although I didn't stay in academia. Anyway, I went back to work two weeks ago full-time (alas!). Owen isn't going to daycare yet; my partner's sister comes to our house to take care of him. The first week was really difficult for me (not for Owen though!). I sobbed all day the first day--on the train, at work, every time someone asked me about him, etc. It was exhausting and a bit embarassing. A friend told me that the thing she liked about returning to work is that it made her feel like her normal self again. The first few months of a newborn is so filled with highs and lows and in many ways I found the experience to be surreal (along with wonderful, and exhausting). I don't know if I have a specific point to make, other than that two weeks in, I do feel more like my normal self and I do like using my brain again. It's really hard to get everything done at home, because when I get home at night I just want to spend time with the baby, and he wants to nurse as much as possible. I think working part-time is the ideal arrangement, and I bet it will be good for you and also good for Caroline. I look forward to reading what you have to say about it.

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  26. From a FTM of a six month old that has been in daycare for three months now, I actually feel like I'm a better mom and a better employee because of daycare. Whereas on maternity leave I would be exhausted by about 4pm with the babe, I now pick her up totally refreshed and so excited to be with her. Seeing her face light up when I pick her up is the absolute highlight of my day and though I am spending less time with her, I am much more engaged, focused and genuinely happy with every minute I have with her. So, she's getting the love from her teachers and classmates at school (and to see her interact with her school buds is so fun), and then she's getting a hyper-loving mom at home - much more so than when I was on maternity leave. At work my attitude has completely changed. Whereas I could get very worked up and stressed out (to the point of losing sleep at night), now I feel so much more relaxed and don't let things get to me nearly as easily. I appreciate work. I work more efficiently because I know I'm in at 9 and out at 5 now - I've never worked these hours. That said, I'm still getting everything done I did before but in less time. I'm happier at work.

    The night before I went back I was a mess. The first day back I knew it was the right choice for me and for my daughter. It's so scary but for me it's been a wonderful experience. Best of luck to you and Zuzu.
    -Cami
    (blog reader & insta-follower)

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  27. Hi Brooke!

    It will be fine! The only other new advice I have is what has worked for us. Since Andy rides the train/bus to work to avoid ridiculous parking fees, I'm generally in charge of the daycare pick up/drop off for Meg. However, once each week, someone else (either my sister or Andy) picks her up so I can go home and get the stuff done that is hard to do when Meg's there: the pull-the-chairs-out vacuuming, big grocery shopping, mopping, chicken coop cleaning, etc. Having that stuff done once a week makes me feel better about actually focusing on Meg in the short time in the evenings we have between work and bedtime instead of trying to fit it all in at once.

    Good luck!!

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  28. Another longtime reader/first-time commentor... I'm transitioning back to grad school, so I can't comment immediately on the returning to work, but I can say that I was a nervous wreck my then-2-year-old's first week of preschool, and she had a hard time too (harder than Caro will) and now she loves the place and can barely remember to give me a goodbye kiss when I drop her off.

    Using the 10-10-10 idea: 10 days after her and your first day, one of two things will be true. One is that things will not have worked out and you will be figuring out how to rearrange, and any discomfort Caro might have suffered in the meantime will be very short-lived. The other, much more likely scenario is that you will both be over the initial transition and feel more comfortable. And 10 months from now? You're going to be jotting down ideas for papers and she's going to be crawling really fast, or trying to walk really fast, to see her carers in the morning, and to see you and David at the end of her day there.

    Based on what you've written, you are caring for yourself and your girl, and so I predict it will be okay.

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  29. Here in Ontario, you get 1 year paid leave when you have a baby. But there's a catch. Your baby has to live.
    Because when I left work, I gave notice that I would be taking the entire year allowed...When my baby died, and my leave switched to maternity only (which was 15 weeks) I asked if I then HAD to go back...

    The answer was 'no' and I still had a year...but it would be unpaid. So here I am, 8 months off work...chewing at the decisions I need to make.

    I really was tiring of my job and it's pace. It was supposed to be a year or two "In Between" solution when I was figuring out what direction I was going to go in school...and 8 years later, I found myself with raises, promotions, big fat bonus' and started building a life for myself. I always, ALWAYS hated myself a bit for abandoning school...but I was making more money in sales management after just a year or two than I would have in the first few years - or decades - in what I wanted to pursue.

    I was pretty certain I wouldn't go back to work after I took my year with Alexander...and I'd start somewhat of a new adventure with being a mature student, and attempt to finish in my 30's what most do in their 20's. I was okay with that as happiness was far more important to me than simply making as much money as I could with what was at my current disposal.

