This post is long overdue as it has been already 5 months since I got back. Or it is right on time because now I can reflect on how I felt in the early days and how I manage to manage my days now.
Some background first: I joined Documaster as the second HR person in April 2019. Fun fact is that before accepting my job offer, I informed my "colleague-to-be" that with my fiancé we are ready to start a family and we're making our first attempts to have a baby. I wanted to share this, even though it's extremely personal, as I didn't want to start my journey and then surprise everyone with the news of a pregnancy. The response I got was far more than supportive, I felt welcomed to the team with all my personal and professional hopes, dreams and desires. Even before I joined, I knew that Documaster was a place where you don't leave your personal "self" at the door, quite the opposite - we're all in!
And this is how things started, I was still worried that I could get pregnant during the 2 months before my start date, or shortly after. However, the baby-making process took a while and I learned the great news around mid-June, shared with my immediate team in July, and with the extended team in August. Everyone was happy for me, and I didn't feel guilty for having to leave them for a year. In fact, 1 year passed very quickly, sadly in lockdowns, restrictions, and other not-so-positive things, but with quite a few opportunities as well. I was silently monitoring the team's initiatives and achievements on social media and from time to time I had the urge to go back to work and contribute to the amazing efforts. Still, I enjoyed (and I'm still enjoying tremendously) being a mom and spending time with my little one. I'm lucky to have a lot of help and support from my husband and our relatives and I thought it would be best for all of us if I started to step away and allowed for more of the family members to spend quality time with her. That was also an opportunity for her to get used with mom being away. I didn't want to "leave" her at day care yet as I thought it's too soon.
So, time was running by, November came and I had a call with my colleagues, informing them of my decision to come back to work once the little one turns 1 year, which was at the end of February. As most of the team was working from home already because of the pandemic, I knew that I wouldn't be an exception, but rather part of the majority and that gave me additional comfort. In January I was already planning my working space at home, talking more and more to my husband about being around the baby while I work. In February I was already joining the weekly meeting to catch up and tune into working mode a bit and I found out that I was missing the energy and the different type of questions that we answered at work. I was a bit unsure if I still had my "edge" or I was coming up with stupid or shallow ideas or with things they had already considered long ago but it was still early to say. The moment came: we had celebrated the 1st birthday of our amazing daughter; we had enjoyed another week together as a family and I officially came back to work in March. Another immediate finding for me was that I was missing not only my immediate team but all my colleagues, their enthusiasm, their positive vibe, and the feeling of a community. Side note: for various reasons, one being the pandemic, I was not going out a lot with other moms to talk mommy and baby stuff and I didn't have a "mom tribe", more like a few friends who helped and supported me, but not a community to spend time with. I felt good to be back with my professional family, I was slowly gaining my confidence back, connecting the dots and coming up with good ideas. I found a surprising benefit of being a working mom: I realized that really good ideas came to me while breastfeeding at night :) Then there was another kind-of-guilty moment: I couldn't spend a full 8-hour-working day without mommy distractions and I couldn't spend real quality time with neither my toddler nor my husband. At times, I felt like I'm failing in both worlds, struggling to keep up with everything. As a first-time mom, it’s so easy to feel guilty about …, well, almost anything 😊 Questions like “Do I feed her enough?”, “Does she sleep enough?”, “Do I hug and carry her around enough?”, “Do I hug and carry her around too much?”, “Do I play with her enough?”, “Do I provide enough time outside?” were regular companions. Now I was adding to this list questions like “Does she realize that I'm away, does she miss me?”, “Have I neglected my baby?”, “Am I really contributing as I did before?”, “Should I go to the office more often?”, “How can I spend more time with her?”, “Is it clean enough at home?”, “Do I cook often enough?” and all sorts of similar worries. Then my wonderful, supportive, and empathic colleague told me that I shouldn't be so harsh on myself, that I was already contributing a lot, and that she was very happy that I was back again. Her reassurance eased a lot of the pressure that I was putting on myself.
Little by little, I found my balance and rhythm, I learned to value the time I spent working and the time I spent with the little one. The weekend became again the moment for quality family time. I started going to the office once a week for the afternoons and life seemed good. In fact, life still feels really good, and I am happy and grateful to be part of a team that appreciates people for being people :) I no longer feel guilty about leaving early on Monday to go swimming with my baby nor for leaving the desk to help my husband comfort her to sleep from time to time, nor for having an extended lunch break to prepare lunch and spend some time with the little sunshine. And I no longer feel guilty when I tell my husband that I'm in meetings all afternoon or I’ll be in the office and he should find a way to deal with things himself. I also realized, thanks to my colleague again, that there are distractions in our working day anyway, whether this is chit chatting with a colleague in the kitchen at the office or answering my little one’s request to play with her for a while, we get interruptions and that’s OK. After all, we’re not robots. Now I feel fulfilled, excited that I can drive meaningful initiatives at work, and comfortable with the flexibility of working from home. To all my colleagues who are now out on maternity leave - ladies, you will get all the time, support and understanding when you decide to come back to work! In fact, that is valid for everyone – no matter what requires your attention outside of work, whether it’s a kid, a sick relative, a home renovation, a pet, a hobby, a significant other, it’s OK to take your time and cater to the ones needing you.
I sincerely wish that this is the way every mom feels after coming back to work and finds the empathy I found at Documaster.