Since becoming a mom, and blogging so openly about my journey through motherhood, I’ve gotten lots of feedback and requests for more “real” mom moments and experiences. Some of the best compliments I receive from readers is that they appreciate my honesty, realness, and willingness to share that sometimes motherhood isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, and that it is pretty stinkin’ hard sometimes. (read: most times!) Add in being a full time working mom, and you’re bound to have some even harder days. Not to say SAHM’s don’t have hard days, because we all know that’s certainly not true, but being a working mom for me is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
It’s no secret I’ve talked about dealing with some heightened anxiety postpartum. After A, it was incredibly obvious, and looking back now I wish I’d gone to see sometime. Not because I think I needed to be medicated, but because I think I desperately needed someone else to talk to that wasn’t just my husband. It’s amazing what just talking it out can do for your mental health. This go around, I’ve felt like any anxiety with B really didn’t start to show itself until I went back to work. I felt amazing for the majority of my maternity leave, excluding any physical healing from giving birth of course. But let me tell you, the past 5 weeks back to work have been tough. I haven’t talked too much about it, and have mostly just brushed it off and said things were going pretty well, as well as I expected them to go, and that we were cruising right along establishing a new routine. But, I’m going to be completely honest, for the sake of other first or second time working moms, and tell you that it has really rocked my world. And I think it’s been a combination of things. At least, that’s what I can gather.
Going back to work a second time means reopening those raw and intense emotions and feelings of guilt, sadness, jealously, fear, and worry all over again. When you go back to work the first time, you’re in survival mode because it’s all you know. Everything is new, and a first, and you have no precedent for what could or couldn’t be different. It just, is, and that’s that. But the second time? The second time you know better. The second time everything is doubled and feels magnified. The second time you know what you’re missing. You know how hard it is, and how hard it’s going to get. You know that the lie people like to tell you of “it gets easier!” is completely fabricated to soften the blow to your heartstrings. You quickly learn that adding a second kiddo into the mix sometimes feel like you actually added five. You struggle daily with being torn between your babies and your job, knowing full well that while you may love your job, and love being a working mom, you would still give anything to spend just a little more time at home. Regardless of if working for you is a choice, a necessity, a want, a need, a whatever. In my mind, there is no way around it. It’s just hard. And having to do it a second time has been harder than I ever imagined. And I’m a big proponent for working moms! So that’s saying something.
Going back to work after having my second baby has sparked far more anxiety than after my first. And not because I hate working, but just because this stuff is hard! Let me let you in on how these past 5 weeks have felt. Without being too blunt, there have been more hard days than good days. I’ve cried more these past 5 weeks than right after he was born. I’ve had moments where I thought I couldn’t handle one more thing on my plate and could feel a panic attack brewing. I’ve never even had a panic attack, but you know that feeling when you feel like, and I mean this in the most non-dramatic millennial way possible, you LITERALLY CAN’T EVEN? Like you can feel the gush of tears building up in your eyes, your heart is pounding, and you just want to throw your arms in the air and give up? Yea, that feeling. I’ve had days where I’m so worried about B at daycare, A at preschool, staying on a pumping schedule, getting work tasks done, taking care of the house, the 958373 piles of laundry sitting around, thinking about what’s for dinner, planning Christmas gifts, thinking about money (or lack thereof, thank you childcare), and feeling so jealous of other moms who somehow make it all work seamlessly or who get to stay home that I’ve thought time and time again, what are we doing wrong? Sometimes it just feels like my mental plate is literally about to overflow and shatter on the ground. I’ve had days where I’ve sat at my computer working, wiping tears away as I try not to let them drip on my keyboard. I’ve had days where I’ve cried to my boss over a video chat because I’m so overwhelmed. I’ve had days where I’ve gone to visit B at lunch time and I’ve sat there with him for an hour just rocking him on my lunch break so he can get a decent nap, while I continue to work from my phone. I’ve had days where I’ve felt like August 7 was the day A magically grew up and it kills me with guilt sometimes. Like ever since B was born, she’s morphed into this hugely confident PRESCHOOLER before my very eyes and I’ve hardly gotten to spend any time with her. (This is obviously all in my head, I’m sure.) I’ve had days where I’ve had to pick the kids up late from childcare and I’ve cried the whole drive there feeling so guilty for them having to spend extra time there. I’ve had days where I’ve had crazy thoughts about the safety of my kids at school. Are they ok? What if something happened? Should I run over and check on them? I’ve had days where I’ve worried about other people holding B – what if they dropped him? He’s really only safe in my arms, right? I’ve had days where Adam has had to tell me to stop being so negative. And that one hurts. Who wants to be the Negative Nancy?
