For better or for worse, many moms I know who work from home don’t take a true maternity leave. There are a number of reasons that they don’t: (1) they depend on the income; (2) they don’t want to lose clients by turning down projects; (2) they think it will be doable to balance work and nursing/feeding and parenting by multitasking and squeezing work time in whenever they can.
With both my children, I made the decision to keep working right after birth. With my first, I didn’t have much of a choice because I was taking my PhD comprehensive exams the next month (talk about stressful, LOL), so I had to study and work on my written portfolio, and I also was working as a contract copyeditor and didn’t want to lose the work. This last time around, I had just finished teaching for the semester (I literally submitted my grades the morning before our son was born) and had the summer off from teaching, but I was still working part-time for a publisher (and had research projects on the side). Not being salaried or having paid leave (something I think we need to do more in our country to get for mothers), I needed to put in the hours to get the paycheck. Having a toddler who can pretty much play on her own while supervised, I figured it would be easy to juggle working with a newborn. After all, they pretty much sleep all day, right? Umm…maybe for the first week…but I quickly realized that my idealistic plans to be the same type of worker pre-baby were majorly flawed. How had I forgotten how challenging (but also amazingly wonderful) the newborn period was?
Baby #2 wanted to be held—all the time—even while sleeping. And I found it very difficult to work with one hand. I was frazzled and frustrated. That’s when I tried putting him in his baby carrier. I had used various carriers with my first but usually just when we were out in public. I had never really worn her around the house. But baby #2 didn’t want to be put down, and he LOVES the carrier. I found the Ergo carrier to be too bulky to wear around the house, but the Moby and Solly Baby wraps I have work really well. I can stand at the counter and work or even sit at the table or on the couch, and he is happy just being against me. He even sleeps in it! (I’m working on figuring out how to nurse with him in the carrier.) And the best part is I feel like I am meeting his needs (closeness with mama) while being able to work—with both hands. I’ll be honest, we’re still working on finding our groove. He doesn’t have a regular nap schedule yet (really trying to work on this one), and I thrive on rhythm and regular work patterns. I find myself having to work in intense bursts whenever I have a chance. But babywearing has been a game changer for us: he’s happier, I’m less frustrated, and I’m also loving the closeness it provides.
[P.S. I’ve created a page dedicated to products that I’ve found very helpful for balancing working and parenting simultaneously. It’s called “Make Your Life Easier,” and it’s in the top menu.]
Have you had to return to work immediately after giving birth? What has helped you juggle parenting and working in the fourth trimester?