    Truth be told, if I had a job I loved after Alexander died, I would have gone back after my 15 week mat leave. Maybe sooner. The only reason I'm still off is because I hate my job...even more so now...because there's a sense of resentment I have towards myself for not leaving sooner.

    And, if I had a job I loved...I'd be doing exactly what you're doing. I did love many aspects in what I was doing...working with and training others, always trying to get the best results out of everyone's potential. But it's the end result that felt so empty - pumping money out into the hands of some stupid corporation.

    I'm going back to work in late November* so I can earn myself another paid year off by May...and I'll do a "take two" on my starting fresh plan.

    *theres still a big fat maybe on that one.

    In short, I Believe In You, Working Women! Do your thing...either way, whatever the choice or outcome, it will be what's right for you. Much love!

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  30. I also had two babies in grad school. Charlie went to MDO from 9-2 every day starting at 11 weeks and though it was hard at the beginning, it quickly because a really positive thing for the whole family. His caregivers loved him. He had five hours a day of loving care from people whose only job was to care for him (and not fix dinner, do laundry, read the paper, etc). And Ryan and I were able to continue working. We picked him up and had plenty of loving family time together. I still think fondly about those ladies. They were wonderful. Wes went (with Charlie) to a more traditional 9-5 daycare three days a week starting at about six weeks old so I could finish my dissertation. That was also a great experience. It sounds like the place you chose for her is great and that she will be well cared for. She will do great!

    I can tell you from personal experience that part time work is the PERFECT way to "have it all". Yes, it is hard to research and publish, but those things will be so much easier to do later because you are staying in your field now. Maintaining a professional identity has been critical for my overall happiness level (just ask my family, I think about how grouchy I am during the summer every time I consider going back to being a SAHM).

    You are setting a great example for Caroline. You worked hard for your degree, you found a fulfilling job you love, and you made arrangements so that you could prioritize her and David as well. I can't think of anything better!

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  31. Hello friend. I pretty much hate my job and dreaded going back to work. I still dread going to work every.single.day. The hub moved to second shift so V only goes to a friend's house 1 hour 4 times per week. I don't see the hub as much as I would like, but it's a sacrifice I have made before and am willing to make for V. When I get to my friend's house V is usually surrounded by 3 to 6 other little ones and he is soooo excited watching them and wanting to do what they do. Sometimes I feel like a greedy mom for wanting to get him home and spend my time with him. But he is okay. We are both okay and I am looking into alternatives that would make me happier and give me a little more time at home with him. (I would love your schedule!!) Love to you always my friend. You are not alone! ~Missy

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  32. I went back to work part-time after having both of my boys and slowly transitioned back to full-time status.

    I was surprised to find that I LOVED having adult conversations and although I missed my boys, I was extremely refreshed by talking to people about other things than poop and boobs. (Although those things came up in conversation at lunch too.)

    I still get so excited to pick up both kiddos at the end of the day. And although it's often heartbreaking when I have to leave G, screaming at the door as I walk away and tell myself not to go back and get him, I can't help but chuckle when he doesn't want to leave his teachers at the end of the day.

    Because my boys were/are in day care, I got to see another side of them. I got to hear about parts of their personality that I wouldn't have otherwise known. I got ideas for activities and learning strategies that would have never occurred to me if I stayed at home.

    G is only two and has "dends" (friends) and wants to "mawwy Miss Coween" because "she so boooful." He has learned to resolve conflict with others, wait turns, self-advocate, and a gazillion other things. Already.

    I'm not cut out to be a SAHM. Sometimes I wish I was, but the truth is, as much as my boys need me, my students do too. And as much as I need my boys, I need time away from them too. That doesn't make me a bad mom.

    I hope you love your work, even when you are wondering what Zuzu is doing and counting the hours till you get to go pick her up.

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  33. It'll be hard, no matter what but you'll both be okay.

    George went to daycare @ 12 months and he loved it (and still does). As they get older, it's great socialization for them and he gets to do all sorts of things that I don't do with him (so not a crafty mom).

    xo

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  34. I left a successful professional career about 6 years ago to become a SAHM, and I now have 3 small children...the oldest having just entered kindergarten this fall. This was the best decision on the whole for our particular family, but knowing the version of crazy I tend to fall prey to after these years of being home, I have come to believe there is a sweet spot for moms who can pull off part-time hours working in a career they love. I once read a quote that said, "You can love your child with all your heart without loving them with all your time." I believe that is true, and moms who live that mantra may have an edge in the sanity department over those of us who don't. Best of luck to you.

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  35. Been thinking about this trying to think of any insight I could share.

    My advice: Re-read all these comments the night before you go back to work.

    Renel nailed it - it will be ok. But it's not ok until it is.

    Until then...Deep breaths. And lots of kisses for Zuzu.

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