And I know, I know this is the Devil putting anxious thoughts in my heart, and in my mind, and trying to turn a joyous season of life into one of worry and fear. I know it’s postpartum anxiety rearing its ugly face, and I’m sharing this not for words of “I’m so sorry!” or pity comments, but to share with someone else who may be there right now too. Postpartum anxiety shouldn’t be so taboo to talk about. I think too often we talk only about how the baby is doing, and is the baby sleeping through the night yet, and not enough about how the mother is doing. Especially the newly working mother. Sure, she may have healed after childbirth, and soared through the baby blues with flying colors, but I think what a lot of people don’t know is that postpartum anxiety and depression is so much more common several weeks and even months after a baby is born. And I think for me, throwing in the curve ball of work is the game changer that tips the scales. When a new mom goes back to work for the first or in my case, the second time, it’s like she’s taking on a whole new identity, in the midst of regulating hormones, breastfeeding, and trying to remember who she was before the new baby. She’s a wife (or maybe not), an experienced mom to her first, a new, tired mom to her second, and now a fully functioning employee, in addition to continuing to take care of herself and appear like she’s got it all under control. Going back to work is like moving to another planet overnight. No matter how much you prepare for it, it takes a while for your brain to switch back on, and it takes even longer for your heart to catch up. And when someone asks a new working mom how it’s going, it’s much easier and much more acceptable to just say, “it’s going fine” or “we’re good!” than to dive into “it’s really hard, and I think if I talk about it right now with you I’ll start crying.”
I’ve seen this quote floating around Instagram, “We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work.” Chew on that for a second. Did you know in today’s society that more than 70% of women work, 40% are the breadwinners, and 22% earn at least a quarter of their families income or more? But according to your Instagram feed, it probably feels more like 90% of women stay home, and only 10% work. Anyone else feel me on that? Comparison is the thief of joy, you guys. The absolute thief of joy. The vast majority of moms work though, and yet postpartum anxiety in the working mom is rarely talked about. So, I’m HERE TO TALK ABOUT IT. If we’re expecting women to work as if they don’t have children, and raise children as if they don’t work, it’s no wonder feelings of anxiousness abound. The mental load of a working mom I swear rivals the mental load of the President.
But you know what? The good days don’t get enough credit and shouldn’t be overshadowed. Because the good days outweigh the hard ones X’s infinity. I’ve had plenty of days where I’ve honestly enjoyed the break. Days where I’ve relished the quiet house and the fact that my hands are free to do whatever I want while I work, or between work. (Hello solo Target lunch runs!) Days where I haven’t thought twice about being a working mom and have just, done it, because it’s our life and our routine now. Days where working just feels natural, and good, and I feel like my “old self” again. Days where I’m reminded that I really do enjoy working, and it’s not that I’m begging to stay home, but more so that the hardness of working just takes a toll on me. It’s a lot to handle, no matter how you slice it. We’ve had some pretty GREAT days these past 5 weeks, and even though there have been more hard ones than easy ones, I still fall asleep every night thinking how blessed we are, and how lucky we are to call this life we are living, ours. We have two healthy, beautiful children. They are cared for, loved, and safe. We both have great jobs that we both love, and are so fortunate to have. We both have the opportunity to work the majority of the week from home and see each other more often. Our kids go to an amazing childcare, and I’m convinced God planned our move perfectly and knew we’d need a great one close by. I wouldn’t trade these past 5 hard weeks for anything in the world.
Being a working mom is tough, and being a working mom of two who’s experiencing anxiety is even tougher. It will take time to sort through these feelings, and I’ll probably always question our decisions and the way we’ve done things. But what mother doesn’t? No one ever said motherhood was easy, and the grass isn’t always greener. If one day it makes sense for me to stay home, I know it will be a heavy and complicated decision. And if that day never comes, and it makes more sense for me to continue working, then so be it. If the greatest qualm I have with life right now is that it’s hard being a working mom, trying to help provide for my near-perfect family, I think I’m doing okay. Every hard season will come to an end, but even though this is an exceptionally hard season, I know I’ll look back and wish it hadn’t ended so soon.
I hope all you fellow working mamas out there will read this with an open heart, and know that I hear you. I support you! You shouldn’t feel guilty for working. But if you do? Then that’s how you feel. And you shouldn’t feel guilty for feeling guilty. And if you feel torn, conflicted, and sad? I’ve been there too, and I’m right there with you. And if you feel relieved and happy to go to work because it means you get a break from your kids? Same girl, same. And if you feel like being a working mom makes you a little more anxious and stressed? I understand the struggle. But know that your struggles are worth it, and probably mean you are exactly where you’re meant to be. Love those babies, and that’s all you can do. And if you feel like none of this applies to you and you are rocking the working mom life? I applaud you and look up to you!
If you made it this far, thanks for reading! I’ve received countless messages from readers letting me know they read my blog because they feel like they can relate, and I hope this post makes it into the hands of someone else who needs it.
I’m sure in a few months I’ll look back on this post and laugh at how crazy and hectic these times were, and cringe at how much of a stress ball I was. I’ll laugh at how much of a sweaty, hot mess I was at daycare drop off and pick up everyday. But even through the stress, I couldn’t be happier. These babies are my world, and I’m thankful.
*Disclaimer: none of this is to say that SAHMs don’t experience anxiety. This is simply my own journey.
**Disclaimer to the disclaimer: I hate that I even feel like I need to include a disclaimer. Mommy shamers are the worst.