A few months ago, my husband and I welcomed our first baby. Becoming a mother was everything and nothing like I thought it would be: beautiful, painful, adorable, exhausting, and above all, bewildering. No matter how many books I read, there is no way to truly prepare yourself for being in the moment as a brand-new parent, wondering what the right answer is in any given situation.
I took baby’s first three months off from work to focus on learning how to be a mother and spend some quality time with my sweet little guy. This month, I’m transitioning back into business life – but as a working mother. And I’ve had a very steep learning curve over the last couple of weeks. I’d like to share a few of my experiences, and I have a hunch that there are many other parents out there who feel the same way!
#1: You sometimes feel like a superhuman rock star. I’m self-employed and work primarily from home, so I’m able to take care of the baby as well as continue to do my job. On a good day, I can get in five hours of work; feed and play with the baby and successfully put him down for naps; even take care of a few small household tasks. At the end of a day like that, I feel like a productive member of society and an active contributor to my home and family. It feels fantastic, after months of minimal brain activity, and it allows me to have the best of both worlds where my son is concerned.
#2: You also sometimes feel like you are failing as an entrepreneur/employee, as a parent, and as a human adult in general. If the baby’s being cranky or needs extra attention, I can’t get any work done, let alone wash the dishes or do laundry. And if I get really absorbed in a work task, I feel guilty for not being so focused on the baby and letting him play by himself for awhile. I often fail to properly dress myself or shower: hair-styling and makeup is a total non-starter. The best of both worlds is not always a realistic concept – in fact, it often feels like the opposite.
#3: Multi-tasking has become your form of artistic expression. Many of the emails and texts I send are written left-handed on my phone. Meetings are scheduled around nap time. And then there was that time I participated in a video call while feeding the baby on my lap. An actual two-hour chunk of time to sit at my desk and focus on work now feels like a privilege, not a chore.
#4: Your brain feels like a sieve. You thought pregnancy brain was bad? The first month of parenthood will cure you of that silly notion. And just when you thought you had this whole baby thing down to a science, you start working again… and everything changes. I constantly feel like I’m forgetting something and suspect I’m losing my mind. (When did I last change his diaper? Am I wearing pants?)
#5: You will be relieved when the baby finally goes to sleep for the evening so you can get a bunch of things knocked off your to-do list. But within half an hour, you already miss him.
#6: Never leave your coffee unattended, for it will go stone cold in a timespan that has you questioning the laws of thermodynamics in your particular neighbourhood.
#7: You will at times feel jealous of other parents who have chosen to leave the workforce entirely to focus on their families, and question whether you have made the right decision to start working again. You will also feel ambivalent about the thought of working full time outside the home, alternating between longing for that independence and opportunity to focus on the job, and relief that you have the flexibility to choose your working hours while taking care of your child.
#8: You will at times resent your partner for getting to leave the house, alone, in a car, for hours every day, while you are unable to leave the room without the baby screaming. Evening trips to the grocery store and post office become your special luxury alone-time.
#9: You will amaze yourself at how much you can accomplish in a single day.
#10: When your baby gives you a huge toothless smile and giggles with delight simply because you walked into the room, all the balancing acts become 100% worthwhile.